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In the midst of the chaotic roads, the busy locals and the humming of the calls to prayer, lies a little piece of heaven. Of blue heaven, that is - majorelle is a French word meaning bright cobalt blue. This really isn't the type of place you would normally expect to find in Marrakesh, the most overwhelming city I have ever visited. The Jardin de Majorelle was designed by French artist Jean Majorelle, back in the 1920s, where Morocco was a protectorate of France. What is perhaps the most notable feature of the garden, outside its luxuriant plant selection and its typically photogenic Moroccan architecture, is the owner, Yves Saint-Laurent. Upon his death in 2009, his ashes were scattered in the garden, and a memorial was created to honor his memory. Marrakesh left me with mixed feelings - but if there's one thing that could make me flip to the 'Marrakesh is awesome!' team, it would definitely be these gardens. Definitely not to be skipped. Quick tip: if you have time to tea, the garden's tea house is particularly lovely and offers many fancy options that are well worth their steep price by Moroccan standards. Enjoy!
Under the Moroccan sun, there is a majestic botanical garden like no other in the world. The Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech is a cool respite from the intense pace, noise and heat of the souks, medina and Djemaa el-Fna. In the 1920s, French artist Jacques Majorelle designed the meticulously arranged garden and built a villa and studio. The building is captivating--an art deco design with intricate Moorish details and painted cobalt blue, a color that dots the geometric patterns of Moroccan tiles. The electric blue became a trademark color, Majorelle Blue. Jardin Majorelle was opened to the public in 1947, and later bought and restored by the late Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge. For a serene morning stroll, I recommend taking a caleche--a horse and buggy--and getting there when the doors open at 8:00 a.m. (It costs 50 dirhams or so.) Spend an hour leisurely walking amongst the cacti, palm trees and exotic plants. The garden oasis hosts many singing birds as well. Loll in the shade by the reflecting pools, fountains and pergolas. Afterwards, refresh at the cafe with mint tea. Map: http://www.jardinmajorelle.com/jardin/#
All the labyrinthine streets of the medina lead to Djemaa el Fna. Before sunset, sit on a terrace, sip hot mint tea, and take in the panoramic view of the teeming central square. As the sun lowers in the sky, the ancient mud walls turn pink to orange and smoke wafts as hundreds of cooks start barbecuing. The food stalls are organized in rows; the local fare is sumptuous; and the prices are fixed, which is a nice break after haggling in the souks or square for everything from henna to a photo with a monkey or snake charmer. Seating is picnic table-style so don't be shy, grab a seat and talk with your neighbor. It's a great chance to meet fellow travelers and locals alike. After a feast of tagine, cous cous and olives, wash it down with fresh orange juice. Wander the square and be entranced by fire jugglers, musicians, dancers, fortune-tellers and storytellers. As you walk back to your riad through the medina, listen for the evening call to prayer rising from the Koutoubia Mosque. Marrakech is one of the most magical cities in the world.
Fresh spearmint leaves, dried tea leaves, sugar and boiling water are prepared in a silver pot and ceremoniously poured into delicate, ornate glasses. The pouring is done the traditional way, from a height of twelve or so inches. The tea is fragrant and sweet. In the heart of the Medina, behind the ancient riad walls, tea time is regal and refreshing.
Everything glitters in this breathtaking shop: antique Berber silver, amber jewelry, inlaid mother-of-pearl furniture, and ceramic bowls full of gleaming beads and stones. 3 Fhal Chidmi, Rue Mouassine, 212/(0) 24-442-2578. Photo by Nally Bellati. This appeared in the January/February 2013 issue.
La Mamounia Hotel is a magnificent display of Moroccan luxury and grandeur. The ornate tiles, luscious gardens, and plush furnishings ooze romance. From the massive outdoor pool to the world-class spa, this oasis in Marrakech is so fabulous it almost feels like fiction. It's real-life guests have ranged from Winston Churchill to the Rolling Stones, and yes, it would be wonderful to join the list of pampered people who have stayed at this North African palace, but the nightly rates are formidable. On my solo journey through Marrakech, I discovered a great way to experience the lavish amenities without spending my savings: I sat by pool, ordered a cold glass of white wine, and was provided with three hours of complimentary internet connection. Sitting amid climbing bougainvilleas and listening to the giggles of carefree kids, I touched base with friends and relatives back home. Some day I intend to wheel my suitcase into La Mamounia and settle in for a good, long stay - but I can at least say I've tasted a bit of what Churchill called, "the most lovely spot in the whole world."
At Ben Youssef Medersa, a 16th-century Koranic boarding school turned museum, visitors can see colorful mosaic zellij tiles and intricate stucco carvings inscribed with Muslim invocations. —Jennye Garibaldi Place Ben Youssef, 212/(0) 24-441-893. Photo by Thomas Dressler/Age Fotostock. This appeared in the July/August 2011 issue.
We did the well known cooking school at the Maison Arabe riad and loved it! The native chef has worked in New York and Chicago and speaks flawless English with a good sense of humor. Classes are small, around 10 students, and do fill up, so call the hotel in advance to reserve a spot. These beautiful lamps were in a hallway at the lovely Riad. They were very fine. You can find them in the medina, but rarely this intricate. The light they made was magic.
My favorite souvenirs are items that carry significance in the local culture. In Morocco, these are known as the hand of Fatima, named after Muhammad's daughter. In the rest of the Arabic world, they are known as hamsa (or khamsa), which literally means “five” but can also mean “the five fingers of the hand”. The hamsa is a lucky charm of sorts, believed to provide protection against the evil eye. The exact origins of this symbol are unknown, but some Mesopotamian artifacts contained the image of an open right hand. At some point the symbol was also incorporated into Jewish culture where it is known as the hand of Miriam, for the sister of Moses and Aaron.
We saw this intriguing graffiti on our way back to the Riad Maizie from a get-acclimated jaunt to the bustling square Djemma Al Fna that is the heart of the Medina. It was not created in a prominent place, just lovingly rendered on the wall next to a dry cleaner's stall. So easy to miss this unlikely art on our second day, when we were still wary of finding our way amongst the uneven stones of the street, the children darting in and out, and the motor scooters weaving between walkers, often within a hair's breadth of the odd arm or leg. So easy to miss - and therefore such an unexpected treat, happening to glance over to see the girl's flowing hair and enigmatic expression.
The spaghetti explosion of lanes and alleys of the Marrakesh medina are seemingly designed to confuse the unwary visitor, but getting happily lost is part of the fun – you never know what might lie around the next corner. Strike out from the central square of the Djemaa el Fna to explore the many kissarias (covered souqs) and funduqs (courtyard caravan resthouses). The kasbah district contains the city’s royal heritage, while the ancient mellah still bears traces of Marrakesh’s Jewish population. If you do get confused, there’s always someone happy to offer directions, and a café selling mint tea (or shop with a tempting souvenir) is never far away). Photo by Laurens Doesborgh/Flickr.
The furthest west that the Romans reached was Volubilis, in northern Morocco. They are on the road from Meknes to Fez, and are open for touring for a small fee. A local guide is recommended.
The thing that struck me the most on our travels through the Kasbah were the façades of the old city were all the same, be it new or old, rich or poor. Unlike the American culture of showing their wealth for all to see and to envy, the Moroccan people share there paradise with whom ever enters through their front door. After leaving Marrakech did I really get that although they are slow with technological development they seem more advanced in humanity, courtesy and respect, in contrast to our progressive development and our stifled humanity. I felt as though I had stepped into the 12th century. The people were delightful, curious and kind. Places I loved Jemaa-el-Fna Square at night for dinner, must see and taste. During the day the carpetbaggers come in from all over Africa selling their ostrich eggs, porcupine quills, and amber rocks and laying them out on blankets for sale. My favorite restaurant was Le Salama near Jemaa-el—Fna Square, belly dancers and a horse carriage ride home. We stayed at La Sultana and it really made our trip even more unique and spectacular. If you don’t stay the night, diner in the atrium is very romantic and delicious.
The tiny coastal village of Oualidia’s low-key vibe makes it a popular retreat from Marrakech as well as the go-to spot for surfers—novice or otherwise. La Sultana, set against the flamingo-dotted Oualidia lagoon, has 11 rooms and suites that showcase Moroccan craftsmanship with marble floors, terra-cotta tile work, and sandstone ceilings. Last year the hotel added an ornate tree house that overlooks the lagoon. Spend the day lounging on the hotel’s private stretch of beach or at the pool. The lagoon’s famous oysters are a staple on the seafood-centric restaurant menu. From $355. This appeared in the March/April 2014 issue. Photo courtesy of Boutique Souk. La Sultana can be booked through Boutique Souk.
I've been in Marrakesh several times but this one was really different. I slept in an amazing Riad named Riad Camilia.This riad is in the heart of the medina which gave an other dimension to my trip, much more authentic. . The rooms are very cosy with confortable beds and the hospitality of the Director was great! I really recommand this place
The doors in the medina open to private worlds, and each has its own personality. This one needs a bath. The little streets are narrow and dirt covered, which isn't helped by the use of donkeys for transportation. They kick up dirt and make, er, dirt.
( Nomadic life in the desert of Morocco ) organizing tours and excursions in Morocco and discovering the beauty of Morocco.Iin our tours, travelers are escorted to discover the charm that hides the desert to live and spend time with local people .
You leave Royal Mansour with an entirely new appreciation for craftsmanship. Local artisans are responsible for the gorgeous zellige ceramic tiles, intricate carved wood, and molded plasterwork found throughout the 8.6-acre property. Commissioned by King Mohammed VI of Morocco, Royal Mansour was designed to feel like a medina within the city’s own medina. Fifty-three private riads, each three stories high, feel like mini-palaces, with on-call butlers and rooms arranged around open-air courtyards. Despite the lavish interiors, I couldn’t pull myself off the private roof terrace, which came with a plunge pool, fireplace, and dining area beneath a Bedouin tent. The price tag is outrageous, but you are truly treated like royalty. From $2,250.
There are many things to love about staying at La Tangerina, but the panoramic views from the roof terrace are at the top of my list. In this photo, the Strait of Gibraltar is visible under a cloudy sky. Standing at this viewpoint, if you turn a little to the right, you'll see the busy Port of Tangier and endless beaches. Turn a bit further to the right, and you'll enjoy a spectacular multilayer vista, with the White City's historic Kasbah in the forefront, followed by an array of more modern buildings, with the Rif Mountains as a distant backdrop. The hotel is perfectly located at the highest point on the Kasbah and has been beautifully restored and decorated. We enjoyed large breakfasts and a quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle of the medina.
“The Medina has loads of food stalls. My favorites are Fish and Chips #14 and Orange Juice #13. These two places aren’t next to each other. There is always a queue at the fish and chips place, which is a tip-off that they use fresh fish. They also serve a special eggplant paste with the fish and chips.”-Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj Photo by Michael Hanson. This appeared in the August/September 2014 issue.
You’ll get much cheaper hammam services—which include traditional gommage, or scrub treatment, with Morocco’s famous savon noir—in the souks than you will at the Amanjena’s lovely spa. But there’s something to be said for the privacy afforded here, not to mention the oasis-like surroundings into which you can stroll afterwards to your heart's content. The rose-pink walls, gentle arches, enormous pool, and peaceful canals add up to quite a place to spend an afternoon in your new skin.
It took four years to build this hotel at the base of the Atlas Mountains. French designer Jacques Garcia included black-and-white zellij tile work and other intricate Moorish details. Each of the hotel’s five guest riads (typical Moroccan houses) comes with a private garden and heated pool. At the spa, guests can choose from hydrotherapies and traditional remedies such as a facial mask that uses rhassoul clay from the mountains. The hotel’s stables house 16 Arabian purebreds, which visitors can meet on a stable tour when the steeds aren’t roaming the property. From $392. 212/(0) 52-445-9600. Photo courtesy of Hôtel Selman. This appeared in the January/February 2013 issue.
Located on a quiet side street, in the upscale neighborhood of Guéliz, is a garden called Marjorelle. The garden is named after its creator, Jacques Majorelle, a French born artist who settled in Marrakesh in 1919 to continue his career as a painter. Majorelle died in 1962 and the gardens remained unkept, until 1980, when the French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé bought the property and restored it. Entry to the Garden is through a typical Moroccan wood door and like a riad, you have no idea what’s on the inside until you cross the threshold. When you first enter the garden, you step into a very small, intimate courtyard with a fountain. I felt like I had escaped into a secret garden, leaving behind the hustle and bustle of the city. Beyond the courtyard is a lush garden, filled with an eclectic mix of plants surrounding the occasional pool. The garden that Jacques built lives on as his creative masterpiece. In fact, the special shade of bold cobalt blue, which he used extensively in the garden and its buildings, is named after him - Majorelle Blue. While the centerpiece of the garden is his former residence, a two storey house painted in Marjorelle Blue, I fell in love with all the windows and their intricately carved frames, painted in stark white. Although the relatively modern look and feel of Marjorelle Garden is in stark contrast to the gardens and buildings that you see in the rest of Marrakesh, it’s worth a visit.
This nearly 1,000-year-old mansion has been furnished with pieces made by local craftspeople. Owner Ina Krug works with a team of experts to arrange everything from a camel safari to a customized shopping trip through the souks. Each room has its own fragrance, such as saffron or pomegranate. The rooftop terrace, with views of the Atlas Mountains and the Koutoubia Mosque, is ideal for watching sunsets. From $200. 212/(0) 613-225- 874. This appeared in the March/April 2013 issue. Photo courtesy of The Great Getaway Medina.
Shelves at 33 Rue are stocked each month with new finds largely from local maâlems (master craftsmen). The owners have an eye for pieces that put a modern twist on tradition, such as these unusual bread baskets from Bladi Design. This appeared in the October 2013 issue. Photo courtesy of 33 Rue Majorelle
Probably one of my favorite souvenirs from Morocco are the mini tagines I bought from a friend's shop and a pottery factory we visited in Fes, where these mini tagines were also available in what I've been told are the city's emblematic blue and white. Easy to stuff in a suitcase (wrapped for safety in a scarf you bought, perhaps?), the mini tagines are a happy reminder of the many tagine meals you'll undoubtedly devour but are more likely to make it home safely and without taking up half of your suitcase. And they're as functional as they are cute (isn't everything cuter in mini-form?) as you can use them to hold sugar cubes or spices in your kitchen or maybe even knick-knacks and paperclips on your desk at work!
The distance between Ouarzazate and Marrakech is only 200km (125 miles) but the drive on the N9 through the High Atlas Mountains can take as long as four hours. The winding road, full of switch backs and featuring such scenery as to make one's jaw drop in disbelief is not recommended for those who suffer chronic motion sickness. Like myself. So, when we woke up, the long drive ahead of us and an eagerness to see my beloved Marrakech again, I medicated and prepared myself mentally for four hours of white-knuckle-torture. By the time we arrived at this vantage point in the Tichka Pass, I was suffering more from a backache and pain in my hands than from nausea. Dramamine is truly a wonder drug! And thank god for it, there isn't a drive I have done anywhere in the world that was as rewarding as the road from Ouarzazate to Marrakech. Car rental is possible and the Lonely Planet forums have great information on doing this yourself but I recommend having a very good, local driver. Be prepared with very warm clothing for getting out and taking pictures at the highest parts of the pass, the temperature drop is astonishing and the winds will knock you over. The view you're rewarded with is, of course, worth it! There are also wonderful small villages scattered all along the N9 - to stop in and eat, shop and rest your body before completing the drive.
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