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We’ve found Madrid’s Alcázar: it’s inside a Moroccan restaurant in Vallecas

16 October 2018
The first floor of Marrakech

I was on the phone to my other half, about to explain that I was running late (explorers’ problems), when I walked past the beautiful tiled facade of Restaurante Marrakech and said:

I’ll call you back.

A few days later, we came back to eat – and the food was as good as I’d hoped. But the reason why this article belongs in our collection of Living Museums is that I think we’ve found Madrid’s long-lost Alcázar…

Look closely and you’ll see that every single tile inside this restaurant is zellige: an ancient Moorish design whose pattern has been trending throughout the Arab world for around 1,600 years.

Zellige tiles sport an incredibly complex design, but once the design is carved, the tiles it adorns are relatively cheap to produce, thus providing the feel of luxury in an otherwise no-frills setting. This is perfectly illustrated inside Restaurante Marrakech.


For dinner between four, we ordered all six vegetarian starters, plus the chicken brewat, and a lamb couscous. The food came fast and hot out of the numerous kitchens, and all of it was delicious.

In the photo of the lamb couscous below, you can also see into the private dining room, which can be reserved specially. It can seat up to 12 people and even has its own TV.

The owners, who are from Marrakech, wanted to bring a ‘little bit’ of home with them to Madrid, and I think they’ve nailed it. Restaurante Marrakech is a splendid space with ancient local history adorning every inch of its walls – all three storeys of them – and it doesn’t look one bit out of place on this bustling street in Vallecas.


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Warren 12 December 2018 at 8:41 am

Zellij are specific to the countries of the Maghreb (Morocco/Tunisia/Algeria) and Spain/Portugal, during the Islamic period. They are also used, occasionally, elsewhere in the Arab World, but when they are, it is to create a specifically ‘Moroccan’ feel. Arabesques, on the other hand, are very much a part of Islamic culture, but the Arabesque patterns of Egypt/the Levant and the Gulf are not the same as those of the Maghreb. So to say that zellij have been ‘trending throughout the Arab World for 1,600 years’, while a great line, is unfortunately not accurate.

Madrid No Frills 12 December 2018 at 3:40 pm

Thanks for sharing your knowledge, Warren! Very interesting to know that there are various types of Islamic pattern – I had no idea about Arabesques!

Fergus 28 September 2019 at 4:47 pm

Funny thing the Spanish word for tile is ‘Azulejo’, clearly coming from the word Zellij.


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