The Saadian Tombs in Marrakech

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

If you’re looking to absorb some history on your visit to Marrakech, one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions is the Saadian Tombs, the final resting place of the rulers and other members of the Saadi Dynasty, one of the best examples of Islamic art in Morocco.

The first known burial took place following the reign of Sultan Ahmed el Mansour (1578-1603), sixth sultan of the Saadi Dynasty which held sway from the mid-sixteenth to the late seventeenth century.

When Moulay Ismail (1672-1727) came to power he sealed off the tombs in an effort to remove all trace of his predecessors. They only came to light again in 1917 upon their rediscovery by the French following an aerial survey.

Because the tombs had been sealed for so many years they were found to be in a state of near-immaculate preservation and the Moroccan Beaux-Arts service has since restored the site itself to its original splendour.

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One hump not two – a dromedary ride in Marrakech

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

If on a quest for the exotic and evocative you simply cannot pass up the opportunity to ‘sail’ through the Marrakech desert on one of its most mysterious ‘ships’.

Located in the north-east corner of Marrakech, La Palmeraie is a palm-filled oasis shaded by thousands of trees and the perfect sanctuary from the heat and madness of the inner city.

Riding through the Palmeraie is a great way to explore the rural outskirts of Marrakech. Tours last from 20 minutes to 3 hours, depending on how much time you have, and most will include a halt en route for a cup of mint tea and Moroccan pancakes.

If you fancy the idea of experiencing something rather special, indeed unique, here are a couple of tips:

1. Wear long trousers and long socks – the motion of the camel will cause your trousers to creep up (and camel hair is itchy), so wear long socks to save you from sun, sand and scratching!

2. Don’t forget your sunscreen – even though the Palmeraie is mostly shady. A hat and sunglasses may also be a good idea.

3. Be confident – animals pick up on your attitude so if you’re comfortable, your camel should be too.

How to barter in Marrakech

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

No visit to Marrakech is complete without a visit to the famous souks, a seemingly inescapable maze of open and covered markets selling everything imaginable. And who doesn’t want to obtain a few good deals when shopping for souvenirs on holiday?

We all know that stall and shop owners hike prices when they see a tourist approaching but don’t let this knowledge deter you from trying to extract the best price.

Local traders expect it. Indeed, haggling is part of the very culture in the Arab world, not least in a tourist city as popular as Marrakech.

Okay, so you’ve spotted a beautiful hand-crafted item that you simply must take home as a ‘look where I’ve been’ brag item to decorate your lounge; here’s how to barter in Marrakech:

  • Take a stroll around the shop/market and see what the general asking price is for similar items – you’ll probably find (by asking – items are rarely priced) that things cost pretty much the same but it’s good to know. Read the rest of this entry »

Marrakech Weather

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

“What’s the weather like in Marrakech?” It’s the question most frequently asked of those in the leisure and travel business. Seldom an easy question to answer with certainty at the best of times, it’s a query all the more difficult to respond to these days as exceptional weather events continue to occur right around the globe and climate change, whether due to global warming or not, makes itself felt.

In Morocco’s southern interior, much of it semi-desert and mountainous, extremes of temperature can always be expected. During summer, in Marrakech, it’s common for maximum daily temperatures to reach the 40’s, if not more.

Even at night it’s still hot, often over 20ºC. During winter, by contrast, the climate is agreeably mild although, even then, daytime temperatures range from 15º to 25º between November and March, falling to 5º or even less at night, due to the influence of snowfall on the nearby Atlas. This would be typical of Marrakech.

Temperatures apart, if it’s winter sun you’re after, Morocco is right up there with the best. Over 10 hours of sunshine per day, on average, from June to early September, and no less than 7 hours from October to February – quite a contrast with the gloom of a European winter. Whenever clouds and rain decide to put in their inevitable appearance, one can’t argue with statistics like that!

For Marrakech weather updates, please see our website (on the right hand side, at the top of page)

Football in Marrakech

Monday, May 13th, 2013

Moroccans love football.

The national team has been kicking some serious derrière over the last few years. The first African, and Arabic, team to win a group series at the World Cup (in 1986), Morocco was also the first African team to make it to the second round, in the same year, only just losing 1–0 to West Germany.

So, where can you watch football in Marrakech?

The city has a brand new stadium (completed in 2011), home to local team Kawkab Marrakech, which has been used by the national team for its last seven home games.

If you’re keen to catch a game, or perhaps just to visit the stadium, the Stade de Marrakech is located 9 kms north of the city on the RN9 road to Casablanca.

Marrakech to Essaouira: a day trip

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

If you’re visiting Marrakech for long enough to afford taking a day out of town, the ancient port of Mogador, the modern day Essaouira, is well worth the two and a half hour trip.

A small, picturesque seaport with a shipyard and important fishing fleet, Essaouira is unlike almost any other town in Morocco due largely to the fact that it was developed originally by the Portuguese, a heritage accounting for much of its character and charm. The walled town stands on a narrow peninsula sheltering a vast bay and crescent of fine sand.

A Unesco World Heritage Site, it is a fascinating example of 18th century European military architecture, notably its sea defences, constructed by the French and equipped with an impressive row of Spanish canons. From this fortified Scala there is a splendid outlook over the sea and Atlantic rollers crashing against the rocks.

A few yards from the busy fishing port, the medina features a large square and a couple of wide boulevards as well as a maze of narrow streets, all the more pleasant for being pedestrianised. Read the rest of this entry »

New Summer Menus from our talented young chef

Monday, April 15th, 2013

In February 2013, a range of newly-created Spring and Summer menus was introduced to our hotel’s ‘Le Jasmin’ restaurant by our young head chef, Houcein Id Ahmed.

Having joined Les Borjs in January 2011 as commis chef, Houcein rapidly proved his worth and in January 2013 he was given his chance to take full charge of the kitchen. His first job was to produce new menus 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.

As an example of the dishes to be found in our ‘Le Jasmin’ restaurant, you can allow yourself to be tempted by, amongst many others: 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 feuilles with pineapple and honey cream.

Vegetarians are also well provided for with dishes including: Corn risotto of courgette and parmesan with mascarpone mushrooms and Vegetable roll in flaky ‘brick’ pastry served with a mixed salad.

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Events in Marrakech April 2013

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

If you’re visiting Marrakech in April 2013, you might be interested in these events:

Awaln’art : International Encounters with Art in Public Places, 11-14 April

Marrakech is hosting the 7th edition of the Festival Awaln’art: International Encounters with Art in Public Places. If you’re in the city at this time, you’ll definitely not want to miss this dynamic display of Moroccan art and culture.

The festival is a celebration of street art and invites local artists and members of the public to join Awaln’art in its creation of prominently displayed public artworks, sculptures as well as giant puppets roaming the streets and performance art , all free of charge!

The Marrakech Atlas Etape, 28 April

The Marrakech Atlas Etape is a charity bike ride that starts and ends in Marrakech.

A one day affair, it offers two routes from Marrakech, a merely ‘demanding ’ one (a 60km ride to Ourika and back) and a ‘really challenging’ one (140km to Oukaïmeden, in the High Atlas, and back). Read the rest of this entry »

Five more places to visit in Marrakech

Monday, April 1st, 2013

Last month we published a selection of five of the best-known buildings in Marrakech illustrating different periods of the city’s rich cultural heritage. Here are another five buildings, monuments and gardens which should also be included on one’s list of ‘what to see in Marrakech’.

1. The Musée Dar Si Said. This museum of Moroccan Art is situated in a 19th century palace built for Si Saïd ibn Moussa, the Minister of War, in the mid 19th century. It surrounds a splendid courtyard, full of flowers and shady cypress trees, with a gazebo and fountain.

The exhibition rooms around the courtyard display a wide range of items from the long history of arts and crafts including carved doors, extraordinary stucco artistry and mosaics, plus jewellery, rugs, wedding costumes, leatherwork items and pottery. One can also visit the domed reception room and the former harem quarters.

2. The Ben Youssef koranic school. Situated close to the centre of Marrakech, this fascinating building is a former Islamic college where students came to learn and study the Koran. Founded in the 14th century, it was rebuilt in the 16th century during the Saadian Dynasty. Student cells and other rooms are disposed on three floors around a central courtyard dominated by a large pool in which students carried out their ablutions. The larger reception rooms are notable for their beautifully decorated and carved cedar beamed ceilings, marble floors and intricate plaster stuccowork. Wall and floor tiles, set in geometric patterns, bear inscriptions and quotations from the Koran. The school closed in 1960 but was restored and opened as an historical site in 1982.

3. The Palais des Congrès (conference centre). This contemporary building, resplendent with Islamic decorative overtones, is the city’s principle exhibition centre, home to major events such as the International Film Festival, numerous conferences and trade fairs. The space, which can accommodate up to 5,500 people, is located in the elegant Hivernage district on Boulevard Mohamed VI, home to many of the smartest hotels and residences.

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Perfect couscous – Marrakech style! How to make perfect couscous

Friday, March 15th, 2013

Couscous is a versatile staple of Moroccan cuisine. It comes in two forms, the standard ‘as-nature-intended’ version or pre-steamed, although the latter, despite being easy and quick to make, tends to lose some of its flavour in the process. Here’s how to make perfect couscous, Marrakech style.

To make this dish one really needs a couscoussier, a perforated steamer, although a fine colander may suffice.

1)      Moisten the couscous by adding ½ cup of water to 3 cups of medium grain couscous. Leave the couscous to absorb the water for 10 minutes.

2)      Repeat this process. Each grain should now be swollen and you should be able to pass each through your fingers without lumps!

3)      Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the couscous.

4)      Bring a pan of water to the boil and steam the couscous on medium heat for 20 minutes.

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