Few places evoke more mystery and heady sense of adventure than Morocco’s capital Marrakech. The city is a magnet for creatives drawn to an intoxicating mix of French, Middle East, and African cultures. Inside the walls of the Medina - the city’s fortified old-town centre - a racket of action from street vendors assaults the senses. Beyond these walls, contemporary neighbourhoods shape the noisy urban beat of Marrakech life. But, to us, the true pleasures of Marrakech lie in the city’s hidden pockets of tranquility: the odes to quietude, design, and beauty. In a city of such hypnotic chaos, we’ve sought the most inspiring examples of considered and contemplated design. This is the Marrakech that compels us to return.
No other place captures the romance of this city quite like the L’Hotel Marrakech. Jasper Conran’s first hotel, a converted 19th-Century riad in the authentic neighbourhood of Bab Doukkala, is a luscious 5-suite paradise every bit as considered as you’d expect from the design doyen. White-washed walls, plump white beds, and white voile curtains, which lilt gently on terraces, provide a serene backdrop for artwork and unfussy antiques to create an air of quiet glamour. Outside, an 8 metre pool stretches alongside a wall tickled by bougainvillea. On the roof terrace, views of the Atlas Mountains are accompanied by cocktails and the scent of jasmine and honeysuckle. Downstairs, the dining room serves refined Moroccan fare on perfectly pressed Egyptian linens. And while it’s hard to choose a favourite suite, we have to succumb to the charm of the Casablanca Suite, which re-imagines the glamour of the 1930’s in a sublime study of authenticity and restraint.
Nestled behind an unassuming facade, Kamal Laftimi’s heralded restaurant Le Jardin exemplifies the hidden magic of Marrakech. Set within a renovated 16th-Century building, Laftimi and interior architect Anne Favier have created a homage to the relaxed glamour of Marrakesh in the 60’s and 70’s. Emerald green tiles and lush greenery in the garden are an ideal backdrop for contemporary, bold furniture and a menu that bridges the gap between Moroccan and European cuisine. On occasion, an open air projected classic film is played. Le Jardin is an oasis of good taste that exists somewhere between modern and nostalgic, and reflects our idea of the perfect balmy night under the stars just about perfectly.
Ben Youssef, a historic Madersa built in the 1560’s is almost unfathomable in its quiet beauty. Once the largest Islamic school in North Africa, Ben Youssef is now an unblemished portal into the past - a structure that emits a grand elegance befitting of its past-life. Inside, the main internal courtyard features Carrara marble pillars holding up intricately detailed balconies. In the centre, an empty swimming pool provides a vibrant contrast to the washed and faded surrounds, jade zellij tiles sparkling under the African sun. Seen throughout the madrasa are tiles and carvings in geometric patterns that honour the teachings of Islam. At the end of the courtyard, a large prayer room is decorated in elaborate patterns of pine cones and palm trees. Ben Youssef is a shining example that design is at its most potent when done with intent.
Yves Saint Laurent Museum
Our latest design obsession - the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech- opened this year to a rapturous reception. Designed by Studio KO, the museum is the first dedicated fashion museum in Africa. For Saint Laurent, who spent a fortnight in Marrakech each year to design his haute couture collection, it would surely be a natural choice. On the exterior, sensuously curved walls are rendered in smooth pale stone, topped off with textural terracotta brickwork. The composite style reflects Saint Laurent’s unique ability to blend lightness with boldness, texture with delicacy. Inside, a 400-square-metre permanent exhibition space houses 50 couture creations. A cinema, temporary exhibition space, bookshop, and preservation facility create further opportunities to obtain a glimpse into the Saint Laurent oeuvre. At each touch point, the unique effect of Marrakech on the iconic designer is palpable. And, after a weekend spent in the city, it’s not hard to see why.