3
Jun
2012
0

Marrakech

After months of exams, essays and all the tears and tantrums that accompany them, a Moroccan city break was exactly what I craved for many a good reason. I knew the sheer madness and outlandish charm of the Souk would leave me with little time to think about anything other than the sounds and smells of a land I adore for its complete incongruity with London life. An additional bonus is that it is an inoffensive three hour flight from Heathrow meaning I could bound straight from my final exam to the airport. Hedonistic, carnal and colourful, I thought it best to let the photos do the talking.

 The beautiful riad is nestled behind a very unassuming facade right at the heart of the Medina. Despite the din and disarray of the souk, this provided a peaceful sanctuary with a pool and a beautiful rooftop, the perfect place to observe the chaos from above.

The call to prayer is such an integral part of quotidian life but for the most touristy of tourists such as myself, it became one of the highlights. Dodging my way around the souk with the call to prayer as the soundtrack, I fancied myself as a sort of Doris Day character from the film ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much.’ Embarrassing.

This is typically what comes with me on a short trip. Nothing fancy apart from some costume jewellery and pretty sandals and certainly nothing that won’t fit in my Globetrotter. The rest consists of denim shorts, shirts and bikinis. I took my new and beloved MSGM blazer along with a huge pink shawl as it can get quite cold at night.

His n Her Babush from the Souk. I adore the little pom poms and tassels which adorn everything from pillows to door handles. These vibrant and buttery soft traditional shoes were made the very same day by a very kind and patient man who was willing to whip up matching pairs for my mum and sisters too.

Electric blue Babush

 

Handwoven and delightfully asymmetrical raffia bags.

The lunch buffet at the Mamounia is without a doubt the most exceptional i’ve ever encountered. Endless seafood, infinite types of the freshest salads made with local ingredients and all manner of traditional Moroccan specialities.

Dates and dips at the Mamounia.

Although Marrakech offers some of the worlds tastiest cuisine with their wonderfully spiced and scented tagines and pastillas, the Thai restaurant at the Amenjena is well worth a visit. The peaceful landscape completely transports you into a scene from ‘A Thousand and One Nights’ as you sit upon floor cushions in front of a vast, sprawling pond.

The Amanjena was where many of the scenes of Sex and the City 2 were filmed and it’s not hard to see why. Even though the carnage of the souk was very special, it was a very welcome relief to put your feet up and relax with a cocktail in this serene sanctuary.

As you can see, my friend and I opted for a refreshing ‘Amenjena’ made with vodka, limes and mint. A far more refreshing alternative to the Pina Coladas the boys insisted on with enough rum in them to comatose Jack Sparrow.

 Dinner by candle light included beef curries, seabass with ginger, and a colourful array of vegetables and salads.

Enchanted at the spice market where my friend and I picked up some cumin, cinammon and a kilo of huge glossy dates. The souks charm lies in its labyrinth like layout but it can become overwhelming in the afternoon so it’s wise to take someone knowledgable with you, just in case you get lost.

 Garlic and Roses

Moroccan apothecary style.

 

The Royal Mansour serves a Bellini to rival Harry’s Bar.

 

 Slow cooked shoulder of lamb with cinnamon and almond couscous. The lamb was up there with one of the best meals of my life with its glazed, crispy skin and the softest almost dissolvable meat. (I apologise for the terrible photos)

 Sugar laden, syrup soaked nutty Moroccan treats. No one needs to drink when you can get a raging high from these guys alone. My favourite were the Gazelle Horns (left) which are made from ground almonds scented with orange blossom then shaped into little crescent moons.

chocolate toadstools?

  • EAT
  1. The Royal Mansour – The brain child and much loved baby of the King of Morocco. It took three years of continuous building to complete, with architects and craftsmen working around the clock in shifts. It’s purpose, aside from being a hotel, is to provide visitors with the most illustrious example of Avant Garde Islamic art and to showcase the different styles of Moroccan architecture. It’s truly breathtaking for its sheer size and attention to detail with every nook and cranny devoting itself to beauty. Both the bar and the restaurant were great although the atmosphere is a little incongruous with the other restaurants of Morocco in that it is quite grown up and formal. Nevertheless, it is still well worth a visit even just to marvel at the incredible architecture.
  2. Thai at the Amenjena – Thai?? Strange as it sounds, the idea of eating a Couscous Royale in this beautiful setting is just wrong. The tables are set in the candlelit garden overlooking the enormous pond and pink hued guest villas as you watch the sun disappear behind them. This could almost be a little saccharine but luckily the Thai food and the insistence by the boys of a ‘heavy red’ saved it from being a cliché.
  3. Bo-Zin – For those looking for somewhere chic and trendy then Bo-Zin is the place for you. The food is traditional with a slightly Asian touch (although not quite fusion) and the bar and garden make it a great place for a sundowner.
  4. Jellabah – Newly opened in the Gillies part of town, this place is fun and brightly decorated with Andy Warhol style prints of celebrities wearing fez hats. The food is not great (to put it lightly) but its a lively place for a pre or post dinner cocktail.
  • SHOP
  1. La Filles D’Or – Nestled in the heart of the souk, this tiny store offers beautifully cut shirts, linen trousers and velvet jackets for men and women. If nothing takes your fancy, a bespoke service gives you the chance to design your own garments and have them delivered to your hotel. I think the best items here are the shirts and mens jackets which can be made in wool or cashmere as well as velvet or linen. Shirts start at around Dhs400
  2. Kulchi – Florence Taranne’s Kulchi boutique, near the Medina’s Bab El Ksour gate, had its origins in her small shop in the courtyard garden of supper club Le Comptoir. Her own-label clothing is light and playful, marrying trippy colours and patterning with Moroccan cuts and embroidery. Accessories include raffia shoes from Essaouira, leather shopping bags with khamsa (hand) motifs and T-shirts by Hassan Hajjaj.
  3. Beldi – A tiny kiosk of a boutique at the entrance to the souks, it is the display space for the work of brothers Toufik and Abdelhafid. Together they tailor seasonal men’s and women’s collections of Moroccan clothing in the most beautiful colours and fabrics, fashioned with flair and an eye to Western tastes. Beautiful handmade velvet coats lined with silk start from around Dhs1,700, men’s shirts in fine linen start from about Dhs500.

 

  • SLEEP
  1. Amanjena – A palatial and very private retreat, and the type of guests who check in here value the peace and serenity that the location ensures. Accommodation is in eight individual ‘pavilions’ and larger, two-storey maisons
  2. La Mamounia – This legendary hotel reopened last year after a massive three-year revamp, replacing its original Art Deco interiors with a sumptuous Arab- Andalucian-inspired overhaul by French designer Jacques Garcia. Other highlights include a French restaurant with star Jean-Pierre Vigato, and a 2,500-metre-square spa with MarocMaroc and Shiseido treatments.
  3. Riad 72 -One of the first, and arguably the most successful of the new-wave riads, Riad 72 has just four rooms. Italian owner Giovana Cinel has created a soothing space with a minimum of fuss, and the rooftop terrace has wide-angle views over the whole of the Medina.
  4. Riad Madani – This astonishing and little-known riad is the property of French diplomat Thierry Martin de Beauce. It boasts a huge central garden of 1,000 square metres, possibly the biggest in the Medina, and walls hung with Picassos, Dufys and Mirós.

Fly to Marrakech from London Heathrow on Royal Air Maroc (via Casablanca), From London Gatwick on British Airways and Easy Jet (direct)

 

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