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Marrakesh la rouge

The colours are breathtaking, the smells bewitching, and the hubbub of voices is as exhilarating as it is inviting. And how about enchanted gardens – complete with contemporary art?

Text:
Susanne von Meiss
Photos:
Reto Guntli and Agi Simoes
W

what counts is the magic.

When the “New York Times” and “Le Monde” agree on something, there must be some truth to it. Both leading newspapers count Marrakech among the world’s top 20 destinations for 2017. It is no surprise, really, as the beautiful red city is an impressive combination of imperial history with palaces dating back to the 16th century and a modern urban lifestyle that embraces contemporary art, concept stores, wellness resorts and fresh Moroccan cuisine in stylish restaur-ants. In this oasis between the ocean and the Atlas Mountains, old and new, art and nature live happily side by side. What counts is the magic.

La Sultana – An oasis of calm: relaxing by the pool at the small, elegant five-star riad hotel at the heart of the medina.
Les Jardins de la Medina – The rustle of palm leaves, the spray of water and the smell of orange blossoms enrapture guests at this charming hotel.

The new Jardin Secret, built by the Italian visionary Lauro Milan on the remains of one of Marrakech’s largest riads from the 19th century, and the Jardin Rouge, a sculpture park a 20 minutes’ drive from the city with artists’ residences and a museum for contemporary art by Jean-Louis Haguenauer’s Montresso Foundation – both bear testimony to the successful coexistence of past and present. Similarly, the brand-new Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden – also known as MACAAL – conceived by the collector Mohamed Alami Lazraq, will get along splendidly with the eagerly awaited Yves Saint Laurent museum in the Jardin Majorelle that is due to open this autumn.

Palais Namaskar: Here, the path leading to your private villa is an experience in itself.

If you fancy combining art with magic and mysticism, make the trip to Austrian all-rounder artist André Heller’s Anima Garden and discover an intensely magical world – exotic, fantastical, bizarre. A bit like Marrakech itself.

Attractive and active: Her glamorous hotel Selman is Najat Bennani Smires' passion.
Jacques Garcia: The french designer's dream in velvet in the lobby of the luxurious Hotel Selman.

"Tolerance and sharing are part of this culture." - Prince Fabrizio Ruspoli

You could also be interested in:
1 You founded the Marrakech Biennale in 2002 and have successfully supervised the event since then. How has the city changed in the past 15 years?

Marrakech has become much more open and, as far as art is concerned, even more welcoming. In the past, artists used to make a short visit to Marrakech looking for inspiration. Now there are fantastic residency programmes and infinite, inexpensive possibilities to settle here and be creative.

2 What must someone wanting to purchase a flat or an old house in the medina keep in mind?

When we arrived and wanted to move walls in our new riad El Fenn – where I stay in a different room every time, by the way – the Moroccan architect smiled and said: “Everything is possible here, but nothing is certain! You need to believe in magic, then everything falls into place …”

3 How do you rest and relax in this exciting and stimulating city?

I enjoy spending a day at the Beldi Country Club …lounging by the pool under the old olive trees, being served a glass of crisp, cold Sahari Gris, a local wine … wonderful!

4 You also serve in the Global Diversity Foundation. What does the foundation do?

We are engaged in conserving the earth’s tremendous biological and cultural diversity, including here in Morocco. We realise collaborations in the biocultural field and in continuing education, and, among other things, help the local population make a living from their own resources. You will find more information on the website global-diversity.org!

5 What do you like to buy at the bazaar as a souvenir for yourself or others?

My take home is a bag of Ras el Hanout – ask any spice shop to mix up a handful for you. It is a magical ingredient that I add to both meat and vegetarian dishes. The smell alone takes you back to Marrakech. 

marrakeshbiennale.org

el-fenn.com

global-diversity.org

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