Marrakech at once feels ancient and cosmopolitan. An air sits over the city of timeless Berber resilience and effortlessly chic French style. This North Africa melting pot has you longing to stay, lounging on plush rugs, eating over low carved tables while wearing vibrant silk caftans sipping tea and forgetting where you must return. Read All Articles
In 1966 Graham Nash took the train, the Marrakech Express, from the port city of Casablanca to “get away to see what we could find.” He expected “charming cobras in the square, colored cottons hanging in the air, djellabas we can wear at home.” We made the 125 mile trip south by taxi, looking for treasures to live with at home. Set between the High Atlas Mountains and the steppes that lead to the Sahara Desert, Marrakech has hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. It’s cooler than we expected …I’ll need to buy a sweater.
Marrakech is an old/new city of a million people, a mix of modern, European-style neighborhoods and the ancient walled Medina, with its markets, souks, and that famous square. On and off through Marrakech’s history, the city has been the capital of Morocco, and for hundreds of years a center for leather goods and metal working, a major trading center, and a gateway between North Africa and Europe.
A Curated World has come here to discover the luxury craft that has risen out of this mixed cultural area to become known as ‘Moroccan.’ Morocco washes over us effortlessly, and we all soon feel at home.
We are desperate to know what is found within the hidden walls of the riads, the Moorish style courtyard houses that make up the old city. But outside and amidst the narrow paths of the souk, a market labyrinth, nothing is hidden. The yarn seller spins; the donut seller puts smiles on little ones’ faces; the egg seller drives his moped, weaving through the crowds with a stack of crates higher than his head; a nut seller hands out roasted almonds still hot- he has caught you…
It works. Somehow everything operates in a way that is so foreign, but comforting at the same time. Everything here is alive. Is Marrakech the definition of hustle or die? Perhaps. Yet everyone is friendly and cups of tea always await.
We make a side trip to Essaouira, a port-city on the Atlantic, a straight shot west 90 miles from Marrakech. It’s a well-travelled road. Historically, the city is the end point for goods on the long caravan route from sub-Saharan Africa via Timbuktu, across the desert and over the Atlas Mountains.
Essaouira is one of the finest naturally sheltered ports in North Africa. Its geography explains why it has been invaded, occupied, seized, and exploited by powers for centuries, from the Romans to the Portuguese, Dutch, English, and French. The purple stripe on Imperial Roman Senatorial togas came from a dye factory in Essaouira. Moroccan Jews were encouraged to settle here to handle the European trade and at one point comprised 40% of the population.
Today, Essaouira is a center for the arts, with galleries and an annual “Moroccan Woodstock” world music festival that draws hundreds of thousands of spectators. But we have come with friends who are here to relax as we enjoy fresh seafood, midday sun on a terrace, a carpet-strewn nightclub, late night dancing, and belly laughs.