Zellige, of Zellij in Arabic, is a Moroccan art form of mosaic, with geometric patterns formed with glazed terracotta. The applications are endless and you’ll find it everywhere in Moorish architecture. Not only floors and walls, but also fountains and furniture are provided with Zelliges.
The traditional Moroccan fabrication of Zellige tiles is fully manually and artistically and creates the special character of these beautiful Moroccan tiles.
First, manually wet clay is formed into molds and then dried in the sun until they are almost dry. The clay tablets are then processed with the aid of anatomy and hammer to the correct sizes, after which they are further dried. The dry clay tablets are now provided with a enamel layer by immersing them in a "bath". This color bath is made entirely on view and feeling making each delivery unique. The raw Zelliges are then stacked in a clay oven to be baked. The ovens are manually heated up with wood and olive kernels, which means that the temperature is not constant which causes differences in reaction of the pigments. This creates the characteristic color shades of Zelliges.
The big baked tablets are now cut with a pickle to the Zellige size we know. Usually square, 10x10cm and 5x5cm, but also the hexagon, Laterna and fish chubby shapes. These last shapes are becoming increasingly popular these days.
In Morocco particular, mainly mosaic works are made. Islam forbids images of spiritual figures but focuses on geometric designs. For that reason, we see a lot of geometric figures in the Islamic countries. Many of these figures are made of hand-cut Zelliges. It is a true fundamental art that can only be made by highly experienced workers. With small pieces of finely crafted cut, the largest works of art are often made in big houses (Riads), palaces and mosques, on walls and ceilings.
Bejmat, or terracotta, are manufactured in the same artisan way as the Zellige tiles, however, the finish and shape is different. Bejmat tiles are rectangular, thick tiles that are used on walls but are also very suitable as floor tiles.
Unlike the Zelliges, the Bejmat tiles are not cut around the edges, resulting in a completely different character. The model is perfect for laying in different patterns like; Stone, half-stone, fishbone and blockage.
Features of Zelliges & Bejmat tiles
Both Zellige and Bejmat tiles owe their character due to the craft and production style. They are characterized by beautiful colors, small mistakes like; Unevenness in the enamel, pits, lime kernels, bumps or pieces of edges and corners. These imperfections must be accepted and are inherent in artisan production. They can be annoying if you look at them individually, but they contribute to a beautifully crafted whole. Therefore, our advice is not to sort the Zelliges or Bejmat tiles to use only the perfect ones. Irregularities are an integral part of the overall image and ensure the most beautiful result.
Our Moroccan Zelliges are distinguished by their beautiful colors and especially the color nuances. The natural pigments provide beautiful colors, from soft warm tones to intense depth. A real pleasure for the eye.
Cementtiles.com carries over 25 colors Zelliges. These colors are applicable in all formats and shapes. So 5x5cm Zellige, Bejmat, Hexagon and Poisson echelle (fish chubby). If your desired color is not in our range we can of course discuss this with you and see what the possibilities at our factory are.
Most Zelliges, like ours, originate in Fez, Morocco. Fez or Fès is Morocco's second largest city, after Casablanca and Marrakech, with a population of approximately 950,000 people. It is here where they mine the special clay which is the base for Zelliges & Bejmat tiles. Marrakech is also famous for its clay and terracotta products, but more like scales, vases, mugs and other objects. Zelliges are very popular in other Islamic countries such as Libya, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Iraq & Iran, and are widely found in large (royal) buildings, fountains, and mosques.
Our Zelliges and Bejmat tiles are commissioned and packaged in sturdy Azule boxes that secure the quality during the long route of transportation. Cementtiles.com only sells A quality zelliges that were originally produced and baked in the olive pit ovens. Unfortunately, we also see a trend in which Zelliges are baked in gas ovens. This process is faster and more efficient. Unfortunately, it does a lot of detriment to the color shades and the living surface of these particular tiles.
Always order 10% extra for cutting loss and non-installable items. Tiles with excessive errors that are not suitable for placement can be used to cut and finish edges.
Try mixing as much as possible by packing randomly from the different boxes. This results in a nice and balanced end result.
Zelliges are often placed without tile spacers (no joints) . However, for a waterproof finish the tiles must be grouted afterwards. Only the small openings will be filled and will give that irregular character.
Always use a flexible tile adhesive and ensure that the substrate is well pre-treated for optimal adhesion. It is advisable to double bond, so both adhesive on the wall and on the tile. This will capture and level the differences between the tiles. Detailed information about the installment can be found here.
Zelliges and Bejmat tiles need no special treatment or maintenance like cement tiles do. They can be cleaned with normal detergents.
We recommend to apply Zelliges indoors. Due to the irregular surface and possible holes and gaps in the joints, moisture may nest. In our climate this could expand and break when freezing.