I’ve been to the Red City several times and can’t seem to get enough. And, I am proud to say, that despite a good sense of direction, this place still remains an un-penetrable mystery to me.
This time, on a 48hr girlfriends’ escape, the ‘ To Do’ list is extensive. Luckily, it urns out the labyrinth that is the medina is easier to navigate without kids in tow!
Our first port of call, Riad Farnatchi is a luxurious oasis amidst the city’s intoxicating and exotic chaos. Made up of several traditional style homes, laid out around courtyards (each uniquely stunning – featuring pools, orange trees and colourful tiles) Farnatchi is set in Kaât Bennahid one of Marrakech’s oldest neighbourhoods and oozes charm, style and history.
The Riad is the perfect hideout with 10 pretty suites, a sleek monochromatic spa and Hammam. Having met James, the owner, it’s also clear the place is packed with personal touches. Affable and welcoming, James is passionate about his family-run business bringing an unmistakeable British flair to the place.
My abode, Suite 10 is a vision in Berber art, cosy carpets, lanterns and local soft furnishings, with a marvellous bathroom featuring its own walk in rain-shower equipped with a plethora of Molton Brown smellies, as well as a standalone iridescent golden mother-of-pearl-look bathtub. You’ll be hashtaging #bathroomgoals. Trust me.
The Riad also has several dining spots, so you can take your (gorgeous) breakfast in your room, on your balcony or by the central pool – or even on the rooftop terrace with views stretching the Atlas mountains in the distance.
Even better, Farnatchi just opened its own neighbouring restaurant: Le Trou Au Mur. On our first night in town, dinner is thus booked ‘next door’ which is really handy – and delicious. We kick off with a Raspberry Martini to get in the celebration mood and sample local delicacies using traditional Moroccan recipes passed down through generations like the Lamb Mechoui (grilled lamb) and Chicken Tride (a dish of pancake pieces with chicken and almonds) that we love. We’re even game to try the spice-packed home-made Raz-el-hanout ice cream – a rainbow of Moroccan flavours chilled in a bowl! Wondering about the local vino? Our friendly waiter also recommends la ‘Petite Ferme’ a rich fruity red that goes to show the local tipple is really rather good. From March onwards, you’ll also be able to have lunch al fresco on the rooftop. I suppose we’ll have to come back for that!
Overall the food in Marrakech is a real treat and a very good reason to visit! The following night at Le Fondouk, a few steps away from the Riad, we find more of that typical cosy Moroccan atmosphere and décor – a fabulous rooftop (though it’s sadly too cold at this time of year), lanterns and candlelight aplenty, 1001 nights décor and great dishes like the classic Chicken tagine with preserved lemons and the seafood pastilla. For desert we indulge in pistachio crème brulée and a tiramisu, with local flavour – seasonal raspberries and a hint of orange blossom. It’s all part of the fantastically indulgent experience we have come to appreciate in Marrakech.
Another must while in town? A stop at the beautiful Majorelle gardens where the painter Jacques Majorelle used to seek inspiration, now famous as a memorial to Yves St Laurent (who owned it after Majorelle). Arrive early to meander through the tropical flora, spot the tiny turtles and see the exquisite blue villa before the crowds. It gets very busy! It’s also a good idea to book tickets to the amazing new neighbouring YSL museum ahead of time. Incredibly popular, for good reason, the museum hosts some of St Laurent’s collection, original sketches and tells the story of the designers’ life – his love life, his muses and his love affair with Marrakech.
With the Riad so centrally located it would have been rude not to schedule a shopping excursion to the souks – a whirlwind of colours, fragrances and an overdose of carpets, bags, lanterns, shoes and anything else you can think of. Don’t forget to bargain, with a smile. The right attitude goes a long way. I managed to cram woven baskets, pyjamas and adorable embroidered dresses for the kids, as well as wooden toy snakes and puzzles, bracelets and the all-essential key-ring pom-poms into my carry on. A packing miracle…
After all that running around and bargaining we needed something to de-stress. Luckily Riad Farnatchi has its own bijou spa with a traditional Hammam– all black marble and steam, where a scrub and rub with black olive pulp and KIS exfoliating gloves flushed out any toxins and left us feeling deeply cleansed and invigorated (not to mention with baby-soft skin).
Who knew you could pack quite so much into 48hours?
We’ll be back soon!