Melissa's Travels

Melissa's Travels to Marrakech: A City in Revival

I have been to Marrakech more than a dozen times, and I never tire of the buzz of the souk, the elegance of the palms against the ancient medina walls, the handmade artistry on display everywhere and the sunset against the snow-topped Atlas Mountains.

I just returned from another visit to scout for an Insider Trip and was again enthralled by the country’s unmistakable glamour and romance. But this time I was struck not only by its eternal charms, but also by Marrakech’s wonderful new boutiques, hotels and cultural institutions that now define the city’s exciting style evolution.

Marrakech's attractions, which appealed from my first visit at 18 years old, are eternal; but the city has evolved in recent years and introduced a concentration of fabulous hotels and resorts, sophisticated boutiques, restaurants and wonderful new cultural institutions. Chief among these are Le Jardin Secret, a restored Islamic garden in the medina, and the soon-to-open Yves Saint Laurent Museum (Rue Yves St. Laurent), which is inspiring a gentrification of the neighborhood around the Majorelle Gardens.

Over the years, I have come to know many of the wonderful expats who have moved to Marrakech and brought a spirit of entrepreneurship that has added creativity and innovation to the city’s ancient traditions. These are people like Vanessa Branson and Meryanne Loum-Martin, who transformed riads into boutique hotels or shopping destinations; and Laetitia Trouillet of and Caitlin and Samuel Dowe-Sandes of Popham Designs, who have brought modern twists to traditional crafts. Marrakech's medina continues to evolve, merging ancient practices with fresh updates like Le Jardin Secret and La Famille, the oasis-cum-lunch-spot.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="620"]Blue wall at Majorelle Gardens in Marrakech Majorelle Gardens[/caption]

Other areas of the city are coalescing around originality. The Yves Saint Laurent Museum has inspired boutiques and restaurants in a previously residential quarter. Likewise, many artisans have moved to the area from the industrial neighborhood of Sidi Ghanem to Gueliz, where boutiques like Art/C are so cutting edge that the designer’s fashions are carried at Dover Street Market in Tokyo and London. Other nearby spots not to miss are Kaftan Queen and Fadila el Gadi.

And just in time for summer, Marrakech's pool scene has been elevated with the new Le Jardin at Royal Mansour, which is open to the public with cabanas and a poolside café that give La Mamounia a real run for its money. Beldi Country Club has also expanded the concept of a day by the pool by creating a shopping village centered around Beldi Verre (which is one of the last places in the country where you can see old bottles blown into traditional Moroccan tea glasses). These ateliers for ceramics, carpets and more make for a great stop before or after lunch by the pool. Both spots embody the best of Marrakech–which marries a respect for history and heritage infused with timeless Moroccan style–which is why I will never tire of returning here.

For this reason I am always inspired by Morocco—from its pulsing cities and untamable landscapes to the sense of stillness it inspires—and will never tire of returning here.

Melissa's Marrakech: Top Shopping

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="620"]Left: Shopping for rugs; Right, Lalla Boutique, Marrakech Left: Courtesy Richard Waite; Right, Lalla Boutique[/caption]

Marrakech can be a shopper’s fantasy or nightmare depending on your appetite for discovery and negotiation. If scouring markets and bargaining over prices brings out the treasure hunter in you, then you can spend hours in the souk making discoveries and finding special storerooms and boutiques. There are four distinct regions for shoppers: the souk or medina, with its stalls of local makers as well as some more traditional boutiques; Gueliz, the new town with independent boutiques; Majorelle area, near the famous gardens; and Sidi Ghanem, the industrial area, where you shop directly in showrooms. However, for those who prefer to find a well-edited selection of refined designs, you may prefer heading to some of the better hotel shops and newer, expat-run boutiques where professional fashion hunters have done the scouting work for you. Read our list of top shops.

Marrakech: Our Community

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="620"]Left: Madeline Weinrib; Right: 33 Rue Majorelle in Marrakesh Left: Madeline Weinrib; Right: 33 Rue Majorelle[/caption]

Indagare has cultivated an exciting network of designers and tastemakers who are experts on Morocco's style enclave. Read on to hear more from our Marrakech ambassadors, or read Q&As from Indagare's vast community of insiders. "I am constantly inspired by the colors and the design of Marrakech. I also love the food, the people and the landscape; it’s always a place for more discovery." ~ Madeline Weinrib

Read our interview with designer and Marrakech expert Madeline Weinrib where she talks about her favorite spots in the city. “Our designs take their aesthetic cue from our life in Morocco and the things that inspire us—the curve of an arch, a delicate carved wooden ceiling, the branch of an almond tree." ~ Caitlin Dowe-SandesRead our interview with Caitlin and Samuel Dowe-Sandes, the husband-and-wife team behind Popham Design, and get their tips on how best to enjoy the red city.

Marrakech: Giving Back

To the young women growing up in Morocco’s rural villages, staying in school, unfortunately, is not always a given. In fact, only 6% of girls outside of cities attend secondary school, as many are obligated to earn a living and marry at a young age. But Project Soar –a non-profit organization helping to educate and empower young women–works to prepare a brighter future for some of these girls. Read more about Project Soar

Published onMay 15, 2017

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