Magic, multi-faceted – if when it comes to holidays you attach great value to individuality and inspiration you should treat yourself with Marrakech. Hardly any other million-strong metropolis has such a sensual effect on body and soul like the adopted country of many European creative minds.
„I often dream about these colours…” – When Yves Saint Laurent first came to Marrakech in 1967 he was under the charm of the opulence and the vitality of this special place. Together with his partner Pierre Bergé, the Parisian transferred his second home to the Medina first, to add in 1980 the Blue House, located in the beautiful Jardin Majorelle which is home to wondrous trees, cactuses and succulents from the five continents of the world.
It’s here, in the southwest of Morocco, where lies the place of longing of stressed city dwellers and, of course, of many creatives, who bought the one or the other Riad with the obligatory patio to renovate it with much love and attention to detail – always searching for the ultimate inspiration. Because they can find it here, as well as original and hand-made products that can only be found at this place but nowhere else – despite the globalization and mass products, which unfortunately have also reached the Medina’s crooked lanes.
Babouches, lovingly made of finest goat leather, finely shaped lamps or brightly painted pottery – in the popular Souks, the roofed Marrakech markets, extensive rummaging and searching is worth any minute. But beware: here also, rip-off and cheap goods lurk on every corner and a short but determined “non” towards pertinacious tourist cheaters is absolutely recommended.
Deep inside the rusty red city walls, especially at the north of the maze-like Medina, we fortunately still can find the excellence of skilled craftsmen offering their dusty goods through the small windows of their ateliers. Here, we discover some treasures for which we will be envied at home, for sure. Thus, don’t be afraid of rattling donkey carts, free-range chickens or the wildly gesticulating, frantic citizens in their traditional flowing robes. Here, time seems to stand still but the lively bustle is proof of pure life happening. Orient and occident are perfectly melting here, unveiling some purists’ undreamt creative potential.
Not long, and even hard-nosed city dwellers long for a little breather at an oasis of relaxation which can surprisingly appear behind rather inconspicuous, most often locked doors. Those in the know simply ring the right bell or swing the cast-iron knocker to enter paradise. Well temperate Riads and their fountains emerge as oriental tea salons with cosy seating corners where sweet mint tea and finest Moroccan pastries are served in heavenly silence.
A bunch of rooftop bars are worth the steep flights of steps to be climbed to enjoy delightful treats prepared in the traditional Tajine, as an alternative to the sugar-sweet desserts. Whether they’re made with beef, prunes and almonds or veggie style with potatoes, greens and Harissa – the wide range of spices in the most sophisticated compositions are a real treat; always accompanied by Couscous cooked to perfection.
As it gets dark, the world-famous Djeema el Fna, the medieval charming market place and former hangman’s square is worth a visit. Fire-eaters, snake charmers and mobile cookshops try to attract the attention of the curious visitors. During the day a visit of the Koutubia Mosque from 1158, the Agdal Gardens and, “bien évidemment”, Yves Saint Laurent’s Jardin Majorelle which is open to the public since 2001, is highly recommended.
Those who haven’t decided yet whether they want to book a luxury hotel or a romantic Riad, or who are still looking for the best hot spots in terms of country-specific bars, restaurants and souvenir shops might get inspired by our location choices – and will discover: Marrakech is not just a magical place, it is exactly what Yves Saint Laurent once described it: “the whole world together in one place”.
Café Arabe The large bar and restaurant with a view over the Medina attracts with Italian-Moroccan cuisine and spacious sofas.
Dar Cherifa The slightly hidden literatur café is a gallery and the popular meeting point of many artists who come here for lunch and for cultural exchange.
Dar Moha Purée de poivrons rouges aux amandes or rather Zaalouk d’aubergines au cumin? One who wants to experience Morocco’s culinary seventh heaven, should make a reservation in due time.
Dar Zellij A carefully renovated Riad from the 17th century and an excellent restaurant, where one can enjoy exquisite food under orange trees.
Grand Café de la Poste Do you fancy some spirit of the colonial era? Located in the new town, at this place time seems to have magically stopped in the 1920’s.
Jardin Majorelle The beautiful oasis and the birthplace of the famous Bleu Majorelle is where Yves Saint Laurent got inspired by the exotic fauna.
Beautiful Riad Up to four guests can be accomodated at the beautifully renovated Riad of the German fashion designer Nicole Francesca Manfron, whose little paradise can be booked via Airbnb.
Lalla Small but excellent. At Boulevard El Mansour Eddahbi the French fashionista Laetitia Trouillet sells her beautiful bags and accessories.
La Mamounia Five star luxury-class hotel. The prestigious accomodation with spa and restaurant used to be the favourite destination of Churchill, de Gaulle and Roosevelt.
Palais Namaskar Best Hotel in Africa and Best Luxury Fitness Spa in Africa – the Palais Namaskar represents sheer luxury. A magnificent palace hotel like out of 1001 night.
Terrasse des Épices The cosy rooftop bar above the roofs of the Medina, whose specialty is the ‘Tanjia Marrakchia’, even provides a barber on the ground floor.
Fotos: Pexels / Gerlind Hector
Translation: Danielle De Bie