Beiges, Blues, Yellows and Pinks. Marrakech

Sep 18, 2017

Disclosure: this blog post only contains the addresses of 1 driver, 1 restaurant, 1 shop and 3 places to sleep. I know, it’s a bit light for a fascinating city like Marrakech, and I am not claiming that those addresses are the best of, but I really enjoyed them on my short visit..and the photos might tell more than the words..Beiges, Blues, Yellows and Pinks.

The last time I landed in Marrakech, it was in May 2011 at the tail end of our trip around the world, just as a bomb exploded on Place Jemaa El-fna, killing 17 people. We turned on our mobile phones while queuing in the immigration line, only to discover a wave of panic messages received from friends and family who knew of our whereabouts. We had left our children at home on that trip.

We followed our instincts and decided not to head into the city. Instead, we stared at the screen of departures in confusion and picked a flight Marrakech-Lisbon to make up for the missed opportunity of a long week end just the two of us. It was one of those spur of the moment episodes. Had I not been a mother, I think that I would have headed into the city and figured out a way to stay, and somehow enjoy. But the thought of taking risks while my children were waiting for me in another country left me anxious to look for safety. This moment made a lasting impression: I recall experiencing a strange mix of cowardliness and lucidity.

Now, the world has changed. Terrorism can strike anywhere, we’ve seen it over and over the last 5 years, very sadly. Sure, I would not go to Timbuktu for pleasure these days (such a pity because it has always been so high on my wanderlust list, and I am hopeful that one day I will go)  but I am encouraged to see destinations in predominantly-muslim countries rising again on the tourist map: Morocco of course, but also Iran, Tunisia, Oman, Jordan, Egypt… If we live in fear, we give way to negative forces, and statistically speaking, we are still way more likely to be hit by a car in a Western city, than to be victim of a terrorist attack anywhere in the world. Let’s be real. I am glad that work took me back to Marrakech last week. These are just a few notes that I wanted to share:

Ps: A riad is a traditional Moroccan house with an interior garden or a courtyard and there are many inside the old town of Marrakech. In fact, I was told that there are 1,000 riad transformed into bed & breakfasts to choose from in Marrakech! Not an  easy task. Here are 5 good places to remember:

  1. Dar Seven: a riad that belongs to the illustrious Ruspoli family from Italy. Minimalist design (and minimum service!) with shades of beiges, greys and blacks. Quiet, Calm and Calming after a busy day in the city. Pleasantly located at the end of a mysterious little alley, in the northern part of the medina (the old town). For a bit more atmosphere, Riad Jaaneman is also a gem, playing on the Andalusian meets Marrakech style. My enormous room on the ground floor, courtesy of the owners – choukrane! – came with a wonderful private courtyard looking up to the sky. The Irish manager Madeline also owns a colourful read in the medina, perhaps more suited to families (and to smaller budgets). Check it out (I haven’t): Dar el Souk.
  2. Dar Zellij is a very pleasant restaurant 2′ walk from Dar Seven, with one of those magical rooftops overlooking the city. The food is authentic and really tasty. The decor is fancy Moroccan-style, with rose petals on the table and all.  The service is not for anyone in a hurry.
  3. Chez Mustapha Blaoui: if you only have time for one shop in Marrakech, head chez Mr Blaoui. It’s an Ali Baba’s cavern. Magical and hidden away. Prices are not very negotiable bc they are quite reasonable already. Be warned. merci Madeline for the tip:)
  4. Driver Youssef who works for Oubihi Trans is such a kind and polite young man who took us all over town and beyond, waited for us, and apologised more than profusely with the sweetest smile that day when he kept me waiting for 30′. You can ask for him here: oubihitrans@menara.ma / oubihitrans@gmail.com +212 0677 866764.
  5. Visit the Jardin Majorelle. Although it’s the most touristy place in all of Morocco, it is an incredible garden of exotic plants and marvellous cacti. Oh, and how sad to miss the opening of Musee Yves Saint Laurent which will take place next month! Commissioned by the fondation Pierre Berge – YSL, it looks incredible, from the architecture by Studio KO to the archives of one of France’s most iconic and talented fashion designer. Another reason to go back to Marrakech.

Read here about beautiful Tangiers the White – Tanger La Blanche – when I visited in 2012.

Dar Seven above

And the entrance of Dar Seven at the end of this dark and mysterious little alley. Love!

Beautiful details on city walls everywhere

I could have bought all these rugs

We visited a weavers coop where they team up to work and sell at fixed prices.   

Stephanie from the Galapagos Safari Camp, with whom I strolled around (and got lost) when we were not at work!

Above and below, the deep and enigmatic Bleu Majorelle, in the garden of painter Jacques Majorelle later acquired and made famous by Yves Saint Laurent. Read here for more.

Above, a photo of Pierre Barge long time lover and business partner of Yves Saint Laurent, and owner of the Villa Majorelle in Marrakech. He passed away a few days before my visit.

And my riad with a beautiful courtyard: Riad Jaaneman.

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