Ali Ben Youssef Medersa – A Must for Fans of Historic Architecture

Saturday, November 21st, 2015

A splendid place to admire traditional Moroccan architecture while unwinding from the hustle and bustle of the city, the Ali Ben Youssef medersa is a must for anyone interested in art, architecture and Islamic culture in general. A medersa, an intricately decorated school building as impressive in its way as any European university, is critical to the culture of Muslims.

A Brief History

Founded in the 14th Century by Abu al-Hassan, the then ruling Marinid Sultan, the Ali Ben Youssef Medersa is Morocco’s largest madrasa. In 1565, a reconstruction of the original building ordered by Abdallah al-Ghalib (Saadian Sultan 1557 to 1574) was completed. Restored again in 1950 before being closed to both the general public and the faithful in 1960, the madrasa was finally reopened to in 1982 following further restoration work to permit visitors to experience this exquisite master-piece of Moroccan architecture and art.

The Madersa

Featuring 130 dormitory cells for students clustered around a richly carved courtyard with its central rectangular pool and two bronze fountains, Ali Ben Youssef Medersa was one of North Africa’s largest theological colleges and was home to perhaps as many as 900 students at a time.

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December 2015 Events in Marrakech

Saturday, November 7th, 2015

One of the year’s cooler months, December in Marrakech is still very pleasant, at least by comparison with much of the rest of the northern hemisphere. Daily temperatures range between lows of 9 degrees to highs of around 20 and you can reckon on around 7 hours of sunshine every day. There are several events and other attractions in Marrakech in December, the International Film Festival being the most notable.

International Film Festival – this year marks the 15th edition of this increasingly popular international event taking place from the 4th – 12th December, the jury president this year being Francis Ford Coppola. An important centre of film production over many decades, Morocco has welcomed some of the top names in the industry in recent years, not least Ridley Scott and Martin Scorsese, Orson Wells and David Lean having made films here as far back as the sixties. Following the special tribute last year to Japanese cinema, this year’s festival celebrates Canada’s contribution to the film industry. As usual, several films will be screened on the main square (Jemaa el Fna) in the centre of town, as well as other venues.

New Year’s Eve – although not an official national holiday in a Muslim country like Morocco, which operates to the Islamic as opposed to Gregorian calendar, New Year is celebrated widely, as it is in most major, non-Christian tourist destinations, especially in hotels. At Les Borjs de la Kasbah a gastronomic gala dinner is laid on for guests preceded by cocktails around the pool. The hotel’s main patio becomes a tented dining venue for the evening with a variety of entertainment including music and belly dancing, fire eating display and magic performances at table. After midnight a disc jockey takes over as revellers dance their way into the wee small hours.

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Marrakech in November – Events and Other Things to Do

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

With daily temperatures ranging between 11 and 23 degrees, November in Marrakech is very pleasant. Visitors can expect over seven hours of sunshine and little, if any rain (31mm per month). A number of events at this time of year are worthy of note:

November Events in Marrakech

The two main events in Marrakech during November are the Eid Al Massira Al Khadra on the 6th and Eid Al Istiqulal on the 18th.

Eid Al Massira Al Khadra, the ‘Green March’ Anniversary, commemorates the march of 27,000 soldiers and approximately 350,000 unarmed Moroccans to the Western Sahara’s border on the 6th of November 1975. Identifying with Islam through choice of the symbolic colour green and directed by King Hassan II, the march was undertaken to call for the return of the territory to Morocco.

Marked by varying festivities throughout the country, Eid Al Istiqulal is Morocco’s Independence Day, a National Holiday commemorating the return of King Mohammed from his exile in Madagascar and the subsequent declaration of independence from both France and Spain on this day in 1956.

Other Marrakech Events in November

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New Year 2015 in Marrakech at Les Borjs de la Kasbah

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

Christmas and New Year celebrations are not generally marked in the Muslim world but special arrangements are always made at Les Borjs where we certainly know how to put on a good party!

At the end of December a large marquee is erected over the hotel’s main patio which is then dressed and colourfully decorated for the festive occasion.

New Year 2015 in Marrakech at Les Borjs de la Kasbah starts with drinks and canapes by the pool accompanied by local Berber entertainers with drummers and singers; this is often followed by an act featuring a fire eater and juggler.

New Year’s Eve dinner itself is a multi course, buffet style affair taken in the heated marquee, entertainment continuing throughout the meal in the form of a live traditional band and belly dancers as an excellent magician entertains diners at each table.

Later, a DJ plays music for dancing to continue through until the wee small hours.

Click the ‘Special Offer’ tab above for details of our 3-night New Year package price


Another prestigious award for Les Borjs de la Kasbah, Marrakech – Expedia’s ‘Insiders Select’ Award

Les Borjs de la Kasbah has just collected another prestigious award from Expedia, the largest online booking platform in the world, for its achievement in being named not only one of the best small hotels in Marrakech but one of the best in the whole of Africa!

The “Insiders’ Select” award is given annually to a very small number of hotels which have achieved consistently excellent reviews on the Expedia website.

This year just two awards were given to hotels in Marrakech and only four elsewhere, in other words just six awards were made to hotels on the continent of Africa of which Les Borjs is one, an achievement of which we are very proud.

Presenting the award to Les Borjs de la Kasbah’s Director, Tom Bruce-Mitford, at an informal dinner at Les Borjs last month is Expedia Market Manager, Nicolas Descate.

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Ras El Hanout – recipe for the finest of Moroccan spice blends

Monday, September 21st, 2015

Used mainly by Moroccans in elaborate, celebratory dishes, the aromatic, complex spice blend known as Rass, or Ras El Hanout (literally translated as ‘head, or top, of the shop’), is prepared by grinding together two dozen or more whole spices and dried leaves/roots .

Ingredients of Ras El Hanout recipe

Every shop and spice merchant has his own ‘secret’ recipe for this delightful blend but, as a rule, it will contain a mix of:

  • Cardamom, Clove and Cinnamon
  • Coriander, Cumin and Paprika (sweet and/or hot)
  • Mace and Nutmeg
  • Peppercorn and Turmeric

Other, more exotic ingredients often added by spice sellers include: Read the rest of this entry »

October festivals in Marrakech & elsewhere

Monday, September 7th, 2015

As late summer moves towards autumn October in Marrakech is arguably the best time of year, although with temperatures still in the high twenties it is hardly cool. One can expect around nine hours of sunshine per day. Rainfall, after the drought of summer, begins to be a feature of the weather once again but, at 23mm, there’s not much of it. If there are fewer festivals in Marrakech now than at other times in the season there are still a number of noteworthy events to draw the crowds.

Fatih Muharram

Fatih Muharram is celebrated by Muslims all over the world on the first day of the Islamic Calendar’s new year which, this year, falls on the 14th October. On this day, Muslims reflect on the journey made by the prophet Mohamed and his followers to Medina in 622 of the Muslim Current Era.

Erfoud Date Festival

This famous festival, celebrated in Erfoud, a small Saharan oasis some six hours to the east of the former garrison town of Ouarzazate, is set to commence at the end of the harvest, usually at the beginning of October. The festival involves traditional dance and music with processions, dromedary races, feasting and the crowning of this year’s ‘Date Queen’.

Tissa Horse Festival

The quiet country town of Tissa, some 30 miles north east of Fes, holds its Horse Festival at the beginning of October (exact date still to be confirmed). At this popular, unique festival hundreds of horsemen and their mounts, decked out in elaborate, colourful, traditional costumes, show off their skills. In addition to equestrian events and competitions, the festival involves a good deal of energetic music, dancing and singing, traditional food and plenty of mint tea.

Tip of the Month

If you’re looking for one of the lesser known places of interest in Marrakech look no further than the Mellah, the historic Jewish neighbourhood. Still in comparatively excellent shape (unlike many Jewish Quarters in Europe), this area offers a one-of-a-kind experience and notable synagogue.

M’rouzia recipe, a spicy-sweet Moroccan lamb tajine

Friday, August 21st, 2015

The M’rouzia is a delicious Moroccan tagine combining lamb, raisins, honey and almonds and a selection of herbs and spices, including Ras El Hanout, to make a deliciously sweet and spicy dish. Here is a M’rouzia recipe for serving six people:


  • About 3 lbs (1½ kg) lamb (neck, shanks or shoulder) cut into pieces of 3″ square
  • Ras El Hanout, 2 tsp (teaspoons)
  • Ground ginger, 2 tsp
  • Salt, 1 ½ tsp
  • Pepper, 1 tsp
  • Turmeric, ½ tsp
  • Crumbled saffron threads, ½ tsp

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September Events in Marrakech and elsewhere in Morocco

Friday, August 7th, 2015

Morocco hosts a variety of events in September, including:

Marrakech Art Fair - designed specifically for those interested in contemporary art, this event sees collectors and galleries showing off some of their most original modern creations. Most of the best galleries are to be found in Guéliz, the post war commercial quarter of the city.

Latin Dance Festival – open to all, this exciting event, taking place at the Palmaraie Palace resort between 2nd and 8th September, is an exuberant tribute to latin dance and salsa. Pool partys will be held at the Hotel du Golf.

Moonfest Takerkoust – this three-day festival takes place beside the lake of Lalla Takerkoust, in a beautiful part of the Atlas just 35 km (22 miles) from Marrakech. The festival comprises musical gigs (including local and international rock bands) as well as cultural and tourist themed attractions, many of the attendees being housed in a tented village by the lakeside.

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Notable Occasions in August in Marrakech

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

Marrakech, like all other cities and regions in Morocco, celebrates three major public holidays during August. The first of these events, Allegiance Day, takes place on Friday, the 14th.

Allegiance Day

Zikra Oued Ed-Dahab, as this national holiday is locally known, is celebrated to mark the return, by Mauritania to Morocco, of the disputed region of Oued Eddahab.

Thaourat al-malik wa shâab

On August 20th the country celebrates ‘Thaourat al-Malik wa Shâab’, or ‘The King & the People’s Revolution’, an event commemorating King Mohammed V’s return to Morocco after exile in Madagascar. Mohammed V’s return set in motion the negotiations which eventually led to Morocco becoming an independent nation.

Eid Al Milad

Introduced mainly for the youth of Morocco (Eid Al Milad is often referred to as ‘Youth Day’), this public holiday, on 21st August, marks the official birthday of Mohammed VI. Ascending to Morocco’s throne following the death of his father, King Hassan II, in July 1999, King Mohammed is the Alaouite dynasty’s 18th monarch. Intended to reflect the harmonious relationship between the king and his citizens, Eid Al Milad sets the tone for a joyful, festive atmosphere throughout the country.

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