Spanning 200 pages and including 700 illustrations, we think we might just have stumbled upon the ideal Christmas gift for lovers of Marrakech. This book is by Elan Fleisher – a travel and hotel photographer (elanhotelpix.com) – who has chosen to focus on twelve of the most striking riads of Marrakech, and the Medina with its armies of artisans, handcrafters, architects and designers.
The author explains how the riads of the Medina symbolise, not only the long-standing artisanal heritage of Marrakech but also its relatively newly found identity as a destination for creative people, jet-setters and holidaymakers. In fact, the riads he argues, have become as much of a Marrakech attraction as the souks themselves. The riads are destinations on their own, showcasing many aspects of the city that visitors find most exciting about Marrakech – hammams, gardens, gourmet cuisines, craftsmanship, courtyards of fountains, rooftop terraces and views of the Atlas mountains. The author rightly sums up riads as being a mix of “boutique design hotels and historic private preservation museums.”
This book is also breaking new ground as so far, while there have been books on Moroccan interiors and luxury hotels in Morocco, not one has been dedicated to the riad. The book also contains photographic essays on the sights, people, food, surroundings, and nightlife making it a highly suitable souvenir or gift.
Marrakech is readying itself for its 13th annual Film Festival, which will run from 29 November – 7 December. The latest celebrity news is that Oscar Winner Marion Cotillard will join American director Martin Scorsese (President on this year’s jury) on the judging panel. She joins an ever-increasing number of big-star international names who will sit on the jury this year, including Oscar nominee Patricia Clarkson, Amat Escalante, Paolo Sorrentino, Korean director Park Chan-wook, Indian filmmaker Anurag Kashyap and Turkish director Fatih Akin. The jury votes on the festival’s top prize, the Golden Star, as well as many other prizes like best film, best actor and best actress.
The festival will open with the Indian film Ram-leela, the latest by director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who will be in attendance with leading actress Deepika Padukone. The film is a modern version of Romeo and Juliet and it harks back to 2012 when the Marrakech International Film Festival was dedicated to Indian cinema in 2012. True to its international focus, the festival will pay tribute to Scandinavian cinema on 5 December.
We suspect that Andy Harris probably spent a little longer than a month researching and eating his way around Marrakech in order to produce this fabulous cookbook. Published by Australian publishers Hardie Grant, this book is for sale worldwide via Amazon and features all the different tastes and culinary diversity that Marrakech has to offer.
The excellent food photography by David Loftus makes the recipes incredibly appealing. We especially like the way that the book is laid out – starting with breakfast through to desserts. Also, many of the recipes featured include ingredients that you are likely to have at home, as well as some harder-to-find together items which can be found nowadays in most big city supermarkets and specialist shops. Recipes include things you’d expect like stuffed baby vegetables, harissa, mint tea and green bean salad, and things you might not, like Figs with Almond Milk Ice Cream and Orange Flower Donuts. Delicious!
After stumbling upon the British Pathé website we were amazed by some of the old footage that can be found catalogued within the site. A short search – either by entering ‘Marrakech’, ‘Marrakesh’ or ‘Morocco’ – can bring up all sorts of fascinating footage from many years ago.
We found a market scene in the Medina from 1974 and various shots of the Sultan inspecting troops of Moroccan army where crowds of dignitaries watch, including some European army officers, from 1937.
In Terry Ashwood’s film ‘Marrakech – Desert Paradise’ from 1948, we watched a unique snapshot of Marrakech with a voice-over from a different time. Admittedly, the commentary seems a little dated but it’s intriguing to watch old scenes of the Atlas Mountains, hotel grounds, waiters, markets and orange trees. There’s a spice seller with his spices laid out in piles on a newspaper and money changing hands with stall owners. You can watch this clip here: http://www.britishpathe.com/video/marrakech-desert-paradise-1/query/Marrakech
This collected footage shows just how Morocco has changed over the decades and how in some ways, things have stayed the same (the craftsmanship, the trading, storytellers and so on).
Skiers looking for a good-value adrenaline filled adventure could do worse than head to Africa’s highest ski resort (complete with the highest ski lift in North Africa at 3273m), Oukaimeden, 45 miles south of Marrakech.
The longest run is 3km and while the piste is not as polished as European resorts, but it’s a fantastic getaway and is very economical. There is good piste and off-piste skiing, and for cross-country skiers, crests are accessible. All the necessary equipment can be hired, but the rates and quality differs, so it pays to ask around. Ski passes are cheap as are guides and instructors, but go with a recommendation if possible as standards vary.
In terms of the season, snow cover can be unreliable but the best time to come is between February and April. It’s not that common to ski in Africa so go with an open mind and enjoy the fact that you’ll be able to tell friends back home that you’ve skied in Morocco!
We recently contributed to the website www.theculturetrip.com a well-known, and highly useful, web resource that showcases the best of art and culture for every country in the world. Morocco is covered well and the site includes essays and round-ups on everything from expat writers in Tangiers, to the top ten art galleries in Morocco.
The site also sells books and films about Morocco, including classics like ‘Casablanca’ and ‘Morocco’, a classic romantic drama starring Gary Cooper and Marlene Dietrich. Travel books include all the regular guidebooks along with specific books on culture and shopping, and there are also titles covering spirituality, art, architecture, fiction, history and food.
For our contribution, we chose to write about gardens in Marrakech in a piece called ‘An Oasis of Calm: The Historical Gardens of Marrakech.’ In the article we talk about how the gardens of Marrakech have inspired writers and artists over the years and which ones are really worth a visit. You can read the piece here:
Former style editor, Alessandra Lippini of Italian Vogue and her partner, Fabrizio Bizzarri, have to be one of the most stylish couples in Marrakech. It’s true that there are quite a few concept shops now in the city, but this fabulously fashionable pair kick-started the trend several years ago and their emporium-cum-gallery, Ministero Del Gusto, is an inspirational and good looking space.
Racks of carefully chosen vintage couture clothes stand alongside designer wooden furniture, bas reliefs and trinkets that have been sourced from all around the world. The space is also a hive of creativity and a few times a year the couple put on an art exhibition or a musical gathering, a taster of their art and design school which they have created along with Italian architect Sergio Calatroni located out in Tahanaoute (20km or so away). Make an appointment if you can, but impromptu visits are also welcomed.
My husband and I recognized the transformation instantly upon our arrival at Marrakech’s airport for a week’s vacation last April. After six years away from the Moroccan city we once called home—and where our daughter, now ten, learned to converse in a rapid-fire medley of Arabic, French, and English—it was no surprise that changes had occurred in our absence. …
Marrakech, like most major Moroccan cities, offers two faces to the traveler, a product of its legacy as a French protectorate from 1912 to 1956. One is the dusty medina, an embodiment of Morocco before Western powers took a geopolitical interest in this corner of the Maghreb. The other is the Ville Nouvelle, often referred to as Guéliz, the modern town that the French built outside the medina, an urbane community of spacious boulevards and tree-shaded streets that was originally lined with clay-color Art Moderne villas as neat as sugar cubes.
For the rest of this fascinating article, click here: