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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The 7 Delights of a Trip to the Cascades d’Ouzoud

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Situated within the Grand Atlas province of Azilal, some 150 km to the north-east of Marrakech, the Cascades d’Ouzoud are more than simple waterfalls.

Surrounding Region

The journey from Marrakech to the Cascades d’Ouzoud is an experience in itself as the road takes you there via green valleys and the superb gorge of the El Abid River, passing orchards and ageless olive mills along the way to the Berber village of Tanaghmeilt, close by. Seeing the magnetic beauty of this desert region it is easy to understand why much of the area is designated a conservation site by a number of national and local organisations.

Cascades d’Ouzoud

First sight of the Cascades d’Ouzoud explains why they are renowned as one of the region’s most photographed sites. Dropping in a series of wide and narrow steps from a height of 110 m, the falls are at their most beautiful during mid-to-late afternoon when the appearance of rainbows makes the scene even more spectacular, the widest of them appearing towards the bottom of the series of cascades.

The Top of the Falls

Refreshingly un-commercialised, with just a few Berber traders selling fresh orange juice and market produce, every section of the falls offers a fascinating spectacle. At the summit you’ll find a dozen or so small mills, the last working examples of the many olive and flour mills believed to have given the site its name, Ouzoud being the Berber term for the act of grinding.

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4 Great Places for Kids in Marrakech

Monday, February 17th, 2014

While historic sites and monuments, stately gardens and the delights of shopping in the souks of Marrakech may appeal to adults, children quickly tire of admiring Berber carpets, sampling spices (however colourful and tantalisingly odiferous!) and learning about ancient history.

So here are just a few great places for kids in Marrakech to keep them busy and, more importantly, smiling.

Le Bowling

Situated in the Palmeraie, Le Bowling is a quaint, air-conditioned bowling alley. Featuring six lanes, it is perfect for keeping kids from going stir crazy in your hotel when it’s too hot to do anything else. A bar and billiard tables are also available.

Kawkab Jeux

Offering arts and crafts, workshops, games and a host of other state-of-the-art activities for children of all ages, the Kawkab Jeux on Rue Imam Chafaï in the central area of Marrakech is ideal for keeping your kids amused while you try your hand at a bit of old fashioned haggling in a nearby souk. There are video games, a mini-train, playground slides, mini foot tables and a snack bar.

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The Place Jemaa El Fna

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Like most of Morocco’s cities, Marrakech has two sharply contrasting personalities, in the shape of the modern, commercial quarter of Guéliz and the original walled medina.

One of five Moroccan medinas included for their architectural richness on the Unesco World Heritage list, the medina of Marrakech, packed with grandiose monuments and an extensive souk, is built around the celebrated Jemaa El Fna, a thronged, pulsating square in the very heart of town.

Shoppers’ Paradise

Surrounded by labyrinthine alleyways amid tightly packed houses, Djemaa El Fna is the starting point for accessing the apparently endless maze of souks selling everything from cheap souvenirs and trinkets and spices to beautiful carpets and finely-crafted wood and metal artifacts, including traditional jewellery. All day long refreshments in the shape of freshly-squeezed orange juice and delicious Moroccan dates are available from a plethora of vendors in and around the central square.

Step back in Time

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Learn to cook in Marrakech

Friday, February 7th, 2014

Marrakech is renowned for its tasty food – terrific tagines, beautiful briwats, fabulous faqqas… traditional breads, Atlantic and Mediterranean fish, locally produced fruit and spices galore!

Growing in popularity are cookery courses inspired by a desire on the part of many tourists to learn about Moroccan culinary specialities and how to prepare them. Half day cookery workshops, perfect for time sensitive travellers, aim to introduce novices and even professionals to the secrets of Moroccan cuisine and, above all, to the role in it of local spices. Les Borjs de la Kasbah has been running courses for several years now with conspicuous success.

Residents at the hotel may choose to attend between one and three sessions over several days learning, usually from the chef himself, how to prepare a traditional three-course Moroccan meal from a list of options.

A typical meal might include, for example, a starter selection of Moroccan salads or harira chickpea soup, a main course of chicken tagine with preserved lemons or seven-vegetable couscous and, for dessert, a milk pastilla or orange salad with cinnamon.

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BK Newsletter December 2013

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Les Borjs de la Kasbah – Seven Years On

Last month saw the seventh anniversary of the opening of Les Borjs de la Kasbah. This was the culmination of a project, much bigger than originally planned and three years in the making, to convert one riad and six other, smaller properties into the single hotel unit we have today.

In July 2007 the swimming pool (one of very few in the Kasbah) and spa were added to the bedrooms to complete what had been, for us, a labour of love.

But the BK project didn’t end there because since first opening our doors to guests in November 2006 we have followed a seemingly endless schedule of improvements and general maintenance with the aim of keeping our small hotel among the best in its class in the highly competitive environment that is Marrakech. We are proud to have been recognised, over the years, for the quality of our services by a number of awards from Expedia and Trip Advisor (their latest being a Certificate of Excellence earlier this year) based on the assessments of their reviewers. However, not content to rest on our laurels, we have undertaken this continuous programme of improvement and updating to ensure that visitors in future years will have as good an experience as most visitors seem to have enjoyed over the past seven. Because nothing matters more to us than what our customers think of Les Borjs we have produced some statistics from recent questionnaires to show how we are measuring up to our own goals. (See ‘What Our Guests Say’, below).

This newsletter is intended to keep you abreast of developments at Les Borjs de la Kasbah and Marrakech itself with a variety of news items including profiles of some of our 25 staff, several of whom have been with us since the opening day, and details of special offers of various kinds, including our brand new Themed Breaks packages.

Whether you are contemplating a return visit or will be a first timer to Marrakech we hope this newsletter will be of interest. We visit the hotel regularly from our home in the UK so perhaps we may have the pleasure of meeting you there.

Mike and Francoise Bruce-Mitford

December 2013

Les Borjs de la Kasbah – What Our Guests Say

Having spent 35 years as tour operators in the UK, Mike and Francoise, owners of Les Borjs, are only too aware of the importance of customer feedback. Throughout their time in the travel business their policy was always to obtain as much feedback as possible from customers by inviting them to rate the quality of service provided by their tour operator and to assess its hotels under numerous headings from ‘welcome’ to ‘checkout’. Unusually, the results were subsequently published in the company’s annual brochure. At Les Borjs we do the same and, although questionnaire numbers are much smaller, the monthly analysis is no less valuable. Although we don’t expect to meet the expectations of every single visitor in every respect we certainly aim to do so.  Allowing for the vagaries of subjectivity, particularly noticeable in such categories as cuisine, the scores are encouraging even if, as always, there is some room for improvement here or there. But the most satisfying figures of all are those in response to the question: “would you recommend Les Borjs?” to which respondents over the past year have given an emphatic 4.9 out of 5. These are the average scores from the hotel’s customer questionnaires for the 11 months to the end of November 2013 in the essential categories. In most respects they closely mirror the ratings given on review sites such as Trip Advisor and Expedia. Our questionnaire scores are shown out of a maximum 5 in each case.

Reception – 4.8

Rooms* – 4.8

Breakfast – 4.7

Cuisine – 4.5

Service – 4.8

Pool area – 4.7

Spa – 4.9

Overall impression – 4.9

Would you recommend – 4.9

*includes comfort, appointments, lighting, bathroom towels and daily housekeeping

FIFA Club World Cup (11-21 December) 

Just starting in Agadir and Marrakech as we write is the 10th running of this annual competition for seven of the world’s top football clubs. Featured within this elite group are the immediate past champions of the six continental confederations as well as the league winner (Raja Casablanca) of this year’s host nation, Morocco. The final stages of the competition will be held at the brand new stadium of Marrakech, on the outskirts of town.

Marrakech International Film Festival 

The 13th edition of this increasingly important 9-day annual event has just drawn to a close after another successful celebration of the medium of cinema. The international jury, presided over by Martin Scorsese, this year included Marion Cotillard (best known for her memorable, Oscar winning portrayal of Edith Piaf) and other industry luminaries from as far afield as South Korea, India and Mexico. A major feature of this year’s festival was the tribute to Scandinavian Cinema acknowledging the contributions of past masters (Bergman, Garbo, Max von Sydow and Bo Widerberg) and contemporary talents such as Tomas Alfredson (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) and Lasse Hallstrom. The venues for the festival, at which dozens of films, both features and shorts, were shown and workshop events held, were the Palais des Congrès, three cinemas around town and, not least, the Place Jemaa el Fna where films were projected onto giant screens for free public viewing.

25th Marrakech International Marathon 

January 26th 2014 sees the 25th running of one of the longest-established marathons in the calendar. Under the patronage of King Mohammed VI, the event attracts some 5000 athletes from countries around the world, the best of them from Kenya and Ethiopia, both for the appeal of the circuit itself, one of the flattest and fastest of them all, but for the perfect marathon running conditions in temperatures typically around 20°. The course takes in numerous historic sites and landmarks including the ramparts surrounding the ancient medina and the orange and olive groves of the Menara Gardens.

 

The Transmarocaine Challenge – March 

This is a unique, multi-activity event involving no fewer than five sporting disciplines. More a trial of sporting versatility than a race like the Marrakech marathon, it is undertaken by enthusiasts from all walks of life, entered in pairs, drawn to the prospect of an outdoor challenge over a variety of different terrains.

The objective is to cross the Atlas Mountains in five stages, from south to north, by mountain bike, trekking, orienteering, canoeing and running amid some of the most outstanding natural scenery in Morocco. Covering a total distance of some 250 km prior to the finishing line in Marrakech, this is a pretty tough circuit but the emphasis is on having fun and enjoying the surroundings rather than finishing first. Find out more HERE.

Hussein, Our Young Chef 

Earlier this year a range of menus for the Spring and Summer seasons was introduced to our hotel’s ‘Le Jasmine’ restaurant by our young chef, Hussein Id Ahmed.

Having joined Les Borjs in January 2011 as commis chef, Hussein rapidly proved his worth and in January this year he was given his chance to take full charge of the kitchen. His first job was to produce new dishes for the Moroccan and European à la carte menus as well as around a dozen, daily-changing, half-board menus and a range of lighter meals served to residents at the poolside bar.

Here are some examples, among many others, of the tempting dishes to be found in our ‘Le Jasmin’ restaurant at present: Sea bass tagine with vegetables and olive m’charmal, Berber style; a Timbale dish of prawns and shrimps with purée of lemon-infused avocado and a pear-almond salsa; Stuffed beef roll cooked with thyme; Clove-flavoured duck breast garnished with young vegetables; Pastilla mille feuille with pineapple and honey cream. And there’s plenty more where these dishes come from!

To judge by recent satisfaction ratings of 90% customers seem to approve of Hussein’s blend of traditional French and Moroccan cuisine (see “What our Guests Say”, above).

 

NEW – Themed Breaks, an Exceptional Offer 

Attractive offers such as 4 nights for the price of 3 and/or 7 for 5 are regularly featured on our website. A residents’ reduction of 20% off Spa prices has also been featured recently. However, this month sees the introduction of an offer with an exceptional difference in the form of our Themed Breaks

If you’d be interested, while in Marrakech, to learn something of the secrets of Moroccan cuisine, enjoy some fascinating excursions into the Atlas and further afield or, perhaps, you just fancy a spot of pampering in our spa, why not take a look at the outstanding deals available right now at Les Borjs? Taking the form of themed breaks, each 4-night stay includes either spa treatments, excursions or cookery classes or a combination of all three. We even have a Romance package for that special occasion. All these packages can be yours at no additional cost beyond our standard B&B prices. With the value of each theme being between 2150 and 2550 dirhams this is an offer not to be missed! Check out our Themed Breaks right here.

 

Courses in Moroccan Cuisine 

If you fancy learning something of the secrets of Moroccan cuisine you might like to join one of our informal cookery courses which our cheerful young chef, Hussein, being fluent in French and with a good grounding in English, is well placed to conduct. Each hands-on course, available on demand, concentrates on a single three-course menu, chosen from a range of options including dishes such as Chicken tagine with red onions and raisins, Fes style, and beef or lamb couscous. Each course takes around three hours and the results of one’s labours can be enjoyed at lunch time. To judge by the rating of 90% for ‘Quality of Food’ awarded by Hussein’s diners during his first 11 months in the job, our cookery classes would seem to be in good hands.

http://www.lesborjsdelakasbah.com/cookery-courses.html

Golf Packages 

When Les Borjs opened in 2007 there were just three golf courses in Marrakech. There are now no fewer than 8 of them, all designed by some of the best-known names in golf, such as Jack Nicklaus, Kyle Phillips and Colin Montgomerie. Most are situated within 10 minutes of Les Borjs de la Kasbah. If you’d like to consider Marrakech as a destination for your own golf club members or society then please get in touch. We can organise the whole event from booking tee times to transfers, lunches and the prize giving dinner. Drop an e-mail to Tom Bruce-Mitford at tomlesborjs@hotmail.com

Weather update 

Although weather in many parts of northern Europe has been unusually severe of late temperatures in Marrakech in the middle of the Moroccan winter are positively balmy by comparison, as a quick look at the weather stats on our website will confirm. During December and January maximum average daily temperatures vary between 18 and 20° with monthly sunshine hours being over 220 (7 hours per day). Average monthly rainfall is a modest 30mm (and this is the start of the rainy season!), although this year it looks like being somewhat less. Indeed, much of southern Morocco is in dire need of a good soaking although when rain does come (inch ‘allah) it tends not to last too long and soon the sun is out again. Evenings are chilly in Marrakech at this time of year (usually around 5-8 degrees) so a woolly is advisable although, during the day, the sun’s warmth makes for a lovely contrast with what you’ll find in most of Europe right now! http://www.lesborjsdelakasbah.com/weather-marrakech.html

Some Moroccan faces you may recognise!

If you’ve already visited us at Les Borjs de la Kasbah you will probably recognise most of our longer serving staff, pictured here, many of whom have been with us for at least five years, if not from the opening day. One especially key member of the team actually joined us before the opening, our Director, Abdelaziz Tayeb, a professional with some 25 years experience in the hotel business. Among those with whom hotel guests have most contact are our Receptionists, Nora and Ilham (not pictured). They are relative newcomers but, in the restaurant, Fatima and Mounia will be even more familiar to the increasing numbers of repeat visitors as will Fatima (the other one) and Sofia, two of our first-class chambermaids, all of whom have worked at Les Borjs since the very early days.

Left to right: Hasna & Fatiha (Spa), Jihane (Reservations), Abdelmoula (commis chef), M. Tayeb (director), Abdelouahed (kitchen assistant), Mounia & Fatima (Restaurant/Bar), Sofia & Fatima (Housekeeping)

Dinner and Equestrian Spectacular in Marrakech

Friday, November 1st, 2013

Looking for a fun night out in Marrakech?  If so, the Fantasia show might be just the thing.

This is a lively visitor attraction a couple of miles out of town in the shape of a tented Moroccan village set around a central show ring. Expect to see an extravaganza of belly-dancing and horse-back riding – you’ll even see a Sultan on a flying carpet – all creating an atmosphere of romance and magic enhanced by the show’s open-air setting.

Image courtesy of dosomethingdifferent.com

Relax in a Berber tent as you immerse yourself in the atmosphere of ancient Arabia enjoying a traditional meal while serenaded by colourfully dressed folk troupes from local Atlas tribes.

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Visit the Majorelle Garden in Marrakech

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Amid the frenetic buzz of Marrakech one can still find pockets of tranquil serenity in sharp contrast to the heat and pace of the city all around.

One such oasis of calm is the Majorelle Garden, or Jardin Majorelle, one of the most popular visitor attractions in Marrakech. Named after its French-born designer, Jacques Majorelle, a French painter inspired by the Art Nouveau movement of the early 1900s, the garden in its modern form spans around two and a half acres blending nature and design.

Here, the sound of gently running water from marble pools, fountains and irrigation channels and the constant chatter of birdlife create an idyllic atmosphere of sub tropical exoticism as raised paths lead one through plantations of banana trees and bamboo, coconut palms and bougainvillea and an impressive collection of cactae.

Majorelle spent some forty years designing and sculpting his garden into a splendid piece of botanical art although, following his death in 1962, it fell into a state of neglect.

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