The Fashionable Guide to Marrakech
When you think of Marrakech, you might not immediately dub it a fashion capital. But the subtlety of its beauty—the regal architecture, the energy of the medina at dusk, the terracotta-hued buildings and expansive palm desert before the backdrop of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains—creates a poetic amalgam of wanderlust that has inspired fashion and art for centuries. Yves Saint Laurent, Serge Lutens, and Jacques Majorelle are among the famed group of creatives that fell under Marrakech’s spell and now have their own odes to the city in tangible form—from homes to museums, to architecture. With the surge of fashionable tourists that Marrakech has seen over the last decade, it’s clear that there is still much that inspires.
Below, a very chic travel guide to the enchanting Moroccan city.
Without even leaving the hotel—that is, if you’re staying at the Royal Mansour– Marrakech has already exceeded your expectations. You can see so much of what makes Marrakech a fashion crowd favourite without even exiting the palace’s—err, the hotel’s—gates. Immediately you’re greeted by the abundant and eager staff (the staff to guest ratio is 10 to 1 and everyone speaks an impressive range of languages—from English to French to Arabic as lessons are available to all staff on the property). They’ll escort you through the five acres of palm and lemon tree-lined gardens that surround the 53 private terracotta-coloured riads.
Arrive at your private riad immediately feeling like the protagonist of your own fairytale. In true riad fashion, each home opens up to its own mini courtyard with a cascading fountain. The subtle opulence is characterized immediately by the velvet, brocade, and silk details throughout each of the several floors of every riad on the property. And in Marrakech, you can never forget to look up. The ceilings– wooden and hand-carved—add a modest regality to the already royal experience. The best amenity of all is that each riad comes complete with a rooftop private plunge pool where you can enjoy the afternoon sun while sipping Nana tea or eating breakfast in your canopy before the start of the day (brought to you by your personal butlers). The experience is only topped by a visit to the hotel’s world-renowned spa (don’t leave without booking a private hammam) and a reservation at La Grande Table Marocaine.
Serge Lutens House and Laboratory
A recluse himself, famous perfumer, Serge Lutens spent many years of his life building his enchanting home in the heart of the medina, which until recently has been Marrakech’s best-kept secret. The irony is that Lutens never actually lived in the home; he chose not to after spending 35 years designing and overseeing its construction. It wasn’t until recently that he opened it up for tours exclusive to Royal Mansour guests. Lutens’ love affair with Marrakech is evident in the interior design of the home. Inside, you’ll find darkly lit, yet decadently detailed and meticulously handcrafted sitting rooms that have seldom been used by Lutens himself, along with several other North-African inspired spaces and artefacts. It is an eerily elegant masterpiece nestled quietly in the heart of the Medina that is not to be missed.
Musée Yves Saint Laurent
Algerian born, Yves Saint Laurent famously said, “The colours of Marrakech gave me colour.” In 1966, he bought a vacation home in the city that inspired much of his career. (Marrakech was so important to Saint Laurent that after his death, his ashes would be scattered in the Majorelle Gardens next door.) The museum, which opened in 2017 is unpretentious and easily digestible; it reveals a well-summarized and visually compelling scope of YSL’s career. Inside the terracotta-coloured building perched just beside the Jardin Majorelle, you’ll find a concise timeline and exhibit showcasing Saint Laurent’s life and designs that influenced decades of fashion.
It’s really no wonder that Jardin Majorelle is one of the most visited sights in Morocco. The natural beauty and colours of the two and a half acre botanical garden and landscape garden looks practically biblical. Created by the French Orientalist artist, Jacques Majorelle, it features a famously photographed Cubist villa in Majorelle blue designed by the French architect Paul Sinoir. Arrive early to enjoy a peaceful stroll before the large crowds.
Sidecar ride to Dar El Sadaka Sculpture Garden in Palmeraie
Take a ride through palm oasis, Palmeraie and end up at French visual artist, Jean-Francois Fourtou’s prolific family-owned villa, Dar El Sadaka (known for “House Fallen from the Sky” and the “Giant’s House”). The memorable day starts off by getting picked up from the Royal Mansour by Marrakech Insiders’ chic vintage sidecars. Cruise through Marrakech in style, taking in the sights and smells of the medina then onwards toward Palmeraie. Arrive at what can only be described as a scene out of Alice in Wonderland. Walk through Jean-Francois Fourtou’s fantasy world that will make you feel like a kid again with a surprise in every corner. End the day with a private lunch in the Giant’s House.
Shopping the Souks
Pack light before your trip as the souks are the highlight for many when visiting Marrakech. The city is practically synonymous with its energetic heart in the medina. If you need help navigating the bustling stalls of slippers, spices, soaps, silver, ceramics, rugs and throws, contact Mustapha (the self-proclaimed Marrakech GPS). He’ll take you through the busy markets by way of charming shortcuts and side streets that lead to chic hidden cafes like Dar Cherifa. Words to the wise: go in the AM to avoid crowds and start your bargain at half what asking price is.
This article was originally published on L’Officiel Singapore.