People who holiday in Morocco typically buy a bold Berber carpet or the colorful leather slippers known as babouches. When art dealer Dorothea McKenna Elkon first traveled to the storied port of Essaouira, almost a dozen years ago, the New Yorker acquired a much more impressive souvenir: a crumbling 18th-century riad,or courtyard house, impulsively purchased several days after she landed.
“It was a coup de foudre,” says the owner and president of the Elkon Gallery, an Upper East Side fixture established in 1961 by her first husband, the late Robert Elkon. “I was astounded by the old stone arches surrounding the courtyard, but the rest of the place was in total disrepair.” Overlooking a slender alley in the densely packed medina, or walled heart, of this city of around 70,000, the three-level masonry structure was so decrepit that the upper floors would have to be demolished and rebuilt. Elkon was undaunted, having been bewitched by Essaouira’s wave-splashed ramparts and its languorous pace