A Moroccan Escape in Central Jakarta
A visit to Rumah Maroko feels like a trip to another country. Beautiful houses with spacious gardens line the streets of the residential area of Menteng, Central Jakarta, but it is this one that commands special attention. With a white curved dome that rises over the rooftops of other houses, Rumah Maroko (Morocco House) can be seen from far away.
The front of the house has an arched gate and from the first step inside, visitors are greeted by splendid Moroccan decorations such as an impressive chandelier hanging from the ceiling of the Casablanca room.
Winny manages the grand house, and talks to visitors about renting it out for special events and functions.
“This house was built in 2000,” Winny says. “It belonged to Datuk Hakim, an Indonesian businessman. He passed away five years ago and the house now belongs to his wife.”
Winny said that Hakim, who owned several local companies in the transport and import-export industries, was fascinated by Moroccan architecture.
“He admired the different style, the combination of Europe and the Middle East, and wanted to bring that special architecture to Jakarta because it couldn’t be found anywhere in the city.”
Moroccan architecture is eye-catching and colorful. The country has retained its Arabian, Iberian and African characteristics, despite outside influences from Portugal in the 16th century, and when European powers showed interest in colonizing the country in the late 19th century, resulting in clashes with the French and Spanish.
“Initially, Hakim planned to build a beautiful mosque here,” Winny said. “But in the end, the mosque was built on his other property.”
Hakim hired local architect Joseph Henky to help him renovate the old house and redecorate it in Moroccan style.
“Before they started to work on the house, they traveled to Morocco together, so they could see the original architecture, to be inspired,” Winny said. “It then took them two years to finish everything, including the furniture.”
The work they did on Rumah Maroko appears to be true to Moroccan design.
Over three levels and 3,500 square meters, visitors can find carved doors and columns, mosaic tiles, hand-woven carpets and plush cushions. Tables, seats and even the smallest accessories throughout the house are Moroccan, and are displayed in nooks and crannies that are beautifully crafted in hexagonal, octagonal and arched forms.
“Many of the ornaments, accessories and other materials were imported from Morocco,” Winny said. “Other things, like some of the lamps and chandeliers, for example, were made in Indonesia.”
Another typical feature of Moroccan architecture, and of Islamic architecture in general, is the riyad , or interior courtyard. The gardens of the houses were originally built for family privacy and they planted several trees to provide shade. Rumah Maroko’s riyad is a small haven, a perfect place to retreat from the heat and sit in the shadows, or to plunge one’s toes into the cooling water of the swimming pool.
The most striking area Rumah Maroko, called Marrakesh is on the top floor. It contains three different seating areas, sofas and chairs, padded with dark red cushions, a bar in the middle of the room, a shelf filled with books about Morocco and floors covered with colorful carpets. A door leads out onto a secluded terrace with a gazebo, from where there is a view of the relatively quiet streets of Menteng, a glimpse back into the reality of Jakarta.
“Hakim never lived in this house,” Winny said. “He used it to entertain his friends, to have parties. He also had some business gatherings here.”
In the basement, there is a fully functioning party room. With a stage, drums, guitars and a keyboard, as well as a karaoke system. It is the only room in the house that does not feel truly Moroccan.
Even though Hakim did not build the place as a commercial endeavour, his friends became interested in renting out the space to host their own events.
Now the unique place attracts many visitors, and has become a popular space for functions.
“Rumah Maroko is used for business meetings, birthday parties, even weddings,” Winny said. “We host events maybe two, three times a week. We also have photo and film shoots here.”
Parts of Rumah Maroko were used to film the movie “Ayat-Ayat Cinta” (“Verses of Love”), which was released in 2008.
The movie is set in Cairo, but was shot in India and Indonesia.
Jl. Tasikmalaya No. 4, Menteng, Central Jakarta