Marrakech is always a fun town for people watching, even more so at the moment! Hollywood is in Marrakech and the heart of the Medina is buzzing with activity for the filming of Sex And the City 2.
A few hundred yards from Riad Papillon burly security guards left us in no doubt that amateur photographers were not welcome near the set. The Paparrazi had more success as reported in some of the European press including the Daily Mail
On friday 20th November several streets to the north of the Jema al Fnaa were being used as sets with the choas created by the resulting diversions only adding to the hustle and bustle of the Medina.
A butterfly is a rare sight in the urban setting of the old town of Marrakech. So imagine our delight at the arrival of this welcome guest at Riad Papillon.
It was cunningly photographed by our eagle eyed guardian Abdelatif as it inspected the newly opened Riad. As the Moroccans say ‘Baraka’, what a wonderful omen!
A Fondouk or Funduq also known as a Caravanserai is a mediaeval building designed as an urban hostel for commercial travellers and merchants- the Marrakshi equivalent of the coaching inn – a camel motel! Set around a generous central courtyard a typical Fondouk has a series of chambers on the ground floor traditionally used to accommodate beasts of burden with a corresponding series of lockable chamber on the first floor which doubled as storage for merchandise and sleeping quarters. Fondouks were equipped with fountains to water animals and scales to weigh the goods traded there. Often they were lavishly decorated and many specialised in attracting merchants from a particular background for example Jews, Christians or sub Saharan Africans.
There is concentration Fondouks just north of the El Baroudiyine district of Marrakech where travellers would have had easy access to trade with the Souks occupying the area to the north of Jema al Fna.
Many Fondouks fell into a sad state of disrepair after the age of the great camel caravans but most are still standing. These substantial buildings were adapted to use as workshops or subdivided into homes and all manner of living and working spaces.
In Marrakesh today there are many poorly maintained decaying Fondouks offering a glimpse of an ancient trading culture. It is encouraging to see an increasing number sympathetically restored, often with public money, finding a new lease of life as workshops or showrooms for traditional Moroccan crafts. One of Marrakech leading restaurants ‘Le Fondouk’ is occupies a beautifully adapted caravanserai just to the east of the Marrakech museum.
The Arabic word Riad means garden and some of the most beautiful gardens in Marrakech are to be found in the medina providing shade in traditional houses. There are also a number of public gardens which are well worth a visit.
Established in the 1920’s by French painter Jacques Majorelle and made famous as the Marrakech residence of the late Yves St Laurent. This garden is located in the New town of Guiliz and is very much a City Garden screened by high walls and very much an African garden with its splendid cacti, palms and bougainvillea. The artist’s studio is now a museum of Islamic art which also exhibits some works by Majorelle himself.
Outside the medina about a mile and a half from the Koutoubia mosque, a pleasant walk but as there is very little shade on the route it is best avoided in the heat of the day. The focal point of the garden is an immense lake with an elegant royal pavilion sitting behind it. The perfect backdrop to this tranquil scene is provided by acres of fields which have been olive groves since the twelfth century.
The ‘Jardin Agdal’ cover more than 30 acres and like the Menara gardens were laid out at the time of the twelfth century Almohad dynasty. Agdal contains a great variety of plants as well as a number of pavilions some of which are open to the public and some of which are kept for the private use of the Moroccan Royal family. The gardens are located behind the Royal Palace to the south of the Medina.
The Koutoubia mosque was built in the 12th century under the Caliph Yaqub al-Mansur to be the crowning glory of his North African based empire, it is indeed today still the largest mosque to be found in Marrakech today. The structure stands 69 metres tall towering over the surrounding city, which considering its placement in the Medina is not particularly difficult, it is however still an impressive structure by any account. However it was during the period of imperialism under the French that it was decreed that no structure in the rest of marrakech was permitted to be taller than the Koutoubia, thereby sealing the Mosques place in Marrakech’s architectural history. The name of the Koutoubia derives from the Arabic for library as the mosque used to be surrounded by sellers of religious manuscripts thereby gaining the mosque literary connotations that led to it being quasi designated a library. Although the actual mosque itself does not permit non-muslims to enter a non-muslim can still observe the majesty of the mosque from the outside of the Building.
The hall within the mosque is one of the largest of its kind and has the capacity to house up to 25,00 people at any one time. Adjacent to the mosque are archaeological remains of the original mosque which it is believed was rebuilt to correct its orientation to Mecca. These remains are accessible to visitors and can be seen through glazed protective cases. The fabulous Rose gardens adjacent to the Mosque are an oasis of calm in the city used by locals and tourists alike, a must for your Marrakech holiday. The Avenue Mohammed V runs adjacent to the mosque and can be used to take oneself directly to the Guelliz ditrict where one can find many a trendy bar and restaurant. All this a mere 15 minute walk from our wonderful Riads in the heart of Marrakechs historic Medina district. Reserve a room now to avoid disappointment.
Riad Papillon and Riad Cinnamon are excellent examples of the tasteful adaptation of centuries old dwellings as luxury boutique hotels retaining the proportions, charm, and elegance of the original, while integrating modern comforts like en suites, air conditiong and a luxurious dipping pool. A stay in a riad is an unforgettable experience of an extraordinary intimate space, quite unlike any other. It is also a great opportunity to enjoy fabulous Moroccan hospitality and food in a domestic setting.
Written in Arabic as مراكش foreigners use the French ‘Marrakech’ and English ‘Marrakesh’ interchangeably.
Marrakech sits at a strategic location on the trade route between sub Saharan Africa and the sea route to Europe. The early name was Marra Kouch, land of the Kouchmen a tribe that originated in Mauritania. The City came to prominence as the capital of the Almoravids an 11th century Berber dynasty. Importantly the Almoravids built an underground irrigation system bring water from the High Atlas to the City and surrounding farm land.
Marrakesh was again the Moroccan capital under the Saadians in the 17th century before falling into relative decline. The city was revived until the French protectorate when the new town district of Guiliez was constructed. During the period of French rule control of Marrakech was effectively delegated to the Pasha El Glaoui.
After Morocco’s independence in 1956, and particularly in the last quarter of the twentieth century, Marrakech gradually came to prominence as the most important international tourist destination in North Africa.
The Atlas Mountains provide a stunning backdrop to Marrakech. One of the great pleasures of the Red City is to relax on the roof terrace on a clear day enjoying views of the snow covered mountain tops. The mountains themselves are easily accessible for a day trip or excursion.
A favourite route is the Ourika valley trail either to Setti Fatma a picturesque riverside village behind which there are seven waterfalls. Further up the same route is the winter (February to April) ski resort of Oukaimeden with its 3,273 metre ski lift, at one time the highest in the world. Outside the ski season Oukaimeden is the perfect base for trekking. In the summer the pastures below Oukaimeden are used for a gathering of Berber tribes who traditionally bring their whole household including livestock returning each year to their ancestral patch of grazing on the plains.
An alternative route leads out to Ouarzazate at the confluence of the Draa and Dades valleys. Ourzazate is a base for quad and motor biking, and camel treks on into the Sahara dessert. It is also home to Atlas Studios one of the largest film studios in the world used for films from Lawrence of Arabia to The Man Who Would Be King, Cleopatra and Gladiator.
It is tempting then to follow the Draa river up through fertile palmeraies crammed with date palms, olive and almond groves. The Dades on the other hand passes between the mountains of the High Atlas to the north and the Jbel Saghro range to the south. For a very good reason this route is nicknamed the valley of a thousand Kasbahs and at the end of the valley is the stunning Todra Gorges.
Our Marrakech Riad Hotels in the Medina are the perfect base for a Golfing holiday. There are three outstanding 18 hole within 30 minutes of your Ryad in Marrakech. We can help reserve tee times.
The Royal was constructed by the famed and feared Pasha who resided at the Pasha Palace at the Dar el Bashah entrance to the medina. The course enjoys perhaps the most outstanding views of all the Marrakech courses benefitting from far sighted planting of trees when it was built in the 1920’s. The Royal course was played by Winston Churchill who was a huge lover of Marrakech.
Located next to the Royal is The Amelkis. Designed by Cabbel Robinson and opened in 1995 the course is heavily bunkered with large greens and expansive fairways. It cleverly incorporates the irrigation works built by the Almoravide dynasty in the 11th century to support the growth of their capital city of Marrakech.
The Palmaraie is built in a private valley around its stunning Moorish style club house, the course covers 190 acres boasting seven lakes and innumerable palm trees. Originally an 18 hole course designed by Robert Trent Jones a new nine will be added in Autumn 2008 to be used for tournaments in conjunction with the more difficult back nine of the original course.
After a fantastic round of golf come back to your Riad, boutique hotel. The perfect base for exploring Marrakesh.