If you speak to anyone who has visited Marrakech, you can be sure that they will mention the red city’s famous Souk District. Located in the very heart of the Medina, just north of Jemaa al-Fnaa and a five minute stroll from Riad Dar Habiba, Cinnamon, Papillon and Riad Star.
The souks of Marrakech are the largest you can find from all four corners of Morocco and it’s astonishing to think that for a thousand years the district has acted as a thriving central hub for trade and commerce without very little changing at all. Though allowances have been made for modern tastes, many of the traditional commodities can still easily be bought from the winding alleys of the Souks.
As you first walk into Souk Semmarine (the central channel of the district) the sensory overload of sight, smell and sound makes it difficult to focus on any one thing at once! As you come to your senses you will find yourself walking past stalls and shops specialising in pottery, pâtisseries, textiles, spices, carpets, jewellery and more. All of which are dimly lit under the covered boards that shield the alley from the intense Moroccan sun, giving Souk Semmarine a truly magical and mysterious feel.
As the night sun begins to set, the atmosphere in the red city’s central square, Jemaa al-Fnaa, begins to change, so does it in the souks. Indeed, in our opinion, early evening is the best time to visit both the Souks and the Jemaa al-Fnaa square. Look out for stalls specialising in Moroccan lamps, the craftsmanship that goes into designing the lamps is an art that is usually passed down through families, generation after generation. In the evening, the dim glow the lanterns emit light up the darkened corners of the Souks and it’s a common sight to see tourists and Marrakshi locals drawn into the lamps stalls like moths to a flame.
Trips to the Souk district will be one of the highlights of your adventure in Marrakech. They stay open from 9am to 9pm so it’s advisable to visit in the cool of the morning or as the sun starts to set if you are finding it hard to acclimatise to the high temperatures of Morocco. Finally, remember haggling is key! The art of haggling is integral to the culture of transactions that take place in the Souks and stall owners will be disappointed if you don’t try!
Opening Times: 9-10am til 7pm
As you stroll through the winding alleys of the Marrakech Medina you will see that the pathways are shared by pedestrians, mopeds, donkey-drawn carts and the Calèche.
Calèches are horse-drawn carriages of which can hold four to five people. Moroccans have been using Calèches as a means of quickly traversing the narrow streets of the red city long before the arrival of the modern day car as they prove themselves to be an adept as well as glamorous mode of transport.
Finding a Calèche is simple. You can either hail one as they gallop through the streets or head towards the western side of Jemaa al-Fnaa, Marrakech’s central square. If you look to the horizon it’s impossible to miss the minaret tower of the famous Koutoubia Mosque and the line of Calèches which queue night and day in its direction.
Upon first arriving to the red city of Marrakech, resident video blogger Jamie Horton and I learned that a Calèche ride was the perfect means of reaching the main attractions in Marrakech such as the Menara and Majorelle Gardens.
The Calèche drivers of the sqaure are only a 10 minute stroll from the Riad Papillon so we wove our way through the crowds of Jemaa al-Fnaa to put this theory to the test. Finding a Calèche who will take us takes a matter of seconds and after a few moments of haggling, grins and handshakes we meet our driver who introduces himself as Aziz.
As Jamie sets up his video camera equipment and my sister Holly reclines on the lavish back seats of the Calèche carriage, I quiz Aziz for more information about what he does for a living. Aziz informs me that he has been working as a Calèche driver in the red city for several years with his two horses, whose names are Badr and Ismail.
The open top carriage allows fantastic views as we trot at a steady pace through the streets of the red city and around the Medina ramparts. Going for a Calèche ride is a unique and memorable way of getting from a to b and for 100 Dirham’s for a single journey around the Medina (£7.55) is entirely affordable when split between a group.
Hosted every year in the lavish courtyard of the El Badi Palace in the Marrakech Medina is the ‘National Festival of Popular Art’s’ (Festival National des Arts Populaires) in the centre of Marrakech. Being only a five minute walk from the Riad Dar Habiba I went down to the festival last night to discover more.
Before the festival has begun I walk through alcoves of the El Badi Palace with the guardian of Dar Habiba who has agreed to accompany me. A red Moroccan carpet guides our way through the 400 year old building and the festival planners have rigged up projectors so that the walls of the ancient palace are bathed in a golden glow.
As we take our seats I learn that over 300 Berber storytellers, dancers, acrobats and singers from all four corners of Morocco have descended on Marrakech for this five day long spectacle.
As each group takes to the stage the guardian of the Dar Habiba tells me that ‘each troupe tells a different tale’ which range from love and loss to nature and sustenance.
Indeed as Berber musicians from the Dadès valley fill the spotlight I learn that their song is about a husband and wife who are both beekeepers. As the song evolves into dance and grows in intensity I discover that the meaning behind the act is to convey the importance of unity within nature. Both man and wife rely on the bees, who in turn rely on the flowers and thus the cycle of nature continues.
Part of what makes National Festival of Popular Art’s such a special experience is that it is difficult even for the Marrakshi locals to understand the true meaning behind the acts. As
21 different dialects of the Berber tongue fill the air, much of the nights proceedings are shrouded in mystery.
For only 100 Dirhams ( 7.70£) this is a once in a lifetime performance that you simply cannot afford to miss during your stay in Marrakech. In only a few hours I was left speechless by a performance that was fully charged with the essence of Morocco and as the festival is nearing it’s 50th year Anniversary there is no question as to whether I will be coming back for it!
El Waha Café Restaurant is located on the eastern side of the central square of Marrakech (Jemaa al-Fnaa), a convenient 5 minute stroll from Riad Dar Habiba but only a 10-15 minute walk from any of our other Riad’s. El Waha offers a similar selection of traditional Moroccan dishes as other Café Restaurant’s in the area such as Taj’in Darna, what distinguishes El Waha however is it’s rooftop terrace which is one of the highest in Jemaa al-Fnaa. After a short climb to the terrace you can enjoy stunning panoramic views of Jemaa al-Fnaa and the high Atlas mountains that surround the red city whilst enjoying a glass of Moroccan mint tea. Another charming characteristic at El Waha is the option of being able to enjoy local cuisine and refreshments on a set of Moroccan sofas towards the back of the terrace. From this cosy corner you can still gaze over the bustling hub of the red city whilst enjoying a gentle breeze and some respite from the intense Moroccan sun. » Explore the Jemaa el Fnaa
Taj’in Darna is a cafe/ restaurant located on the Eastern side of Marrakech’s central square. Serving a variety of traditional Moroccan dishes and refreshments it’s cosy rooftop terrace is the ideal space in which to stop and refresh your batteries after a day spent exploring the red city.
Due to the stunning panoramic views of Jemaa al-Fnaa from Taj’in Darna’s terrace you can expect to pay just a few more Dirham’s for a meal here compared with nearby snack bars such Snack Toubkal. A Moroccan chicken tajine is around 45 Dirham’s (£3.44) and a glass of sweet mint tea is 15 Dirham’s (£1.15).
As Taj’in Darna is located in the cities central square it is only a short walking distance from any of our hotel Riad’s. I often went there during the holy month of Ramadan to enjoy a salad with the seclusion that the Cafe’s terrace offers. If you are feeling adventurous, I would recommend that you try the range of Moroccan Pastilla’s that are on offer at the restaurant. Combing both salty and sweat this hand-cooked meat pie is baked and sprinkled with both sugar and cinnamon for a unique, delicious taste.
The ideal time to visit Taj’in Darna is as the sun starts to set across the red city. As you enjoy the rich and flavoursome dishes that Morocco has to offer you can look across the square of Jemaa al-Fnaa and watch it burst into life as musicians, storytellers and performers pour out onto the streets to prepare for the night ahead.
Lamp’s have held a hugely high value in Moroccan architecture and design for hundreds of years and are used in all four corners of Morocco to decorate shops, restaurants and houses. Hand-crafted Moroccan lamps come in all shapes and sizes and often take a painstakingly long time to complete.
In Jemaa al-Fnaa many lamp salesmen can easily be found among the street shops that line around the edges of the central square. Though these boutiques are nameless, there is one however which specialises in traditional Moroccan lamps which is nearly impossible to miss.
After a 10 minute walk from the Riad Star towards the centre of the red city, I spot the lamp boutique and immediately images of Aladdin’s cave are conjured in my mind. I have to stoop under the array of Moroccan lanterns hanging from the shop’s ceiling, all of which are designed using different patterns, sizes and materials.
I talk to the shop keeper, who introduces himself as Omar. He explain’s that he and a friend have been in the trade of collecting lamps in Marrakech for around 10 years. He goes on to explain to me that traditional Moroccan lamps are used in the interiors and exteriors of homes and that their unique design is important to many Moroccans.
I would recommend returning to the lamp shop after the sun sets. From then it is easier to get an understanding of the unique ambiance that the Moroccan lanterns create. As the flames dance within their casings the unique patterns of each lamp are illuminated on the surrounding walls, giving the boutique a stunning and truly mysterious feel.
As the holy fasting month of Ramadan draws to a close in the world of Islam, the red city of Marrakech comes alive as vibrant religious festivities for Eid go underway.
Eid celebrations are split into two parts, ‘Eid al-Fitr’ (festival of the breaking of the fast) which is followed by ‘Eid as-Adha’ (festival of sacrifice). There are some differences that mark the two unique occasions, Eid al-Fitr is also sometimes called ‘the sugar feast’ as traditionally women often come together to prepare a collection of sweet, delicious delicacies of which the family can enjoy as a whole.
Eis as-Adha on the other hand is a four day long festival which some households choose to celebrate with the slaughtering of a sheep or a cow. The spirit of charity and love runs sincerely through both of these religious occasions as family gatherings take place in homes and on the streets of the red city. Food is evenly distributed between family, friends and those less fortunate and many attend special prayer rituals throughout the Mosque’s of Marrakech.
During this enchanting time of the year, do not be surprised if the electric atmosphere of Marrakech comes directly to your door! The local boys of Rue Derb Jdid, next to the Riad Dar Habiba spend the afternoons of Eid making music together and passers by stop to absorb the scene as the sound of drums and singing fills the night air.
As the Islamic calender is lunar, the exact time of the celebrations change every year. However many Marrakshi would advise that you try and plan your trip to coincide with this ancient festival. Especially towards the evenings as families and friends pour onto the streets, the atmosphere from the new-town of Guiliez through to the heart of the Marrakech Medina makes this time a truly remarkable event to be a part of.
Just a five minute stroll from the Riad Cinnamon and the Riad Star is the Cafe Arabe. Nicely situated in a sleepy neighborhood just north of the renowned souk district, Cafe Arabe offers traditional Moroccan cuisine in a modern and sophisticated environment.
I have been to the Cafe Arabe a few times now during my stay in Marrakech but I always find myself returning. The atmosphere inside the cafe/ restaurant is relaxed and welcoming and an hour spent here makes a refreshing contrast to the hustle and bustle of the souks.
On the menu are a variety of traditional Moroccan dishes, including salads and tajines. Cafe Arabe also offer a fantastic selection of alcoholic beverages, ranging from fresh fruit cocktails to a selection of Moroccan wines.
Whether it’s to enjoy dinner or simply to relax and have a drink whilst the cool Moroccan breeze washes over you from the terrace, there certainly is something on offer for everyone at the Cafe Arabe.
Nestled alongside Boulevard Al Yarmouk is the Marrakech Medina’s cyber park. If you are looking to seek some shade from the Moroccan sun or need to send a quick e-mail while you are on the move in the city, then the cyber park is the ideal location to spend an hour and recharge your batteries.
The Medina’s cyber park and it’s internet facilities are completely free to the public and the collections of fountains, orange trees and even some interesting viewpoints of the Medina’s ramparts make this shady oasis a great place to relax for those seeking respite from the bustle of the city.
Marrakech is a ancient city which has acted as a hub of trade and commerce for nearly a thousand years. One of the most fascinating aspects of the cities rich and diverse history that is well worth your attention is it’s relationship with the arts and crafts.
From leather, textiles and especially metal, craftsmen and apprentices in Marrakech to this day use the skills that have been passed down generation through to generation in the various trades.
This is certainly true in the case of the ‘Tankkacht’, or copper workers of the Marrakech Medina. On or way down Rue Riad Zitoun Kdim, five minutes from Riad Dar Habiba and the cities central square, resident video blogger Jamie Horton and I encountered this Taankacht, whose name is Soufiane.
Soufiane explains that through years of practicing this traditional craft, he is able to inscribe any kind of pattern, lettering or symbol onto various designs of copper with his hand tools. Soufiane goes on to explain to me that to get to his level of expertise, it took him 3 years to learn to inscribe in Arabic, then a further 3 years to master the technique in the Latin languages.
After only 5 minutes Soufiane had inscribed my name into both English and Arabic onto a copper design shaped into the hand of Fatima. For only 30 Dirhams (2.35) this is the ideal souvenir which will allow you to take a piece of Morocco back home with you!
If you take a five minute walk from Koutoubia Mosque and Marrakech’s central square (Jemaa El Fnaa) in the direction of the new town of Guillez, you will find the ‘Ensemble Artisanal’.
The Ensemble offers the same wide selection of handcrafted goods that you could hope to find in the Souks, however the prices are at a fixed rate so it’s the ideal destination if you would prefer not to haggle.
The atmosphere inside the complex is relaxed and tranquil and the Ensemble is not only used as a market but also as a space in which to train young apprentices in traditional Moroccan crafts.
There are a colourful selection of items to browse through, from leather jackets to Moroccan rugs and slippers so it’s an ideal way to lose yourself for an afternoon.
Upon my first visit to the Ensemble Artisanal, I discovered a small section of the closed market which specialised in calligraphy where I was able to have my mothers name hand drawn onto parchment. I think it might have been the first time anyone had asked the calligrapher to have the Irish name, ‘Breda’ translated into Arabic which lead to some initial communication difficulties!
But a few smiles and only 20 Dirhams (£1.57) later I was able to take away something unique from morocco to have sent home to the UK.
Overall the Ensemble Artisanal is a unique experience in Marrakech. Ideal for those desiring a change of scenery from the bustling hive of activity that is the souks, or even just for those seeking some respite from the intense Moroccan sun, there is certainly something on offer for all.
Although there are a huge variety of crafts being practiced in Marrakech, one that you’re path will definitely cross as you discover what the souk’s have to offer is the Moroccan tin work. After a short walk to Jemaa El Fnaa, I come across some of the striking pieces the Marrakshi craftsmen have to offer.
To become the finished product, strips of of tin must first be decorated. The process begins by cutting out the traditionally styled designs and shapes on the sides of the ornaments such as in the photo above. This is a painstaking process as each sequence of the pattern must be performed one at a time. However as you journey through the souks and see the craftsmen at their work you will be astonished at their speed and efficiency.
Once this is complete, then comes the process of soldering and welding the tin into the finished ornament. Below is footage of the craftsman Abdel Moniim and his partner using tin to create a striking collection of lamps ready for sale in the Belaarif souk’s.
The skills that go into creating these astounding pieces go back generations and are usually passed down through families. However despite handmade craftsmanship of the highest caliber, these tin pieces are relatively inexpensive and a small lamp as pictured above can be purchased for around 20 Dirhams (£1.55).
Before your visit to Morocco remember to leave some space in your luggage, as the remarkable selection of crafts that Marrakech has to offer will leave you wanting to bring a small slice of Marrakech back home with you!
Snake charming is an ancient skill in Morocco and those who practice this art can always be found in Marrakech’s central square, Jemaa El Fnaa. Although there are a myriad of remarkable sights to be discovered in the centre of the city, the small communities of charmers will perhaps be those you hear, before you see.
As I take the 2 minute stroll from Riad Dar Habiba with MarrakechRiad’s resident video blogger Jamie Horton in search of the snake Charmers, it doesn’t take us long to single out the snake charmers hypnotic melody from the roaring cries of Marrakshi tradesmen who inhabit the square by day.
After finding a group of charmers Jamie and I exchange nervous smiles (considering the proximity of a rather large cobra) and a few Dirhams so that we can film them practicing their art. However from somewhere between meeting the charmers and trying to learn more about their trade, I find myself sat with between them with a Moroccan water snake draped around my neck like an exotic scarf. “Nonvenomous” one of the charmers laughs at me through a grin, noticing my slight discomfort.
After handing back my new serpentine friend, I retreat back slightly and discover that the man in the green t shirt in the photo above’s name is Abdullah. He tell’s me that he and the other charmers are Berber, an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa. Abdullah explains that although he’s had other professions in his 54 years, he has been snake charming since he was 17.
I ask Abdullah if the snakes have names, to which he replies “of course! This one’s name is cobra and this is python.” Abdullah goes on to explain that wild snakes can’t be found anywhere close to the region surrounding Marrakech. He and the other charmers instead have traveled from the southerly reaches of Morocco to the Sahara deserts in order to catch them.
Seeing the charmers practicing their trade is arguably one of the most mystifying sights Marrakech has to offer. Just click the link below if you want to see what Jamie and I experienced before your visit to Morocco!
Situated in the middle of Marrakech, the central square (Jemaa El Fnaa) truly can be described as the beating heart of the city and a day spent wandering through the groups of performers, artists and musicians can indeed be thirsty work.
So when you’re ready for refreshment there really is no other option than to try a glass of orange juice from one of the countless street vendors that take up shop daily within the square.
All the oranges are freshly picked, sourced locally and have a richer taste compared to what you might expect back in the United Kingdom. So for only 4 Dirham (30 pence) a glass this is my first port of call when the Moroccan heat gets too intense for me.
As it’s currently the month of Ramadan in the Muslim world last night he shared some of his chebakia (a Moroccan sesame cookie shaped into a flower) with me after I enjoyed a glass of his orange juice.
This level of hospitality is commonplace in Marrakech, even though though I’m sure he doesn’t remember my name!
Above is an example of the kind of street art that can be seen on a walk through Marrakech. This piece of art is the work of French street artist Christian Guémy who goes under the pseudonym of ‘C215’. Guémy has been described as being akin in style and popularity to British street artist ‘Banksy’ and his stencil art murals can be seen worldwide, from Marrakech to New York.
Guémy’s technique is to stencil close up portraits of the forgotten individuals of any given city, be it the homeless, street kids or refugees. In this way we remember their faces as we walk down the street.
I spotted this piece in the souk’s, on the door of a local tangia cooker only a few minutes walk from Riad’s Cinnamon and Papillon. I asked him how he felt about and the the image of the small girl being showcased on his front door and he told me was delighted.
This is not the only stencil mural ‘C215’ has publicly exhibited in Morocco and if street art is something that particularly interests you, then during a visit there are opportunities to see much more from this artist!
Our team is split into two, on one side is Jamie Horton, owner of Chasing Safety Media and the resident video blogger. Jamie will be joining us for 2 weeks and he’ll be spending his time shooting footage from all corners of Marrakech.
My name is James Andersen and I will be joining the team as the resident travel writer. I’m an English literature student at Leeds University and I’ve previously worked in Oslo, Norway on an English speaking radio show and next year I will be joining Leeds University Student Newspaper as one of the editors.
From Jamie and myself we would just like to say how delighted we both are to be here and how we are looking forward to sharing some of the magic of Marrakech with you all.
There are 18 souk’s which employ over 40,000 locals of all backgrounds, ages and ethnicity in Marrakech alone. Although that makes for an almost uncountable number of wares to explore and choose from, no adventure in the Marrakshi souk’s is complete without a trip to the poultry market in Marché de Volaille, just a ten minute walk away from Riad’s Cinnamon and Papillon.
As you enter the poultry market the first thing that will demand your attention is that most of the wares on offer are indeed still very much alive. Scorching temperatures in the ancient city mean that the only way to trade in live goods is of course by keeping the produce this way up until the very point of sale. Not only does this entrench the poultry markets with a sense of realism that is somewhat lost to us in the commercial supermarkets of Europe, it also guarantee’s the buyer fresh, unadulterated and delicious produce.
Upon my first entry to the market the squawking of chickens, the constant flow of Arabic and the rich smells of spices and olives gave me a momentary overload of my senses. However once I re-composed myself and pressed on through the souk the defining feature that I took away from the market wasn’t the fruit and chicken that me and my colleague Mostafa had come to buy but instead was the overwhelming hospitality of the salesmen.
As Mostafa haggled prices the owner insisted I come behind the stall, offering me a chair, a fresh orange and a knife as I sat with the salesmen’s son. Although the young man didn’t speak English or French, I discovered his name was Abdullah and he was delighted when I asked if I could take his photo.
As we shared an orange our conversation was reserved mostly to hand gestures and smiles but was proud to tell me he was an avid supporter of Barcelona football club. When I pointed towards myself and said ‘Everton FC?’ Abdullah shook his head, laughing and let out a sigh.
It goes without saying that that some language barriers were made to be broken and that they should never put you exploring Marrakech!
If, during your stay you find yourself wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of Marrakesh for a few hours, by travelling just a few miles from the city outskirts you can not only take a pause to gather your senses but you can also get hands on with a unique aspect of Moroccan agriculture.
These are the Argan tree’s that soon transform the rocky desert that surrounds Marrakesh into an astonishing sea of green after only a half an hour’s drive out of the city. Argan trees have only ever grown in Morocco and are they have become a hugely important resource as the nuts harvested from the trees are composed of a natural variety of beneficial properties which has led to widespread culinary and cosmetic usage
As we venture outside of Marrakech to discover what it is that makes Argon nuts and the oil that comes from it so important, we come across one of the many Argon production co-operatives. Greeted straight from our car, we are ushered into the co-operative in a relaxed and inviting manner that contrasts the intense sales techniques of the Marrakesh souk’s.
Once inside the ladies currently working take a moment’s pause to sing us a traditional Moroccan welcome before our guide starts to explain the step by step process in which the Argan nut is collected and harvested into oil. But this is Morocco and an interesting explanation soon turns hands on as we are guided into the work shop to help the ladies at their work at each stage of production.
The real significance of this process soon becomes apparent as we learn that these production co-operatives provide employment for women in the area which support entire families. Organisations such as this which promote employment are thriving outside and in Marrakech where the charity, Henna Café provide’s quality henna tattoo’s from resident artist Fatimah whilst also offering educational classes in a number of subjects free of charge.
Take note however! We aren’t the only creatures to enjoy the delicious tastes of the Argan tree. As you drive out through the desert you may just come across the local goat’s who seem to have acquired a greater taste for the Argan oil than we have!
Traveling the daily 5 hour round trip to Essouira is what bestows the owners of restaurant 14 and 98 such exquisite, fresh and reasonably priced fish that makes these restaurants a hub of local Moroccans and in the know visitors. This is the numerically
marked restaurant market of Jemaa El Fna square that trundles in daily around 5pm then dispands into the night as if never there around midnight. A site in itself is awing at the process of empty square to bustling food centre in a very short period of time, which can be looked upon from one of the surrounding rooftop cafes. A seeming tourist attraction at first site, you would be greatly mistaken. As tourism in Marrakech has been around for a relatively short time, these mobile restaruants are filled with local people wanting excellent, fresh and locally priced food while discussing the days stories and welcome in inquisitive tourists with open arms and shuffling bums. With set menu’s around 30 dirhams the norm ranging from sheeps head and Moroccan snails, to fresh orange juice bars and tea stalls and with everything in between, this is a site that cannot be missed for those wanting to experience what life in La Medina is truly like. Surrounding this square heart of Marrakech lie the beautifully traditional riads of Marrakech-Riad which give you all and them some for your culturally diverse and memorable stay in Marrakech.
Just an hour and half by 50cc scooter with two people, or 45 minutes by car you can visit a manmade lake of tranquility and beauty steeped on one side by sloping banks intertwined with a small forest and on the other a plateau of barren but charming land. This is lake Lalla Takerkoust, which is a large reservoir supplying the local towns with pure but a little cold, mountainous water. Surrounded by the beautifully snow capped High Atlas Mountains, this is a place you can visit easily from your base in the Marrakshi Medina.
A little muddy in parts near to the water, but only in parts, this lake makes a perfect retreat for a morning stroll or sunny afternoon picnic where your company will be the occasional group of local children playing, or goat herders feeding their flocks on the grassy sides.
A little off the beaten track, but only adding to its secrecy and serenity, this is a surreal area, just beyond the village of Lalla Takerkoust, which is worth a visit for those wanting to escape the vibrant bustle of La Medina.
Leisurely exploring the area surrounding the lake, we came across a small village named Makhefamane which homes a dusty local highstreet with a few general grocery shops, crumbling mud and clay built houses, and some very happy, friendly and accommodating people.
Being invited into peoples homes seems like a national symbol of Marrakech and Makhefamane is no exception. Adballa approaches us mid cigarette as we look over the small football pitch that sits at the end of the village, and in some broken French and finger pointing we visit his home and wonderful family. They treat us to a Moroccan continental lunch of bread, olive oil, jam, butter and sugary tea while his wife feeds her 2 week old baby and his 6 year old daughter jumps around excited to practice the English that she has just learned in school that morning.
At the end of the village is Jnane Tihihit, an eco centre which houses a small diverse farm of seasonal agriculture and amazing array of animals, including some out of place pigs. We take a tour of the Belgian run site and come out feeling placid and inspired.
An example of why Morocco is such a diverse and culturally interesting place, and Marrakech, situated between the pictorially award winning and breathtaking Atlas Mountains, this country makes you see life in beautiful ways, and brings reality to a sense of what it actually is.
With breakfast looking out over Marrakchi rooftops and Atlas contours as your backdrop, Riad Cinnamon offers this plus a team passionately dedicated staff committed to making your stay in Marrakech one to remain with you forever.
A harem of your beautiful women relaxing and natural, greets the Pacha of Marrakech at his grossly decorated palace in the heart of the Marrakshi medina. As the Pacha of Marrakech, most powerful man in Morocco and one of the richest in the world, Themi El Glaoui was able to command great respect and a vast, questionably sourced, wealth built up of investments in Moroccan produce and natural resources.
El Glaoui’s palace Dar El Bacha, not currently open to the public, is a feast of history and architecture that transports visitors into Themis’ world and love of pretty things. Guests at our Riad Papillon arrive at a taxi rank next to the palace. Above are pictures of Dar el Bacha in 2012 and in its heyday in the 1930’s.
Dar El Bacha, a facade, cross the neutral unprepossessing doors and you enter one of the most beautiful palaces of Marrakech! Do not wait for a guide, marvel in the great presentation and detail on the architecture of the palace, open your eyes and see the work of craftsmen who built this masterpiece only a century ago.
A long corridor is awaits gripped visitors. Moving your head to the ceiling you see the Zelliges multicolored cedar wood door painted with the natural pigments available (poppy, indigo and saffron), engraved with the common but highly symbolic star of Morocco.
We move towards the reception room where the Andalusian inspired ceiling rivals colors and forms: exposed cedar wood beams and coffers detailed with beautiful geometry and floral motifs. Tiles and Stucco carvings adorn the columns contours along with rigorous star polygons, Friezes diamond-shaped jewels or “Lion’s Claws,” braids and knots whose colors meet, continuously overlapping.
The seductive courtyard, which is the reception room and room for a grand harem, provides an atmosphere of calm and serenely planted palm trees, banana trees, roses and other colourful plants. By the patio, notice the intriguingly secret ironwork, door knockers and hinges. Opposite the reception hall is the office of the Pasha of Marrakech and open on occasions invite yourself in the hammam, even if the premises are undeveloped and basic by western eyes. Hammam consists of three small rooms (hot, warm and cold) and a relaxation room. The plaster ceiling is painted lace with small openings allowing light to pass just: but the blue, green and red ceiling reflect the ambient light.
Moroccan architecture is unique is many ways and well represented by this beautifully crafted palace seeped in recent history. Decor, ambiance and local techniques can be appreciated at the warming and welcoming and beautiful raids of Marrakech-Riad.
Time and events around “Dar El Bacha,” was difficult for the national unity of Morocco in the turbulent time of the French protectorate. The palace, built in the early twentieth century, was the residence of Thami El Glaoui who, for mutual benefit, brought decisive support to the French “resident” Lyautey based in Marrakech. As a result, in December 1950 El Glaoui was named the highly prestigious ‘Pasha of Marrakech’ by Sultan Mohammed V.
As an influential voice in French Morocco, El Glaoui asked Mohammed V (the Sultan) to no longer listen to the Moroccan nationalist party “Istiqlal” who were in favor of independence. However after an unfortunate misunderstanding involving the brother of Thami, the El Glaoui family showed itself insolent towards the sultan at a hearing and were forbidden from the palace grounds!
Great disharmony ensued from the rash action of the Sultan that in February 1953, El Glaoui met twenty Caïds (tax collectors) who signed a petition calling for the resignation of the Sultan. The 14th and 15th August, Mohammed V and Crown Prince Moulay Hassan were arrested and sent into exile in Madagascar.
Reform placed on Morocco by the increasingly disparate French fretting about their ungovernable colony, led to Mohammed V and Moulay Hassan’s return from exile, where he was officially recognised as the returned Sultan. Kneeling in submission to the true Sultan, Thami was forgiven for his past mistakes and died shortly after with much of his wealth confiscated by the state.
For a time the most powerful man in Morocco and one of the richest in the world, El Glaoui cast a imposing figure and influenced much of Morocco. History and culture runs deep in the streets of the Marrakshi medina. Our traditional Marrakech Riads are located in the heart of the old town, the intimate Riad Papillon is just a few steps from the Glaoui’s Palace in what is now the most fashionable part of the Medina boasting antique shops and restaurants in North Africa.
We were doubly delighted to read Deborah Arthurs kind words in her article in femail.
Riad Cinnamon has such versatile accommodation it has proved itself perfect for groups of all descriptions- wedding partys, family get-aways, dance holidays, hen weekends, and of course yoga retreats!
Our accommodation is so flexible we can offer any combination of romantic doubles, fun and practical family rooms or luxurious twins and triples. When required we can equip the whole of Riad Cinnamon up to 16 with single beds.
Best of all there is a secret roof providing the option of shade in summer and protection from rain showers (yes it can rain in Marrakech!) making Riad Cinnamon the perfect Marrakech Riad if you know you will need to use the riad courtyard.
Make your reservation today!
The FIA World Touring Car Championship Race of Morocco was first run in 2009, the only WTCC race in Africa.
The 2012 race takes place in Marrakech from 13 to 15 April under the patronage of his majesty the King.
There are fantastic hotels and villas all over the world, the luxury accommodation that is unique to Marrakech are the fantastic Riads in the old town Medina. Reserve accommodation with us and experience the ancient city, only a short cab ride from the race track.
The arabic word Rais usually means ships captain, the berber language has borrowed this word to describe the leader of a group, like this one, that play with the traditional Ribab instrument. Recorded live in the Jemma al Fnaa square Marrakech at the time of the Marrakech Film festival 2011, note the giant outdoor screen in the background.
There a many beautiful hotels and Apartments in Marrakech, as there are all over the world. The really unique opportunity when visiting the Red City is to experience a traditional Riad courtyard home.