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The “Pearl of the South”, as Marrakesh is also known, glories in its traditions and celebrates the future. Centuries-old architecture, Arabian design and handicrafts, Western lifestyle and modern luxury make for a unique experience.
The former royal city is also famous for its parks and gardens, where palms, and orange and olive trees flourish in over eight hours of sunshine a day. Whether you’re in the medina or outside the city gates, there are inviting oases to be found almost everywhere in Marrakesh.
“Marrakesh isn’t a city, it’s a planet in its own right,” as Dutch author Cees Nooteboom once wrote, “the best plan is to simply immerse yourself in it.” This selection aims to make choosing where to start a little easier.
The elegant boutique hotel offers modern comforts in a historical setting
A sultan’s minister had the ensemble built in the 19th century and installed his master’s harem in one of the buildings. It is not difficult to imagine the ladies strolling through these green inner courtyards, fountains splashing, birds chirruping. The din of the streets outside in the medina does not penetrate these walls. While the villas were being converted into an elegant boutique hotel, underground passageways leading to the nearby Bahia Palace were discovered in the basement, reports hotel manager Eben Lenderking, an American in Marrakesh: “You still get a sense of the mystical and magical world of the Riads here today.”
In 2000, the Kaiss was one of the first hotels to open in the ancient private palaces of the old town. It has a total of nine rooms and suites, all of them done out in the style of bygone eras. But for all its exquisite Arabian design – intricately crafted traditional wall and floor mosaics, carved pillars, shimmering whitewashed walls – the hotel does not stint on modern comforts, either: The ladies of the sultan’s harem would surely have been delighted with the new spa, gym area and swimming pool on the roof terrace.
Royal Golf Club
How the monarch among Marrakesh’s golf courses pays tribute to French film diva Brigitte Bardot
For over 80 years, golf has been played on the “legends’ course” on the edge of the city. Visiting heads of state such as Winston Churchill and Dwight D. Eisenhower swung their clubs here. The surrounding scenery alone is enough to make any golf course designer pale with envy: groves of date palms, eucalyptus, pomegranate and fig trees frame the fairways and greens, while the snowy peaks of the High Atlas dominate the horizon.
Morocco’s late King Hassan II was a great fan and patron of golf, and his son Mohammed VI now upholds the tradition. The 27-hole Royal Golf Club scores less for its exceptional obstacles than for its sweeping fairways, which require extreme precision from the players. The 15th hole, with its opulent curves, was nicknamed back in the 1960s “Brigitte Bardot”.
Khalid Art Gallery
Its collection of valuable antiques and art treasures is fascinating and it also makes the gallery popular with stars – as a shopping venue
Antique sculptures and wall hangings, alabaster vases, hand-carved furniture, oil paintings and vintage silver jewelry: At first glance, the gallery looks like a museum, and it has long been an El Dorado for interior designers. Members of the international jet set and stars like Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Selma Hayek and Naomi Campbell, like to decorate their homes with beautiful pieces from the ancient Orient, and occasionally drop by to take a look around. Countless photos showing antiques dealer Khalid El Gharib with some of his famous clients hang on the walls of his salesroom.
Bring lots of time when you come here because there’s a veritable labyrinth of precious collectors’ items comprising more than 1000 exhibits on several floors hidden away behind the narrow facade at the entrance. In addition to that, the gallery also welcomes specific search requests. It is perhaps wise not to take the dating of furniture and objects all too seriously – genuine treasures are, after all, timeless.
14, rue Dar el Bacha
Beldi Country Club
An idyllic hideaway that’s takes you to a different world
Ten years ago, Alexandre Leymarie purchased six hectares of land just outside Marrakesh. His plan was to start a small farm, but then things turned out differently. After holding his daughter’s wedding there, the Frenchman found himself inundated with inquiries from people wanting to come and stay. Word had evidently spread like wildfire about the property’s amazing atmosphere.
“Beldi” is the Arabic word for “traditional,” and stylish ethno chic informs the pavilions the Leymairies have put up on the extensive grounds, designed down to the last detail and exclusively furnished. The table linen, earthenware crockery and glasses they use are all produced at the country club’s own facility. The Beldi is an idyllic place to unwind and has a total of 27 apartments, a large spa area, a tennis court, two swimming pools and a small movie theater. The service here is fantastic – the only danger for guests is that they could easily forget to take a look at Marrakesh itself.
This restaurant is located in the medina and serves excellent Moroccan food
The evening menu at the Dar Yacout is like a culinary stroll through Moroccan haute cuisine. Well, more like an extended hike, really, because you won’t come away without enjoying at least four courses. Tajines (slow-cooked dishes prepared in the traditional earthenware pot of the same name), intense spice blends and desserts fragrant with almonds and rosewater are a real discovery for European palates. At the Dar Yacout, the meal naturally begins with mezze – a wonderfully varied selection of those delicious, small dishes so typical of the Orient.
Equally varied is the ambience here. Outside on the patio, it’s balmy, in the separé you are completely undisturbed, and the atmosphere in the large dining room borders on the festive every night thanks to live renditions of traditional gnawa music by musicians playing drums and guitars. The menu also includes a selection of excellent Moroccan wines. After the meal, or even before, it’s well worth going up to the roof terrace to take in the magnificent view of the buzzing medina by night.
Yves Saint Laurent rescued the artfully landscaped park from neglect
“I often dream in these colors,” the French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent said, referring to the garden. “These colors” include every shade of green plus the brilliant cobalt blue the French painter and plant collector Jacques Majorelle used on the walls of his studio and home. In the 1920s, the creative globetrotter planted the garden in the new-town neighborhood of Gueliz.
Saint Laurent, who already owned two houses in the medina, purchased the overgrown garden in 1980 and restored it to its former glory. Until his death, it provided him with a place of retreat and inspiration. Over a dozen gardeners care for this green oasis in the heart of the city, which is home to some 300 plant species, including cactuses, water lilies and ferns. The ponds, pools and fountains provide cool refreshment when the sun stands high above the bamboo-lined pathways. The best time of the day to visit is in the morning, just after the park opens its gates at eight.
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