Marrakech in Colour
27 May, 2015
While Paris is the city of light, and Lisbon is the white city, Marrakech is known as “the red city” for the colour of its walls and many of its buildings. But, you only have to stroll about the city for a while to realise that the colour red falls way short. Here, then, we offer you a visit in full colour of one of Morocco’s most fascinating cities.
WHITE: You’re sure to whip out your camera the moment you arrive, as the Marrakech Menara airport is the first surprise you’ll encounter. One of the leading airports in the country, during a renovation undertaken from 2006 to 2008 it was endowed with a stunning white structure which combines traditional and modern elements which set up an interplay of light and shadow that generates a different effect at different times of day.
GREEN: Moroccans are very welcoming. As soon as you arrive at your lodgings, you will inevitably be offered mint tea. It will be the first, but not the last. It could safely be considered the city’s “official” beverage, and you are going to see mint all over the place. Apart from the mint they put in your tea, it is well worth venturing into the Souk in search of the mint stalls, housed in a small, less touristy corner of the market near the pyjama and olive stalls. The time we were there, lots of women came to choose the sprig of mint they liked best. It seems there are many different kinds, but neither the photographer nor myself were able to distinguish between them!
ORANGE: While mint tea is the city’s official drink, the beverage of choice in Jemaa el-Fnaa is orange juice. The city’s most famous and packed square is strewn with carts where you can get a delicious orange or grapefruit juice at any time of the day. It is impossible to refuse one, even if it is just to carry a glass around with you, because that is the only way they will stop calling out to you at the top of their voice from each fruit-juice stall.
BLUE: A stroll through Jardín Majorelle is enough to realise why Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Bergé, fell in love with this place and decided to acquire and restore it. It is perhaps one of the most amazing spots in Marrakech. It bears the name of Jacques Majorelle, a French Orientalist painter who settled there in 1923 and in 1930 had a studio built in such a peculiar shade of blue that is was christened “Marjorelle blue”. The garden around it is a living artwork in itself, filled with exotic plants and rare species which the artist brought back with him from his journeys. There is also a small memorial to Saint Laurent, which was what spared the place from being swallowed up by a development project.
FUCHSIA: The city is laced with it, as this colour turns up in the most unexpected spots. The fuchsia will strike you when you sit down in the Nomad bar terrace, when you take in views of the city or when you go up the staircase to the terrace of the Maison de la Photographie (highly recommendable, by the way, although perhaps more for the terrace than the exhibits). The bougainvillea fuchsias pop up everywhere – on rooftops, window sills and on top of some garden walls. It provides colour highlights, making the bustling city seem even more lively.
BLACK: One of the least likely colours we would associate with soap is black, yet black soapis a traditional product widely used in Morocco. You’ll come across it if you decide to relax in a hammam, but it is not a “tourist product”. It is sold in markets and is used in the hammams frequented by locals (who have nothing to do with tourists. If you’re up for an experience beyond relaxation, venture into one – it’s something you won’t easily forget). The manufacturing process is mainly artisanal, based on black olives and oil. It is a good exfoliant and contains a lot of Vitamin E, so your skin feels like new.
BEIGE: If you stay in a riad, beige is likely to be the dominant colour during your sojourn. Riads are a highly recommendable alternative to hotels and are becoming more fashionable. A riad is a traditional Moroccan house or palace with a small patio or garden interior. To lodge in one of these is to live out the Moroccan experience more fully, in a genuine setting. Authenticity is imbued through respect for tradition. More and more westerners are opening riadsand, indeed, it is thanks to them that certain techniques, like tadelakt, have been preserved. For years, this lime-based plastering system was a symbol of Marrakech. However, it gradually fell into disuse and is now being recovered by foreigners, like Stephan and Xavier of Riad Snan 13. They opted for beige, the natural tadelakt colour, which has endowed their small riad and its priceless rooms with a warm, oriental ambience. It is well worth visiting for a stay and is very central. You will be lavished with fantastic breakfasts and, above all, their hospitality, with has the drawback that you won’t want to go home!
Don’t put off this unique experience! Check out our flights here.
Text by Anna Guitart
Images by Noemi de la Peña Fillat
27 May, 2015