Tag Archives: North Africa

Online shopping if you can’t get to Marrakech

Try Etsy for exotic Moroccan finds

Moroccan-modern-rug-Marrakech-online-shopping

Etsy (www.etsy.com) is a huge online marketplace. If you’ve not heard of it, as we hadn’t until recently, think of it as a kind of fashionable ebay without the auction element. It’s full of arts and crafts inspired items and is a colourful way to shop online whether you’re looking for homewares, clothes or just some ideas.

If you put in a search for Morocco all kinds of wonderful things come up.

That leather pouffe you couldn’t quite carry back? They’ve got those, in tan, pink and every other colour of the rainbow too. Or how about a Moroccan-inspired hipflask? Yup, they have plenty of those as well.

Whilst browsing on the site we discovered the Izzizi Interiors range, which offers authentic, vintage Beni Ourain and Marmoucha Berber rugs from the mountains of Morocco – not cheap but very chic (www.etsy.com/uk/shop/IzziziInteriors)

 

 

Morocco flic-flac

New species discovered

flic_flac_new_species_spider_morocco

Our blog usually covers art, fashion, jewellery, dining out and various other cultural activities that our guests enjoy so much. This week however, we bring you news of an exciting, but all together more down-to-earth, discovery. Newspapers reported last week that a brand new species has been discovered in Morocco – the curiously named ‘flic flac’ spider.

Found in south-eastern Morocco, not far from the Algerian border, this little arachnid caught our eye as he is quite unique in the insect world. To get around the Sahara this spider propels itself along by is its ability to move by means of flic-flac jumps. It literally cartwheels across the sand and is believed to be the only spider in the world to move this way. An acrobatic little fellow!

What started as news in a specialist scientific journal soon became news elsewhere and he got a write-up in the International New York Times. Here is a video of Morocco’s most famous spider, doing his thing across the dunes: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/06/science/a-desert-spider-with-astonishing-moves.html?_r=0

 

 

Splendour behind white walls – in Marrakech old city

Sultan Moulay Ismail Marrakesh

This week we bring news of a unique restoration project, just completed. If you wander along the rue de l’ Hammam and through the archway between the Mouassine Mosque and the Mouassine Fountain you will find yourself in the proximity of the newly opened Douiria Apartment.

The ‘Douiria Apartment’ may sound like a modern housing development, but it is a much more exciting concept than that. It is in fact a restoration project which has preserved a ‘Douiria’ (reception apartment) that was built during the reign of Sultan Moulay Ismail (1646 – 1727) in the 17th century.

Patrick Man’ach – who opened La Maison de la Photographie and the Berber Eco museum in Ourika – is the brains behind the project. Having seen the space, he suspected that its white-washed walls might conceal an older, more fascinating décor. He brought in a team of experts, including Xavier Salmon – of the Louvre museum in Paris – and together they worked to remove the plaster.

What was discovered behind these plain walls must be seen to be believed. Underneath lay floral patterns, wooden beams and a sun motif – all perfectly preserved.

Next, a team of 10 skilled Moroccan craftsmen were brought in – expert Moroccan potters from Ourika – who carefully restored the original colours and wooden beams. All the phases of the complex restoration were photographed and are also on display.

Now open, The Douiria provides not only a unique place for hosting VIP gatherings and high-end exhibitions but also a rare insight into the Arab art of courtly entertainment during the reign of Sultan Moulay Ismail.

The website www.douiria.org promises to be up and running shortly.

 

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The need for cheese

cheese_Marrakech_vendor

While we love Moroccan food, there are certain foods that we often get cravings for that are not always that easy to find. One of these is of course – cheese!

With so many French expats in the city, thankfully it isn’t too hard to source good selections of cheese and dairy produce. One of our top tips is Le Maitre Fromager which is the go-to place in the city for cheese fans.

Housed in a pretty boutique on Avenue Mohamed VI, the smell of cheese entices food lovers in from the streets. It’s not only about cheese here though, you can also pick up other fine foods including smoked salmon and platters of cheese which work well as gifts. A must for any foodie’s address book.

If you’re really keen you can even sign up for their newsletter, here: www.lemaitrefromager.com

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Marrakech Food Tours

marrakech foodies

English: Steam rises from food stalls in the J...
English: Steam rises from food stalls in the Jma al Fnaa at night (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s rare that a visitor leaves Marrakech without a newly-found passion for the local food. We offer lovely, home-cooked salads and tagines in our own riad and happily recommend plenty of interesting places to eat in and around Marrakech (many of our favourite places can be found here on this blog). But, if you’re keen to delve deeper, then a food tour might just tick the box.

We recently heard about Marrakech Food Tours from Amanda AKA @MarocMama who we avidly follow on Twitter. She and Youssef, who met in the US but who live in Marrakech, are now taking visitors out into the city to discover its culinary traditions.

Guests meet at the Jemaa el Fna Post Office and then go out with Youssef (and maybe Amanda) to meet different food artisans, to learn about food culture and the history of the area. For the adventurous there’s the “Freaky Food” tour, where Youssef takes guests out to try snail soup, sheep head, and kidney loaf – we have to admit that we’re very keen to test this one out ourselves!

Tours operate every day of the week, starting at 1pm and each tour lasts approximately three hours. Group sizes are from 1-6 (although email ahead if you plan to book solo). Tours are conducted in English and the cost for the tour is $50 (US), pre-paid, per person. Children 5 and under are free with a parent and children over 5 are $25 with a paying adult.

Find out more here: http://marrakechfoodtours.com/taste-the-real-marrakech/

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On the Radio – Riad Sapphire and Spa in Marrakech

loggia and arcade_riad in Marrakesh_riad sapphire and spa
upper floor arcade in Riad Sapphire, Marrakesh

The lovely folks at Dubai Eye Radio – one of the best radio stations in the Middle East – asked us to tell them what it’s like running a riad in the heart of Marrakech. Before we knew it, we were on-air being broadcast around the region and beyond.

Our story was on a particular show called ‘The Road Less Travelled’ which is all about exploring other cultures and authentic travel. The Travel Show is presented by Lucy Taylor and Mark Lloyd who, every week, help their listeners ‘stay up to date and learn to navigate potential pitfalls with practical travel tips and on the ground advice from the experts in the know.’

The Travel Show covers all elements of travel, tourism, hospitality, leisure and lifestyle – looking at everything from local UAE escapes and entertainment to international vacation options and attractions.

You can listen to our own interview here, care of this podcast:

https://audioboo.fm/boos/2059682-the-road-less-traveled-1-08-04-2014

 

Multi-media Marrakech

Marrakech_water seller_short film on Marrakech_Suki Mok

Travel and music go together. Just like a photograph brings back memories a song can take you back to a certain place too.

This week we stumbled upon a beautiful piece of film which we feel has successfully captured the essence of Marrakech. It has been created by Suki Mok, a talented musician, turned photographer.

Suki shot the short film on his Blackmagic camera and it has been set to a transporting piece of music by Jose Gonzalez – a song called ‘Step out’, which has an ethereal, travel vibe to it.

The film takes the audience through some of Morocco’s finest sights such as the Atlas Mountains, Berber villages, the Medina souks, Jardin Majorelle and the Koutoubia Minaret. All of these iconic sights were expertly captured on Suki’s first ever visit to Morocco, watching it is a bit like seeing the country through fresh eyes. Suki says of his journey:

“Just an hour’s drive away will take you to the stunning Atlas mountains, where the Berbers still live in villages untouched by modern society. The film is rich with new colours, patterns and faces with wholly unique stories – it was a truly unforgettable experience.”

So, sit back, relax and turn up your speakers…

To view video, see here: http://vimeo.com/87645206

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Polo in Morocco

polo_playing_in_Morocco

Polo is a sport famously played by kings and noblemen. Dating back to a time when royal guards and elite troops practised it as a form of cavalry training, it is still popular with wealthy Moroccans today.

Marrakech is home to North Africa’s first polo resort, Jnan Amar Marrakech (www.jnanamar.com). There, in the southern corner of this large retreat, is a smartly designed equestrian complex. The stable can hold up to 104 horses, and there is a Riding Academy where you can learn to play polo with professional trainers in the outdoor practice field.

On the 19th of April this year there will be a high-profile event at Jnan Amar Marrakech in aid of the Eve Branson Foundation – a Moroccan charity serving disadvantaged communities in the High Atlas. Several VIPs will be in attendance.

You can apply for an invitation here: http://evebransonfoundation.org.uk/assets/2014_Morocco_Save_The_Date_V8-1.jpg

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Berber Rafting, activity near Marrakesh

berber rafting, activities, near Marrakech
A great way to get active and see Morocco’s countryside is to get out and about on the country’s rivers. One of the best ways to do this is by booking a trip with Dutch-owned company Berber Rafting. A white water rafting and adventure company, most tours involve taking guests to the mountains, trekking on Mt “Jebel Toubkal” (4167 m), Africa’s second highest peak after Mt Kilimanjaro and rafting on the thundering Ahansal River. This is also an unusual way to get up close to traditional Berber villages which might otherwise be hard to access.
Their website is a wealth of information on rafting in Morocco and as well as listing plenty of inspirational itineraries also has some tips on what to do is someone in your party goes ‘man overboard’ and what to pack. The rafting season tends to start just as soon as the snow melts.
www.berberraftingadventures.com

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I Limoni Restaurant in Marrakesh

I limoni restaurant in Marrakech

Sometimes you just want somewhere that reminds you of your favourite Italian go-to restaurant back home. To drink lemonade, eat pasta and gently download all the experiences, sights and sounds of the Medina in the shade. I Limoni is that place.

An Italian restaurant that doubles up as a coffee shop in the heart of the medina, it has a cool, shaded patio and terrace. Lemon trees scent the air and there are plenty of corners for relaxing in after a hearty Italian meal. Not any old Italian meal either, many consider the food of I Limoni to be some of the best Italian fare in all of North Africa.

For a special treat opt for the spaghetti au poivron et tomate then heave yourself up to the rooftop terrace to soak up the scenic houses on the horizon.

‘Hidden gem’ may be a much-overused descriptor, but it can be applied to I Limoni. Seek it out.

There’s no website for I Limoni but keep up with all the news here at their FaceBook page: https://www.facebook.com/ilimonimarrakech

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