Saturday, November 11, 2006

Fez Medina ‘pushes all the buttons’ for Louis.

From a life on board luxury yachts to owning and restoring a house in Fez, Louis Mcintosh takes it all in his stride. Owning a house in Spain suited him and he had no intention of doing more than perhaps buying a second house. Then on a trip back to England Louis found that everyone was talking about Fez in Morocco.

“I didn’t even know where Fez was, so I decided to investigate,” Louis says.

It was a fateful decision. To put it simply – he fell in love with the Medina. “Coming through the Bab Bou Jeloud I realized I was walking into a magical place. I was only in the Medina for three days, but it pressed all my buttons. I ditched the notion of a second place in Spain and instead looked at every available house – and found one. I put down a deposit and went back to Spain."

Louis hooked up with Fez Properties, a move he says was very worth while. “Fez Properties helped me every step of the way and didn’t overcharge me… they were brilliant.”

The house Louis purchased is in an extremely interesting location on one of the main streets, but the interior did need some work. As Louis admits, he hadn’t thought everything through. ‘Buying is one thing – renovating another. The house hadn’t been lived in for ten years and there was a lot of water damage on the top floor. However, I was still thrilled at the size of the house that I purchased for the cost. First I hired an architect and developed plans. Then I decided to get an contractor. I got him through the architect. No problems. My house is relatively modern. So it is easier than older places.”

However it still took eight months to get all the paperwork done and get the necessary permissions to start the actual work. As Louis points out – “You need patience and at times it will be frustrating.”

Louis has good advice for anyone contemplating purchasing a riad or dar in Fez; “Think it through – houses are cheap but going up. This is place where the house chooses you not you it. It has to push all your buttons. But this is not a place to buy as an investment in money terms. People buying here are helping restore the medina and if not they shouldn’t be buying. Hopefully the influx of people buying houses are doing so for the right reasons -they fall in love with culture; with Morocco and Fez. A lot are relocating here for a simple life away from the stress and politics of European countries. You can live well for a fraction of the cost. But you still need to consider what you want to do with the house. Think through the logistics. The tighter legislation makes getting permission for maison d’hotes a problem although we do hope they make the rules easier. Check out the structural issues. Do your homework.”

He also stresses the importance of connecting with the local people. “With Moroccans I am building relationships easily as I look Moroccan. It surprises some people when they realise that I can’t speak Arabic. Right from the beginning I have worked closely with the people in my vicinity. It is important to integrate. If people don’t realise they have to integrate, then they shouldn’t be here. Unlike Spain where the ex-pats live apart – here you must”.

As well as renovating his house, Louis is keeping a weblog of his experiences. “It is interesting from my point of view and hopefully for my friends,” Louis says, although he admits to some surprise that so many people are reading it. He writes in a very accessible friendly style and in the future would like to do some more writing, maybe as an extension of his blog.

Louis sees himself spending a fair bit of the year in Fez. “I love the fact that it is frenetic, chaotic and vibrant as opposed to Spain which is tranquil. And England? I was frustrated by politics, expense and attitudes… here I fit in. After twenty-five years as a chef, working on yachts and as a DJ, it is nice to find a spot where I feel at home. This is real life.”

The Louis-Fes Weblog.

You will find Louis' blog at

The View from Fez
has been following it since its inception and can report that it is a great example of a blog about renovation in the Medina. Not only does he have loads of valuable advice, but he presents it in a disarmingly self-effacing style, spiced up with anecdotes and some interesting pics.


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