Places to visit in Marrakech – Agdal Gardens, the ‘walled Meadow’ of Marrakech

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

Situated close to the Menara Gardens and the Marrakech medina, the Agdal Gardens were created by the city founder, Abd al-Mu’min (1130 to 1163), of the Almohad dynasty who also undertook many of the city’s most significant building projects. The gardens, rejuvenated during the Saadien dynasty, were enlarged during Moulay Abderrahmane’s reign in the 19th Century.

Agdal Gardens

The name of the gardens is derived from a Berber word meaning ‘walled meadow.’ Adjacent to the southern edge of the medina, the Agdal Gardens, or orchards, covering an area of approximately 700 acres, were created to function both as the caliph’s private pleasure garden and for the production of fruit.

The Gardens

Featuring rectangular orchards planted with apricot, fig, lemon, orange and pomegranate trees each linked by walkways lined with olive-trees, the gardens are irrigated by water channelled via an extensive khettara (underground network of ditches and channels) from the Ourika Valley.

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Places to visit in Morocco – the Gnaoua Music Festival, Essaouira

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

The picturesque coastal town of Essaouira may be around three hours from Marrakech but scheduling time for a visit to the four-day Gnaoua Music Festival (12th-15th June) is well worthwhile.

A good, four or five times daily coach service to Essaouira is operated by Supratours from Marrakech (behind the rail station) at a cost of 75 dhs, single.

Gnaoua Music

Combining traditional music, acrobatic dancing and ritual poetry, Gnaoua music originates from sub-Saharan Africa, although it has gradually evolved to incorporate African Islamic and Berber spiritual themes and rhythms.

The Festival

In addition to artists from Essaouira itself and Marrakech, the Gnaoua festival also showcases contemporary world music performed by pop, jazz and rock artists from across the world. Dozens of free concerts can be attended at the festival’s two main stages, one of which will be on the central Place Moulay Hassan, yards from the seawall.

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Events in Morocco May to July 2014

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

In virtually every region of Morocco religious and cultural festivals are staged throughout the year, June and July, despite the heat, being no exception.

June

The Mawazine Festival in the capital, Rabat, comprises street entertainment, art exhibitions and concerts between 30th May to 7th June 2014.

A week or two later in the ancient city of Fes, one of the most highly regarded of all events in Morocco is the annual Festival of Sacred Music presenting a variety of traditional music and dance performed by some of the world’s foremost musicians and entertainers. The event is scheduled to take place from 13th to 21st June 2014.

The Gnaoua Music Festival (Essaouira, 12th to 15th June) focuses on traditional Gnaoua music but also features contemporary world music (pop, jazz, and rock) performed by musicians from around the world. This year’s artists are expected to include 150 international and 250 Moroccan artists. Concerts at the event’s two main stages are free of charge.

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‘Ludiparc’ – a Marrakech Adventure Park Kids will Love

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

For younger kids even the most fascinating cultural and architectural sites will soon lose their interest. We recently wrote about four recreational attractions for kids in Marrakech  and here’s another one likely to meet with their approval.

Ludiparc Marrakech

A day out at ‘Ludiparc’, an adventure theme park located on the Route de Fes, just 15 minutes from central Marrakech, is guaranteed to restore family harmony and have the kids squealing with delight in no time.

Set in a location patterned with a series of small lakes, Ludiparc comprises a series of well run indoor and outdoor play areas. There is also a café/restaurant on site as well as other food outlets. Attractions include: Read the rest of this entry »

The Marrakech Museum of Moroccan Art – Musée Dar Si Said

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Located in a 19th century palace, the Musée Dar Si Said is regarded as one of Morocco’s most eloquent tributes to the skills of its master craftsmen.

Surrounding a splendid courtyard filled with shady cypress trees, flowers, a fountain and gazebo, the museum’s exhibition rooms are filled with a wealth of items showcasing some of the finest examples of Morocco’s rich arts and crafts heritage.

Treasures to be discovered

Some of the most noteworthy items to be admired at the Musée Dar Si Said include a chest, dating from around 1000 AD, heavy silver Berber headdresses and striking High Atlas carpets in innumerable shades of purple. Other items include jewellery, wedding costumes, pottery, leather articles and rugs.

Throughout the museum visitors can see extraordinary mosaics, stucco artefacts and beautifully carved cedar doors embellished with elaborate talismans believed to ward off the evil eye.

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Exchange Rates Favour Morocco

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Having risen against most currencies during 2013, the Moroccan Dirham (MAD) has eased by some 8% during the past few months and is currently fluctuating at around MAD 13.45* to the pound sterling and MAD 11.25* to the euro; holidays in Morocco are thus even better value, with spending money going that much further.

Cost of dining in Marrakech

Take, for example, a restaurant meal for two. Whilst a fine dining experience (and there is no shortage of opportunities for experiencing the very best of European and Moroccan cuisine) will vary between MAD 600 and 800 a meal at a midrange restaurant will average around MAD 400; if that’s not reasonable enough a street food experience can be yours for less than MAD 100!

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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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