Five must-see architectural gems of Marrakech

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Founded in the 11th century, Marrakech is a city steeped in history, as evidenced by several of its most famous monuments and buildings. Here are five examples of Moroccan architecture in Marrakech that shouldn’t be missed.

1. Tombeaux Saadiens. Only a few hundred yards from Les Borjs de la Kasbah, these highly decorated tombs form one of the most important heritage sites in Morocco. One of the few remaining vestiges of the important Saadien dynasty, they date from the time of Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur (1578-1603) although were sealed off on the orders of Alaouite Sultan Moulay Ismail who wanted all traces of the Saadien dynasty to be destroyed. Untouched for more than two centuries, the tombs were uncovered in 1917 and restored by the national ‘Beaux-Arts’ service. Due to their intricate decoration, a clear indication of the opulence of the time and a perfect example of the beauty of Islamic art, the tombs are a major attraction for visitors to Marrakech and should be high on your list of “what to see in Marrakech”. Expect domed ceilings, intricately carved marble pillars, cedar wood ceilings  and, most notably, extensive use of exquisite mosaic decoration.

2. Mansouria Mosque. Built by Yaqub al-Mansur, the Mansouria Mosque is also known as the Kasbah Mosque, being just 100 yards from the monumental gate into this fortified southern part of the Marrakech medina, Bab Agnaou. Although access to the interior is not open to non-Muslims, one can admire the impressive architecture of the building now restored to its former glory following an extensive facelift.

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How to make Marrakech Stuffed Flatbreads (Khobz Bishemar)

Friday, February 15th, 2013

Bread, in some form or other, is served with most meals in Morocco. In Marrakech, as everywhere else in the country, it is normal to prepare bread at home each morning and then have it baked in the traditional manner at one of many communal ovens in the neighbourhood.

One particularly tasty type of speciality bread made in Morocco and other North African countries is Khobz Bishemar, a wholewheat flatbread made with a blend of spices and herbs and filled with beef suet and onions.

Here is a simple and delicious recipe for it which you might wish to try.

Ingredients:

For the Bread:

  • 1 packet active dried yeast
  • 60ml lukewarm water
  • 280g unbleached flour
  • 1 tsp salt

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Les Borjs pool reopens

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

After just six years in operation, our 10m swimming pool at Les Borjs was in need of a facelift.

To cause the minimum of disruption to users, we decided to close the area for two weeks in December while a major refurbishment was undertaken, a job which involved emptying the pool and relining it with a sparkling mother-of-pearl type of tiling, replacement of the underwater lights and a new heating system.

We are happy to report that the refurbished pool is once again up and running and, being heated to 23 degrees, being enjoyed by guests (yes, even in February!), as are the sun loungers on the pool deck area around it and the poolside bar.

Come and join us. The water’s lovely!

5 alternative activities in Marrakech

Friday, February 1st, 2013

A hive of activity year round, Marrakech fizzes along with its varied menu of delights to tourists from the world over. As we have covered a number of these in previous posts we thought it would be useful to mention a short selection of alternative attractions, most of them outside the city of Marrakech itself.

1)     The Berbers of Morocco. The Berber Cultural Centre offers a glimpse into the history and culture of Morocco’s indigenous people (Arabs began to arrive only in the 8th century) comprising around half of the population today, most of them in the south-west and the mountainous areas of the High and Middle Atlas.

This fascinating centre reveals the full colourful history and customs of the Berber people from pre-Arab times to the present day.

2)     Jetski in Marrakech! Why not?! Just 30 minutes from Marrakech, at the foot of the High Atlas, snow capped in winter, you’ll find Lake Takerkoust, home to Atlas Jet and a private beach. Here you can ‘max out’ on thrills thanks to the latest Yamaha jetskis.

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Events in Marrakech February and March 2013

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Events in Marrakech February 2013

The Dakka Marrakchia Festival 1–28 February 2013

This annual festival of traditional Marrakchi music, which has taken place in one form or other for hundreds of years, is the opportunity for local people, professionals as well as enthusiastic amateurs, to express their musical talents.

At several street venues the air is filled with the sounds of Berber and other traditional music and frenetic rhythmic drumming.

Events in Marrakech March 2013

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Events in Marrakech January 2013

Friday, January 4th, 2013

Amar Circus 9th-27th January 2013

This well-known traditional circus complete with clowns, acrobats, illusions and animals comes to Marrakech; the venue is at the city gate Bab Jdid.

The Marrakech Marathon 27th January 2013

Recognised as one of the fastest marathon circuits in the world, the Marrakech course is planned to take in some of the city’s best-known landmarks as it wends its way around the leafy Hivernage quarter and along the main boulevards both in and outside the city.

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Uncovering the culture of Marrakech

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

The culture heritage of Marrakech can be soaked up in many places throughout the city’s famous medina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The heritage is diverse, not just in terms of Arab, Berber and Muslim influence but historically, best exemplified by monuments associated with centuries of ruling dynasties in the form of tombs, traditional architecture, palaces and kasbahs.

It is in and around the Marrakech medina that most of its historic treasures are to be found, often hidden in the maze of its twisting alleys and narrow streets.

 Founded in 1070, Marrakech was for centuries a major political, economic and cultural centre of the western Muslim world, its influence extended, notably, to Andalusia.

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The fashion boutiques of Marrakech – Where to shop and what to wear in Marrakech

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

Marrakech is well known as a shopper’s paradise! Haggling in the labyrinthine souks with their myriad of coloured slippers, hand-stitched leather bags and woven baskets is still an essential part of every Moroccan holiday.

However, these days there are plenty of other, more sophisticated boutique shops that blend traditional styles with modern Western couture, one reason no doubt why stars like  Gwyneth Paltrow and Sarah Jessica Parker have been seen recently in the elegant stores of Marrakech, a number of which are listed below.

What to Wear in Marrakech

A long silky kaftan or loose top and harem-style trousers would be most appropriate for ladies relaxing in their riads or shopping in the medina where it’s best to ensure that one is suitably covered, this being a Muslim country. Leave heels at home and opt for sensible walking shoes or jewelled sandals for the evening.

A Bedouin tunic is an ideal purchase when in Marrakech. Go for full length, covered in bright pom-poms and embroidery, perfect for throwing over your bikini.

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A brief history of the films of Marrakech and Morocco

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

The first film shot in Marrakech was by French pioneer Louis Lumière in 1897. Some Hollywood ‘big hitters’ followed after the second war, notably Orson Welles who filmed ‘Othello’ in Marrakech and Essaouira in 1949 (Palme d’Or winner) and David Lean, who shot desert scenes for ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ in 1962.

 Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ was also set in Marrakech. The opening scenes of the film were filmed in the souks and the main square, Jemaa el Fna, a location which has changed little since!

Hitchcock fell in love with Marrakech and spent a considerable amount of time here where he wrote the screenplay for ‘The Birds’ in Marrakech.

British agent 007 also made it to Marrakech, with Timothy Dalton playing Bond in ‘The Living Daylights’ in 1987.

Martin Scorsese was so impressed with the filmic qualities of Marrakech, notably the light, that he filmed two major motion pictures here, ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ in 1988 followed by ‘Kundun’ in 1997.

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Skiing in Marrakech

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Skiing in Marrakech?! Well not in Marrakech, exactly, but from a base in Marrakech, only a short hop away. You might be forgiven for questioning the viability of skiing in Africa yet the High Atlas Mountains, about 90 minutes south of Marrakech, offer a skiing experience like no other.

There is a number of small ski resorts in the Atlas, most of them unsophisticated by European standards and with limited infrastructure but well worth checking out: Ifrane, Djebel Bou Volane and Mischliffen in the Middle Atlas, Mount Tidiquin in the Ketama district and best of all, Oukaïmeden in the High Atlas.

Perched at an altitude of 3000m in the Moroccan High Atlas Mountains, Oukaïmeden touts itself as ‘Africa’s Premier Ski Resort’.

Though many of the tallest peaks of the High Atlas are snow patterned for much of the year the ski season itself is limited to four months (December to March), the best snow being in January and February. Oukaïmeden has North Africa’s highest lift, a fixed-grip double chair to the mountain’s summit where you are treated to a 360º panoramic view.

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