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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
At Riad El Cadi on the outskirts of old town Marrakech, five of us spent the afternoon touring the spice markets, learning about traditional foods, and cooking a huge feast. Here's the delicious finished product. I will never forget the experience, or the recipes (the best $60 I ever spent)! Any traveler who loves food and learning new skills would enjoy this class. Their kitchen is brand new and can teach up to 8, so make sure you reserve a place before hand. The entire Riad is gorgeous so plan to stay an hour after lunch to roam around and lounge in their pool! http://www.riyadelcadi.com/
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.
While in Marrakech we took a four hour cooking class at a beautiful Riad just outside the old town center. The five of us spent the afternoon touring the spice markets, learning about traditional foods, and cooking a huge feast. My favorite part was dessert of course; Moroccan milk pastilla and mint tea! I will never forget the experience, or the recipes (probably the best $60 I ever spent)! http://www.riyadelcadi.com/en.html
There are plenty of wonderful places to eat in Marrakesh, from tagines to saffron-infused rices and more. But one of my favourites is to head to the bustling Djemaa el Fna in the old Medina and sit at the food stall "Stall 32". Located in the middle of the square with a busy grill and U-formation of picnic tables around it, the stall offers harira (a tomato and lentil soup) and perfectly grilled merguez sausage served with bowls of bread. It's cheap, it's delicious and it will afford you a perfect view of the noise and wonder of the Fna.
Star designer Jacques Garcia recently restored La Mamounia’s grandeur, updating rooms with painted wooden doors, hand-carved ceilings, and a blend of art deco and Moorish antiques. In the surrounding park, bougainvillea and roses grow wild in a grove of olive trees. La Mamounia, Avenue Bab Jdid, Marrakech, 212/(0) 524-388-600. From $755. mamounia.com. Image courtesy of La Mamounia. This story appeared in the July/August 2011 issue. Discover other palace hotels:Venice, ItalyRajasthan, IndiaPlaya del Carmen, MexicoCounty Clare, IrelandBejing, China
At the poolside restaurant Dar Moha, hungry travelers can dine on couscous with foie gras, lamb shank tagine with ras el hanout jus, and chakhchoukha, a caramelized apple tart spiced with saffron. Enjoy your meal at one of the candlelit tables while a musician plays the oud, a stringed instrument similar to a lute. —Jennye Garibaldi Dar Moha, 81 Rue Dar El Bacha, 212/(0) 524- 386-400. Photo courtesy of Dar Moha Restaurant. This appeared in the July/August 2011 issue.
Argan oil is celebrated for its skin-nourishing properties. It’s also hugely expensive when bought outside Morocco, so this cosmetic wonder is pretty much a no-brainer for any Marrakesh shopping list. Inside the medina, argan products are not hard to find, but it can be hard to know which merchants are selling the real, unadulterated deal. My first suggestion, then, would be either to enlist a guide or visit a dealer you know to be legitimately government-approved. Otherwise, if you’re deep in the souk, keep an eye out for Assaisse Ouzeka, which sells legit argan products made by a women’s cooperative in the coastal town of Essaouira. Look for a slightly messy setup by the door with women demonstrating the oil-extraction process. (It’s apparently still done by hand everywhere, which strikes me as amazing.) Inside the tidy, well-lit shop, you’ll find everything from hair and skin oils to lip balm and anti-wrinkle cream. The salesgirl who helped us was very sweet and—a true rarity in the go-go souks, one sometimes feels—not too pushy. I wish I could be more specific about where the shop is, but anyone who's been in the souks knows what a labyrinth they are!
I sampled tagines from a half-dozen places in Marrakesh, including fancy restaurants, and the succulent chicken tagine at Bakshish, an unassuming and bohemian-flavored café in the souk, topped them all. It’s a nice spot to take a break from haggling with spice and leather vendors—and has wi-fi, too. On Rue des Banques.
If vintage photography is your thing, you can't miss Marrakech's Maison de la Photographie. And if a collection of 3500 photographs about Morocco between 1870 and 1950 doesn't make you swoon, you should still go. Because the Maison has a secret rooftop café which offers the highest, sweeping panoramic views of Marrakech — a perfect respite from the chaotic medina directly below.
While in Marrakech, we stayed near the medina (old town square) and frequented the souk (market) for new and delicious experiences at all hours. During the day you'll find 20 or more vendors selling hand-squeezed orange juice for 10 cents a glass, women painting hands with henna, men snake charming, and much more. The market depends on tourists but it's charming none the less. When night comes, the bustle truly begins though and the crowd seemed a better mix of locals and visitors. At nightfall men pulled carts into the square, started generators and assembled the labyrinth of stalls. Stands selling strange meals (sheep's brain, goats head and the like), mounds of dried fruit, vats of escargot, and silver pots of mint julep tea popped up everywhere within the hour. Most of all, I loved peeking around the checkerboards of dates, figs, apricots after dinner. If you visit this market make sure to bargain for a better price and shop around. Always agree on a price before anything is exchanged. If a monkey jumps on your shoulder or a woman paints a flower on your hand- it's going to cost you even if they say it's free. Browse before picking a place to eat, go where the locals are and don't sit down until you've decided. *Make friends with an orange juice vendor and be a loyal customer- we always went to stall 16 and after a week they knew our names, took us to a club, pointed us to the best food, and were so helpful.
by Maria Finn Nine Berber tents welcome guests with warm fabrics and traditional Moroccan furnishings. Each has a deck with Atlas Mountain views, but for a real treat, request one of the five with a private pool. Try authentic dishes such as pigeon pastilla or couscous tagine at the Kanoun Restaurant, and practice your Berber by ordering atay nlikmt (mint tea). Kasbah Tamadot, (877) 577-8777, from $652. Photo courtesy of Kasbah Tamadot. This appeared in the March/April 2012 issue. See more tent hotels.
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.
No trip to Marrakech is complete without a camel ride, right? We took a short taxi ride from the medina to La Palmeraie, a palm grove about twenty minutes from the city center. Off the main road of La Palmeraie were guides here and there, waiting with camels. Once we chose our camels, we arranged for a one-and-a-half hour ride. My camel had very long legs, so mounting it was a bumpy experience in itself. As it was in a seated position, I placed one foot in the stirrup and swung my other leg over its hump. The camel swiftly straightened its hind legs--lifting and dipping me forward--and then its front legs. It was a simple pleasure to ride and take in the natural beauty of the palm grove. I recommend it if you don't have time to trek the Sahara. I'm dreaming of an overnight camel trek (perhaps multiple days), so this served as a primer. La Palmeraie opens at 8 a.m. and closes around midnight. You can also book through Dunes & Desert Exploration, just keep in mind you may be riding as part of a group.
We were near the border of Algeria in Morocco, at the Gateway to the Sahara. We did an overnight camel trek (proper name is a dromedary, camels have two humps, dromedaries have one). Our hosts shared a cigarette around the fire.
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.
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.
Marrakesh Morocco is one of the most fascinating cities I've ever visited. Vibrant, a mix of old and new culturally. Meandering markets and snake charmers day and night. Camels and wealth amid poverty and mystique. Open your mind to the local customs and culture, here and you will not be disappointed. A guest house named Riad Djebel in the Medina, is walking distance to Jamaâ El Fna Square, the main square full of markets and bustle, corridors and carpet vendors. day trips to the Atlas mountains, the sahara, and other beautiful spots will keep you busy in Morocco. The Riad (guesthouse) has a comfy feel with gardens, roof top lounge and a couple pools to soak off the heat.. Internet, local cuisine from a Berber cook and access to turkish baths, will enchance your stay, even when you are not out exploring Morocco....
When I walked in, I was stunned to find modern decor reminiscent of a city more like LA, than Marrakech; modern decor so unlike that of a normal French restaurant yet that's what the establishment purported to be. Chairs reminded me of an Eames design, the tables could have been bought from IKEA and what's that written on the menu boards? Tapas choices! Morocco surprises the typical visitor in many ways, yet never was I as surprised during my three weeks in the country as I was on my last night during our farewell dinner for our tour group. Not only is Kechmara a fusion of Spanish, French and Arab cultures it is an excellent place for an American burger! Try the version that includes avocado slices and blue cheese. Just skip the frites and order a salad on the side instead. Kechmara has a patio and during warm weather, this is the best place to sit and enjoy the cobalt sky that Marrakech does so well. A sunny day on the patio level of any restaurant in the city is a good one but with Kechmara's wine list and comfortable chairs it's even better. At night, candlelight is the only accompaniment so be prepared for the ambiance. WiFi is free but you will need a password and dessert is excellent so save room!
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