A stroll in Marrakech
it still make sens to introduce Marrakech to readers with its
impressive architectural and cultural heritage? is there anyone
who hasn't heard of Jâmaa El Fna square and its labyrinth of
souks or of koutoubia and or the Saadian tombs? Well, just
because it's springtime and we feel like veering off the beaten
track, allow us to whisk you off on the discovery of marrakech's
lush vegetarian for a holiday markd by fresh air and serenity,
this is not to stop you from enjoing the other experiences that
this multiple-faceted city has to offer of course.
By Valérie Tazi
Marrakech weaves its magic
everywhere whether in the souk, in the vibrancy of Jemaa El Fna
square, at nightfall, in the unfolding of a rose or in the
tikling of fountain water splashing on zellige.
Marakech has a particularly rich ecological heritage and boasts delicately fragranced gardens were a secular tradition.
we will begin off our garden tour with a visit to Menara gardens located just outside town and which can be accessed by horse-drawn carriage if you wish -ever so romanti! With Koutoubia Minaret, Menara gardens gives other sites a run for their money for the tittle of marrakech's symbolic monument. This huge garden with olive groves has a pavillon overlooking a large Almoravid pond that functions as a reservoir for irrigating cultivated land.
The gardens of Agdal (garden in berber), located behind the Royal Palace are genuine orchards with orange, fig, pomegranate, apricot and olive trees laden with blossom or fruitdepending on the seasen. A stone's throw from the medina you will come accross Koutoubia rose garden, the source of fragrant scent when in bloom. Still within the ramparts, Arsat Moulay Abdeslam Park has recently been turned into a Cyber Park by Maroc Telecom under th einitiative of HRH Princess Lalla Hasna, President of the Mohammed VI Foundation for the protection of the Environment. Perfect for checking your emails or confirming the weather on the internet.
A garden tour of Marrakech would not be complete without popping over to Majorelle Garden in Gueliz, designed by the french artist of the same name during the 1920's and the place where he set up his artist's worrkshop. Neglected after Majorelle's death, the garden was later restored to its former glory by French designer Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge in 2000. With plants imported from five continents, the garden's flora has flourished from 135 spicies in 1999 to the 350 or so to be found there today, including a superb collection of cacti, palms, bamboo and ferns from Latin America and Oceania, all rubbing shoulders with bougainvillea, coconut palms, banana and palm trees... A small musuem on site houses Islamic objects of arts such a carpets, ceramics, jewellery and the artist's watercolors. It's in this pleasant and poetic setting that Yves Saint Laurent ashes have been laid to rest. And if the beneficial effetcs of all this chlorophyll hasn't put a spring in your step, you can take part some of the activities during Jardin'art, an Art Festival running from 10th to 12th April organized by "Moroccan Gardens, World Gardens" magazine: a discovery of short term gardens created by landscape gardeners or for conferences; a tour of private gardens...
Riads (meaniing garden in Arabic) are also a source of marrakech's flora, albeit in a condensed format. These small palaces, refuges from the outside world, are designated around a small central courtyard and often feature trees and a fountain and have been, in most cases, renovated to their former splendour by passionate people respecting the traditions of the past. They now welcome guests who want to sample the Moroccan art of living. Once you have meandered up the winding alleyways of the Medina and passed through the doors of one of these dwellings you find yourself in world with a unique ambiance, leaving light for shadow, heat for freshness, hustle and buste for serenity. Bougainvillea, banana, and palm trees, rose bushes and orange trees welcome the visitor. There are approximately 700 riads in Marrakech, ranging in style fro the most traditionnal of dwellings to the most minimalist.
Marrakech is also...
A city for new experience because it is chock-full of contrast packed with different influences.This is a city where everything and anything is possible. Jet-setters from around the world understand this only too well and have made marrakech one of their top holiday hotspots.
Here in the Red City you can tickle your taste buds with tajines, dellicious little salads, briwates and other specialities of local cuisine in restaurants decorated in a style worthy of a thousand and one nights as well as indulge in sushi in a zen environment or food with a mediterranean feel on a sunny terrace or pasta al dente in an ultra stylish setting. There are more dining options here than you can shake a stick at.
It's the same story when it comes to shopping. If the traditionnal floats your boat, head towards the souks in the Medina. Here you will find pottery, oriental slippers, leather bags, carpets, jewellery, sabra, spicies...You will find no less than 40,000 craftspeople showcasing their goods in multi-colored stalls and a jumble of bric-a-brac where bargaining is the order of the day. An Ali Baba's cave in which you can lose totally youself. If you are on the hunt of more designer objects, head for Sidi Ghanem, marrakech's industrial zone and home to designers and artists whose work evokes contemporary Morocco. Here you will find candles, new style embroidered linen, lamps, furniture, and women goods...Often a great hit at international fairs, these modern-day craftsmen and women illustrate the dynamic nature of Moroccan creativity.
Finally, if you lean towards more sporty pursuits, the natural scenary around Marrakech - green and lush at spring thanks to the rainfall that has soaked the land throughout the winter month - will provide a great setting for you to practice your swing on one of the eight golf courses in the region, or for trekking in Ourika valley or enjoying treetop rope activities or some mountain biking at "Terres d'Amanar" adventure park.
Marrakech and its inhabitants are adept at swinging from tradition to modernity and from craftsmanship to design to provide tourists with thrills that they won't find anywhere else, experiences that they can only have here, at the foot of the snow capped peacks of the Atlas mountains and under the very friendly gaze of palm trees.