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DIE STIMMEN VON MARRAKESCH, 1968 - The Voices of Marrakesh - Marrakesin ääniä
DIE STIMMEN VON MARRAKESCH, 1968 - The Voices of Marrakesh -
卡內提Elias Canetti (1905-1994)
36 Hours in Marrakesh, Morocco
Ingrid Pullar for The New York Times
By CHARLY WILDER
Published: December 23, 2010
IN 1939, George Orwell wrote of Westerners flocking to Marrakesh in search of “camels, castles, palm-trees, Foreign Legionnaires, brass trays and bandits.” Ever since, the city has been ravishing visitors with its teeming souks, ornate palaces and sybaritic night life. In recent years, a succession of high-end openings and restorations — most notably, the lavish reopening of the hotel La Mamounia — has transformed the city into an obligatory stop for jet-setters. Yet despite Marrakesh’s new cachet, the true treasures of the enigmatic city still hide down dusty side streets and behind sagging storefronts.
1) MEDINA, REFINED
For sheer energy and intrigue, few places rival the labyrinthine souks of Marrakesh’s fortified old city. Skullcapped artisans sweat over ancient lathes while overdressed French tourists haggle over inlaid cedar boxes and silver lamps. In recent years, up-and-coming designers have opened fashionable boutiques in the Souk Cherifia that put a contemporary twist on Arab-Andalusian motifs. Lalla (Souk Cherifia, First Floor, Sidi Abdelaziz; 212-661-477-228; lalla.fr) opened in 2008 and carries slouchy Mauritanian leather handbags that are carried in stylish London stores like Paul & Joe and Coco Ribbon. The designer Marion Theard recently opened La Maison Bahira (Souk Cherifia, First Floor, Sidi Abdelaziz; 212-524-386-365; maison-bahira.com), which sells her signature handwoven textiles, hammam towels and embroidered pillows. For a break from the haggling, stop by Le Jardin (32 Sidi Abdelaziz, Souk Jeld; 212-524-378-295), a cafe that opened its doors last month and is owned by Kamal Laftimi, a young Moroccan also behind the popular Café des Épices and Terrace des Épices.
2) SQUARE PLATES
Djemaa el Fna, the main square of the Medina, is a motley tapestry of life, where shoppers wade through a chaos of fortune tellers, snake charmers and pushy henna painters. But it’s also one of the best places to get acquainted with the rich flavors and textures of Moroccan cuisine. Go at sundown to the square’s myriad food stalls, when hundreds of gas lanterns light up billows of steam. Ignore the men trying to divert traffic to their particular stall, and grab yourself a seat where there are plenty of locals. A good starter is a bowl of snails in saffron broth, from one of the snail stands on the eastern end of the square (10 dirhams, about $1.23 at 8.2 dirhams to the dollar). Follow that with a lamb couscous doused in harissa at one of the stalls on the north end (30 dirhams). Adventurous eaters should try one of the mutton stalls near the square’s center, where everything from sheep’s brain to skewered heart is sold.
3) BOOZING à LA CHURCHILL
Le Bar Churchill, in the resplendently renovated La Mamounia (Avenue Bab Jdid; 212-524-388-600; mamounia.com), is a perfect spot for rubbing shoulders with the well-heeled set. Named for its most famous patron, Le Bar Churchill escaped the hotel’s face-lift largely unscathed, and still drips in supple black leather, leopard skin and polished chrome. If you’re seeking belly dancers, Le Comptoir Darna (Avenue Echouhada; 212-524-437-702; comptoirdarna.com), a French-Moroccan brasserie in the up-and-coming Hivernage quarter, offers one of the city’s best floor shows, a hip-shaking affair that spills down the central staircase and into the dining room.
4) SOUK CHEF
Can’t get enough tagine? Learn to make it yourself at Souk Cuisine (Zniquat Rahba, Derb Tahtah 5; 212-673-804-955; soukcuisine.com), one of several Moroccan cooking workshops that have cropped up in recent years. Run by Gemma van de Burgt, a Dutch expatriate, the half-day workshop (10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) starts with a visit to the Rahba Kedima market to forage for quince, argan oil and other Moroccan ingredients. Classes convene in the courtyard of an old riad, where budding chefs learn how to make dishes like lamb tagine and raisin couscous, culminating in a four-course lunch on the terrace, served with mint tea and wine (40 euros).
5) MANICURED JUNGLE
French colonialism still informs facets of the city, and the melding of French and Moroccan sensibilities is perhaps most beautifully expressed in the Majorelle Gardens (212-524-313-047; JardinMajorelle.com), a 12-acre botanical garden in the French district of Gueliz. The cobalt-blue gardens were designed in the 1920s by the painter Jacques Majorelle and are filled with palms, yucca, lily ponds and a huge variety of tropical flowers and cactuses. They later became the backyard of Yves Saint Laurent, whose deep love for Marrakesh is evident in his personal collection of Moroccan crafts and textiles on display in the adjoining Islamic Art Museum.
6) A FOCUS ON BERBERS
After being marginalized for centuries, Berber culture is now a cause célèbre for Moroccan gallerists and historians. The Maison de la Photographie (46 Ahal Fès; 212-524-385-721; maison-delaphotographie.com) opened last year in a restored fondouk, or traditional inn, and is devoted to documenting Berber life in the Medina. A 4,500-photograph collection includes rare glimpses of Jewish Berbers and a fascinating assemblage of glass plates dating from 1862. The museum is crowned with a roof cafe, which offers stellar views of the Medina. The 40-dirham ticket also gets you into Ecomusée Berbere de l’Ourika (Vilage de Tafza, Route de l’Ourika, Km. 37; 212-524-385-721; ecomuseeberbere.com), a new museum 23 miles outside the city that captures life in a traditional Berber village.
7) FROM BEIRUT, WITH LOVE
If the city’s hotels have gone upscale, the dining scene has gone through the roof. Marcel Chiche, a restaurateur and local night-life titan, recently opened Azar (Rue de Yougoslavie, near Boulevard Hassan II; 212-524-430-920; azarmarrakech.com), a splashy Lebanese restaurant that draws a party-ready crowd. The shimmering design of the dining room is the work of Younes Duret, a rising French-Moroccan designer. The modern Lebanese dishes include eggplant caviar with sesame crème (40 dirhams) and a rotisserie chicken (140). After dinner, take the Astroturf-carpeted elevator to the downstairs bar, where the city’s beautiful people dance to live Arabic pop music.
8) NORTH AFRICAN NIGHTS
Though Gueliz still buzzes with bars and clubs, the newer action is clustered in the industrial Hivernage district. One of the most fashionable spots is Lotus Club (Rue Ahmed Chawki; 212-524-431-537; riadslotus.com), a laid-back restaurant and nightclub styled as an urban retreat. On the weekends, 20- and 30-somethings mingle under floral-kitsch white lamps as D.J.’s mix electronic beats with Bollywood pop.
9) SWEAT ROYALLY
In the land of a thousand hammams, mega-spas seem to get larger by the day. It doesn’t get more lavish than the Royal Mansour (Rue Abou Abbas el Sebti; 212-529-808-080; royalmansour.com), a fortressed pleasure palace consisting of 53 riads connected by tunnels that is owned by King Mohammed VI. Women in elaborately embroidered caftans lead visitors through a palatial foyer into private chambers where treatments include an aromatic massage with argan oil, from 1,200 dirhams.
10) BOUTIQUE SHOPPING
Tired of haggling? Head to the fashionable boutiques that have opened recently along Rue de la Liberté in Gueliz. Moor (7 Rue des Anciens Marrakchis; 212-524-458-274; akbardelights.com) sells leather floor pillows and stylish tunics under a ceiling covered in giant white lanterns. Though the name of this children’s shop is unwieldy even for French-speakers, La Manufacture de Vêtements Pour Enfants Sages (44 Rue des Anciens Marrakchis; 212-524-446-704) carries everything from handmade Moroccan pajamas to colorful stuffed camels. A common complaint among Marrakesh art collectors is that all the good young artists decamp to Europe. But new galleries like David Bloch Gallery (8 bis Rue des Vieux Marrakchis; 212-524-457-595; davidblochgallery.com), which specializes in street art, have become a platform for up-and-coming French and Moroccan artists. The gallery, housed in a stark concrete block covered with colorful graffiti, creates yet another level of contrast in the ever-evolving city.
IF YOU GO
The boho-chic Peacock Pavilions (Kilometer 13, Route de Ourzazate; peacockpavilions.com), opened this year, sits on an 8.5-acre grove just outside the city. It’s made up of two stunning pavilions. The smaller, 1,300-square-foot double-room pavilion costs 350 euros a night, $460 at $1.31 to the euro; one of the rooms can also be rented for 150 euros.
After a three-year renovation by the Parisian architect Jacques Garcia, La Mamounia (Avenue Bab Jdid; 212-524-388-600; mamounia.com), originally opened in 1923, has never been grander. It now has indoor and outdoor pools and Michelin-starred chefs, not to mention helicopter rides over the Atlas Mountains. Rooms from 665 euros.
In a renovated traditional riad well-situated within the Medina, the welcoming and affordable Riad Dar Khmissa (166 Derb Jamaa; Arset Moussa Lakbira; 212-524-443-707; dar-khmissa-marrakech.com) offers seven comfortable rooms and a lovely roof terrace. From 50 euros, including a delicious home-cooked Moroccan breakfast.