Archive for March, 2014

Marrakech to host 1st round of Auto GP World Series 2014

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Marrakech is once again the venue for an exciting motor racing event as it hosts round 1 of this year’s Auto GP World Series. Formerly the Euro Series 3000, or Euro Formula 3000 event, the race takes place on the Marrakech Street Circuit (Circuit Moulay el Hassan) over the weekend of 12/13 April 2014.

This is the fifth tour in the series first run in 1999. Previously, only cars with the Lola F 3000 chassis were raced but in 2009 A1 Grand Prix cars were admitted, taking over from Lola completely in 2010 when the race’s name was changed to Auto GP World Series.

There are eight rounds in all, each held in a different, mainly European location.

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Marathon des Sables 2014 – The toughest footrace on Earth

While the ‘Marathon des Sables’ is not directly associated with Marrakech (it takes place beyond the Atlas in the Souss-Massa-Draa area close to Ouarzazate) it has become a major annual event in Morocco and visitors to Marrakech may well wish to catch at least part of it (4 to 14th April), perhaps as part of an excursion.

The Sand Marathon

Rated one of the most gruelling foot races on the planet, the ‘Marathon des Sables’ attracts around 350 participants from all over the world, elite runners as well as amateurs, entered both in teams and individually.

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Marrakech recipe – ‘Gazelle Horns’, a tasty Moroccan patisserie

Monday, March 17th, 2014

While Moroccan meals typically conclude with a helping of fresh fruit (figs, dates, oranges with cinnamon), or just a mint tea, the most common dessert is a selection of classic Moroccan patisseries, notable among them being Kaab el Ghazal, or gazelle horns. Flavoured with cinnamon and orange blossom water, they consist of a scented almond paste wrapped in delicate pastry, moulded into a crescent shape and baked until just golden. Here is the recipe.

Making Almond Paste

To make these delicious little sweetmeats, you need first to create the almond paste. For this, you will need the following ingredients (enough to make 50 ‘gazelle horns’).

  • 500 g (1 lb) skinned, blanched almonds
  • 275 g (1 1/3 cups) sugar
  • 75 ml (1/3 cup) orange blossom water
  • 60 g (1/4 cup) melted, unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Gum Arabic or mastic powder (optional)

Grind the almonds in a food processor for about five minutes and then mould the resulting mix into a paste. Using your fingers to mix them thoroughly, add the remaining ingredients into the paste, adding extra cinnamon, sugar and/or orange flower water to produce the desired flavour. Shape small portions of this paste into sticks, each roughly the size of the little finger; cover and place them into the fridge.

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What’s on in Marrakech – March and April 2014

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Springtime is the ideal time of year to visit Marrakech when temperatures average an idyllic 26° with more than 8 sunshine hours per day and just the occasional light shower to keep vegetation fresh before the heat of summer.

As the air fills with the intoxicating scent of flowers in bloom throughout the city, the streets buzz with the excitement of things to come as visitors arrive to experience some of the popular events taking place during March and April.


International Magic Festival

From the 19-22nd March, the squares and streets of Marrakech, as well as the Royal Theatre, will be taken over by street and stage performers participating in the International Magic Festival.

Transmarocaine Challenge

Following on from the magic is the demanding reality of the Transmarocaine Challenge (22-30 March). This year’s running, walking, canoeing and mountain biking challenge, the ninth in the series, will take participants (and spectators) from Essaouira, a pretty coastal town on the Atlantic coast, 150 km west of Marrakech, to Tahanaoute, situated at the foot of the mighty Atlas, in the shadow of Mont Toubkal (4167m), and finally on to Marrakech itself.

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The Benefits of Hammams

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Marrakech, like most places in the Arab world, is renowned for its traditional hammams. No visit to Marrakech is complete until you have experienced the delights and benefits of these time-honoured steam baths.

What are Hammams?

The marble-clad hammam at Les Borjs de la Kasbah

The Arabic word ‘hammam’ means ‘hot water’ and the origin of traditional Moroccan hammams dates back to Roman times when they were popular both as bathhouses and meeting places. A traditional hammam consists typically of a series of two to four connected steam rooms, the temperature increasing to around 50°c as one proceeds from one to the next.

Hammam Treatments

Housed usually in marble-clad rooms, a hammam bath involves dousings of alternating hot and cold water followed by a vigorous scrubdown with black ‘beldi’ soap. Other treatments include ‘ghasoul’ or henna coatings, ‘rassoul’ hair treatments and, after a short recovery period, relaxing massages using essential oils. In addition to being wonderfully relaxing and providing welcome relief from stress, hammam sessions provide a number of physical benefits, not least improved blood circulation:

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