Marrakech in Colour
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!
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Text by Anna Guitart
Images by Noemi de la Peña Fillatmore info
Travel and Food With Kids in Marrakech
Marrakech is mayhem and no one who has set foot in that Moroccan city will ever claim otherwise. It’s a happy form of bedlam for those who like excitement, but a stressful and terribly unpredictable place for those who like to exercise strict control. We advise the latter to take a Vueling to Zurich with their family and enjoy the placid feeling of a place where everything works and a scrumptious fondue is easy to come by. As for the rest of you – we recommend you follow us on this fantastic adventure.
Marrakech is the sort of place where someone accosts you every three steps you take, touting to sell you something or lead you to someone’s shop, offer you a guided tour of the city, drape a snake around your neck, tattoo you, make you an orange juice, walk with you and his monkey – which he wants you to hold by the hand – or fill your bag with perfumes, spices, soaps and beautiful decorative objects that appear to have leaped out of A Thousand and One Nights. All this happens as you dodge to avoid horse-drawn carts rolling to the cry of “Cheap carriage ride, María”, donkeys and other fauna that throng the streets, as you have your photo taken with a chameleon, visit palaces that until then were just a figment of your imagination and chatter about the latest exploits of Barça with men of all ages who cross your path.
This Moroccan city is pure magic, a delightful, fascinating chaos with whiffs of spice and mint tea – sometimes of horse dung, too, but, what the heck! – where any adventure lover is bound to have a whale of a time. And, who better than children to imbibe such a place, different from anything they’ve ever seen before, and abandon themselves to the stream of outlandish characters and situations that will punctuate their stay in Marrakech and make it unforgettable.
The first place the young ones are going to be infatuated with is Jemaa el Fna Square, the nerve centre of the Medina, where one of the most enchanting gastronomic festivals in the world strikes up as night falls. The smell of delicious spicy meat starts to waft out from the street stalls, and of hummus, couscous, tajine, salads and other specialities, sold for a sou. Some are reluctant to sit down to a table in that street market for fear of food poisoning, contaminated water and possible adverse effects on their digestive system. But, just by making sure the cutlery is clean and dry, and avoiding raw food, you can take part in an extravaganza that even Sublimotion can’t touch.
The same square has numerous restaurants with a view, providing angles to gawk at the ongoing revelry in Jemaa el Fna. One of our favourites is Aqua (68 Jemaa el Fna); their top-floor terrace affords privileged views of the square and the homemade Moroccan food is quite good. They also have pasta, pizza, sandwiches and other international dishes, which is great if you want to get away from local cuisine for a day.
We press on with the family gastro route through Marrakech and sit down to a table at a venue which is marvellously unclassifiable – Clock Cafe, one of the few hipster eateries in town, a spot which could be in London or Berlin but has nevertheless retained its Arab essence. Prices here border on those in Europe, their piped music is indie pop, their chairs are yellow, the walls are scrawled with graffiti and they serve a brilliant chicken and caramelised onion couscous, although the kids are more likely to go for the camel hamburgers, one of the star performers of the house. If the weather is cold – which it might be during the Marrakech winter – their fireplace will be your best friend.
Another spot well worth stopping off at is Nid’Cigogne (60 Place des Tombeaux Saadiens), a spacious, three-storey restaurant next door to the Saadian Tombs where the children can have fun with the cats roaming the terrace, enjoy the simple dishes, ranging from sandwiches to Moroccan stews, and take a break for a few hours from the incessant bustle of Marrakech. The service is friendly and, as is the case throughout this fairy-tale city, children are always welcome and are treated kindly, respectfully and effusively.
Lastly, while your options are endless, do make a point of having tea in the pretty Marrakech Henna Art Cafe, where you can get a henna tattoo and taste their little pastries while you wait. You can also dive into a delicious snack of hummus and vegetable couscous at a reasonable price, and pick up some of the souvenirs on sale inside.
Armed with a basketful of craftwork, spices, soaps, multi-coloured babouches and thousands of unforgettable memories, you will have enjoyed a family experience filled with hours of laughter and a stream of wonderful stories to tell. Well, where else in the world are you likely to come across a serious-looking character dressed in a djellaba who stops your little boy in the street and calls out, “Hello, little Nicholas!”. Book your Vueling to Marrakech and get ready to live out the experience for yourself.
Text and photos by Laura Conde of Gastronomistas.com
7 unforgettable experiences in Marrakech
There are endless opportunities to dive into Marrakech, a magical and vibrant Maghreb city. We can not say goodbye to the city without visiting:
1.- Majorelle Garden
Majorelle Garden is the most important art work performed by the French painter Jacques Majorelle, designed during his stay in Marrakech at the villa where he was staying.
It is a lush botanical garden rich in different species of exotic plants which Majorelle brought from his many travels around the world. It was opened in 1947 and closed in 1962. It remained closed until the designer Yves Saint-Laurent bought it and restored for later reopening in 1980, adding more plant specimens. The blue coloured walls in this wonderful palace contrast to the deep green of this paradise’s vegetation, full of cactus, palms, yuccas, lilies, coconut and banana, among many others. Exploring this unique paradise is priceless.
2.- El Palmeral
The Palmeraie (El Palmeral) more than 13,000 hectares of land that conform a particular and mystical ecosystem, full of palm.
Conservation is very important since it is the first supplying source of wood and dates in Marrakech. This ancient park is often visited both in chaise or by camel. By about 100 dirhams (10 euros), you can take a camel ride along inside it. Rent a chaise with horses is a bit more expensive, from about 200-250 dirhams (20-25 euros), but it is also charming. The chaise ride takes about two hours and goes from theJemaa el Fna to Palmeraie Golf Palace Hotel, located at the furthest point in the area. You can also find a number of buildings and luxury hotels as well as some golf courses that only suits the wealthiest pockets. Is a fairly sightseeing tour but very pleasant and is worth trying the experience at least once.
3.- The Djemaa el Fna
The Djemaa el Fna, the most iconic and well known place in the city.
In this diverse activity center there is also room for a spiritual reality: the seers who read the hands or throw the tarot and snake charmers are the key characters in this mix of cultural movement. For those who love ostentation, there is a luxury restaurant called Al Baraka in the same square where you can mingle with high class people for eating typical delicious dishes while dancing girls dance around, it is is perfect for Ali Baba’s a thousand nights.
4.- Leather Tanning
The traditional process of tanning leather is one of the city’s oldest crafts.
The Moroccan tanners’ work is very hard, especially because of the stench given off by waste substances needed to carry out such work.
We recommend going with a guide who can detail perfectly this interesting procedure’s different stages and we should not forget to take a few mint leaves that are available at the entrance to help the nose soothe the unpleasant sensation caused by the smell . Living this experience will lead us directly to theMiddle Ages.
5.- Medina’s Teahouses
Medina’s Teahouses in Marrakech are a must on your trip to the Arab world.
Take a mint tea or spearmint, popularly known as Moorish tea in the Marrakech’s Medina is essential to make us feel as authentic Moroccan.
Some of the most glamorous and chic teahouses are the Arabic Cafe and La Terrasse des Epices. It is also highly recommended to try the exotic saffron tea.
A Hammam is a traditional bath room where you get fully relax.
Are also common in these centers the beauty treatments such as moisturizing and skin peels. There are different styles of hammam targeted for all ages and budgets. Although formerly attend this sort of Roman baths were an activity reserved for the rich, today it is a pleasant experience to suit everybody’s pockets. Some names of our favorites are Les Bains de Marrakech and La Maison Arabe.
7.- Ksar of Aït BenHaddou, Sus-Masa-Draa
The Ksar or fortified city of Aït BenHaddou is considered World Heritage Site since 1987.
It has been used as a location for many films such as Gladiator or The Mummy, because of it’s adobe-house architecture’s great beauty and the spectacular views it offers. It is a dream place that strikes for it is extremelly well maintained. Getting here is not easy, the journey is 200 km from Marrakech by vehicle through mountain ports, which takes about four hours. Once arrived there, you will forget all the effort that has involved getting into a new world merged by ocher, green palm trees and blazing blue sky.
Picture by Donarreiskoffer
By Blanca Frontera
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Street food in Marrakech
These days street food is really trendy among most European countries. What used to be considered unhygienic now sweeps away everyone in Europe and gets new supporterss all the time.
In fact, it’s difficult to imagine other countries without street food stalls. In the United States, for instance, food trucks are an institution, even a showcase for new entrepreneurs cookers sometimes, who use these stalls to introduce themselves before they can get a place in an actual restaurant. In other countries, like Turkey, China, Nigeria and Pakistan, or around Latin America countries, street food is part of the daily life.
To eat in a street food stall is such an experience anytime you travel; that’s the way to try the most popular food in the country without the finery of a restaurant, hanging out with locals and getting to meet them, and is much cheaper.
The exotic Marrakech is the culinary capital in Morocco, and the main spot is the famous Jemaa el-Fnaa square and the surroundings, where there is activity all the time.
By the morning, stalls with fruit juices share space with tattoo artists or snake - and tourists - charmers. For about 4 dirhams, you can try orange juice freshly served that will help you on dealing with the warm weather.
Early at night, it’s time for the stalls full of tables and cooking tools. The grill i son and the square of Jemaa el-Fna becomes a big dinning room. There is a sea of smoky food trucks offering all kinds of food at all sorts of prices. Un mar de humeantes puestos callejeros con ofertas para todos los gustos y bolsillos. From the delicious lamb kebabs or chicken, cookies and sweets made of honey, almonds and dates are sold at stalls all around the square.
The spots are numbered (but messy) and you can find many recommendations, like the fresh fish at 14, best mint tea at 5 or the spot number 31, famous for serving the best sausages.
The golden rule for a traveller says, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” and you can apply that here, too. Not all the food stalls have the greatest quality, though. Ideally, then, you should go wherever you see Moroccans eating.
This is a list of what you can find at food trucks and stalls in Marrakech.
- The crunchy bread (Khobz) is one of the basic elements on Moroccan gastronomy, usually cooked in a wood oven. Among the different kinds of bread, there is the baghrir (like a crêpe, a fluffy pancake with holes), harsha (made of semolina) or rghaif (semi-crispy rectangular bread), usually accompanied or fill in some garrison.
-Tajine, is a lamb stew with lemon and spices.
- Merguez, a spicy sausage with an intense flavour.
- The steamed lambs head or the snails’ soup are two of the most “exotic” options to the traveller looking for new gastronomic adventures. They are considered true delicacies among locals, but not the favourites for the tourists.
- Morocco is one of the largest exporters of sardines, and you can find this fish at most food stalls. They are cooked in the grill and usually filled with a spicy chermoula paste, which has tomato, cilantro, chili, lemon and garlic.
- For the veggies, the smoky and tasty fried eggplant slices can a good choice.
- Sweets like briwat ( fried triangles filled with almonds) and shebakia (sesame cookies in a flower shape).
- All kinds of nuts! Dates, sugared almonds, walnuts, raisins and figs.
- To drink, mint tea is good anytime, this is the most famous drink in Morocco, often referred “Moroccan or Berber whisky”, as a joke and because it looks similar even, obviously, mint tea has no alcohol.
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