Marrakesh by Design: a Guide for Artists, Writers and Creatives.
Walking the streets of Marrakesh can be like treading a tightrope. It’s a fine line between fever pitch and boiling point. Expect to be quite literally swept of your feet; Motorbikes shoot through twisting alleys; Donkeys plummet across the main square.
After a day or so, you will learn to dodge the snake charmers. You will keep an even footing on mosaic floors. But it might take a little longer to shake the sense of vertigo.
Marrakesh has the unique ability to both over and under whelm.
This was my experience the first couple of times that I visited. I felt a degree of sympathy with the monkey that was paraded across Jamaa El Fna square. It is near impossible to escape the tourist traps.
Third time lucky. It took three vists, but now Marrakesh is now one of my favorite cities in the world. You just have to know where to look. or in this case, where to wander, sleep, sip, browse and gaze.
Here is a map for those who fall off grid – an alternative guide to Marrakesh. Step off the tightrope to walk the path less travelled. With this guide you can channel the hysteria into creative energy. Find authentic experiences. Be Inspired. All on a freelancer’s budget.
The Jardin Marjoelle is the kind of garden that one suspects was made for a romantic rendezvous or a secret tete-a-tete.This is the perfect oasis for those who wish to live a paint-splattered, ink stained existence. Here you will find both refuge and inspiration: a place to create and recuperate. It was, after all, created by an artist. Jacques Majorelle himself used to say that “The painter has the modesty to regard this enclosure of floral verdure as his most beautiful work.”
It is, however, most famous as the garden of Yves St Laurent. The designer and his partner bought the garden after “We were seduced by this oasis where colors used by Matisse were mixed with those of nature.”
There really is something seductive about this place. Of course, the cubist colour pallete (bright yellows and blues) and the shady palms don’t go astray either.
Fans of the film Casablanca often leave the eponymous city disappointed. Casablanca, the city, is far from the glamorous world occupied by Ingrid Bergman. Many people are drawn to Morocco by their love for the classic film. Rather than making a cinematic pilgramage to the city itself I would direct them rooftop bar of La Salama. It provides all of the colonial architecture and hollywood glamour that the city lacks. The bars and restaurants of Jamaa El Fna are all touristy. This one is no exception. What is exceptional, however, is the design features, cocktail menu and sunset views. Think beautiful leather chairs and ornate arches that frame a view over the medina. Like a local: no. Like a hollywood starlet shot in black and white: oh yes indeed.
Staying in a Riad is part of the quintessential Marrakesh experience. A Riad is a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard – basically the Arabian Nights/Aladdin mash up of your imagination. Airbnb is a great place to find an authentic Riad to rest tied eyes or feast them on beautiful decor. Many of Marrakesh’s Riads have been restored with a love and respect for Moroccan culture. Some of the best double as Artsy boutique hotels, featuring the work of local creatives. Many boast rooftop lounges with views over the city to the Atlas mountains: the perfect place to set up a temporary office so that you can work on your next novel or masterpiece whilst you travel.
I have a favorite french idiom: “Faire du lèche vitrine”. Figuratively, it means to window shop. The literal translation, however, is to window-lick. Confusing, yes. Until I discovered MY design Marrakech. Then I thought, mais oui, of course. This shop has mouthwateringly good design. The contemporary twist on traditional motifs was entirely lickable. These are not your average souvenirs. This store could be in Copenhagen or Stockholm, yet at the same time it is quintessentially Moroccan. It is not cheap, but even if you walk empty handed you will leave with a sense of discovery: this is the Morocco of the moment.
Collaboration is the cornerstone of creativity. Artists lift each other up. Life is better when we do away with the competition and practice vicarious pride. We should celebrate even the smallest of successes, even if they are not your own. In fact, especially if they are not your own. One of the best ways that you can do this is to visit Ensemble Artisanal Marrakech. This is a government sponsored collective of artisan workshops. Here you can meet local artists as they share their craft with their apprentices and sell their creations to the public. When you travel, it is so important to remember to always look up. Here at the Ensemble Artisanal you won’t be able to help it. Prepare yourself for intricate carved ceilings and beautiful lanterns. That said, with your head in the clouds you should keep you feet firmly on the ground. Or in this case the beautiful mosaic floor.
Embrace The Chaos
They say that life begins at the edge of your comfort zone. Beyond that is where the magic happens. This is why we travel. To stretch our horizons further than our understanding. To teeter over the edge of the known. Distance and difference are the secret tonic of creativity.
This is also why Morocco is such a dream destination. Nothing compares to the mystique of this panorama: Camel rides, berber tents and desert nights lit by the milky way.
What Marrakech lacks in camels and stargazing it makes up for with an insight into the creative lives of modern Moroccans. Marrakesh is certain to push you out of your comfort zone. Embrace this truth. Look for the magic in the chaos. Create good art.