Ben Youssef Medersa, Marrakech

Newsletter Dec 2013: Just back from…Marrakech

Just back from Marrakech, where Sally can happily report the sky is still blue and the sun is still shining (have a look at her lovely photos if you don’t believe us). Christmas shopping need not be as tiresome as traipsing down Oxford St in the dim grey twilight, so why not give your Christmas stockings a more exotic flavour this year and do a last minute dash to the glamourous Gueliz boutiques and present-laden souks of the medina. We’ve got the inside scoop on where best to stay:

Riad Farnatchi

Centrally located in one of the oldest (and seemingly less hectic) parts of the Medina, Riad Farnatchi is the perfect place from which to launch your souk exploration, and we have plenty of shopping tips to help you navigate the alleyways and find the perfect present. Each room has its own terrace or courtyard so you can breakfast in private, wearing nothing but your complimentary Djellaba (robe) and fez! There are lovely Molton Brown bath products and wonderful massages to be enjoyed in the in-house spa. For something a little different we definitely recommend a visit to the Maison de la Photographie which is a stone’s throw from the riad – we really enjoyed it. James the owner gave us his top Christmas present recommendation, the newly published The Riads of Marrakech, in which Riad Farnatchi features.

The Capaldi

A new addition to our Morocco portfolio, the newly opened Capaldi hotel has already had rave reviews from Sally and Alice guests. Capaldi is owner run and managed by Tara and Ed, both from property/design backgrounds in the UK. This place is a true retreat (no children under 12 years allowed!) set in the grounds of a 4-hectare former olive farm in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, a 45-minute drive from Marrakech. There’s a large heated pool, a good-sized spa, and the hotel can organise a guide to take you walking in the mountains for a day. The rooms are spacious and done very stylishly in neutral tones – not typically Moroccan, but clean, fresh and relaxing (the rooms at the front of the main house have the best views of the Atlas Mountains).

Beldi Country Club

The (very French) Beldi Country Club is beautiful – an eclectic, rustic hotel sprawling over hectares of rose gardens just 10 minutes taxi ride from the centre of town. We loved the fresh and flavoursome food – warm breads, salads and fresh herbs straight from the garden. It’s both a place to relax and get your shopping done at the same time with a mini bazaar on site selling pottery (you can watch your tagine being made), embroidered linens, clothing, glassware and furniture – mostly made by artisans at Beldi.

Riad Kniza

A stay at Riad Kniza now feels like home, we keep coming back – mainly for the incredible service that the owner Mohamed Bouskri and his family and team offers to all guests who stay at the riad. Mohammed himself is a widely respected guide (he’s successfully navigated everyone from Ronald Reagan to Brad Pitt through the alleyways of the medina) and he gave us a great bookshop recommendation – Fnac Berbere on Rue Mouassine (near Djemaa el Fna) for local art, photography and design books.

All I want for Christmas…

As ever we found time to sample some of Marrakech’s finest eateries and do a bit of window shopping … For drinks we had great fun at Jad Mahal watching the bellydancers (be sure to glam up for this place) and Churchill’s cocktail bar at La Mamounia. For great food try Dar Moha, El Fassia and Le Fondouk, which is just a stone’s throw from Farnatchi (be sure to book a table on the roof terrace). For best shopping head to the glamourous boutiques of the Gueliz District in the new town – we love 33 Rue Majorelle, a sleek emporium opposite Jardin Majorelle with two levels of stock, Studio Lalla, our long time favourite Michele Baconnier Boutique, and Moor (pictured above) all on Rue de la Liberte. We want to send a special congratulations to our friend Stephen Direnza (owner and creator of our favourite Fez bolthole Riad 9) who was made Creative Director for the Jardin Majorelle earlier this year – he also has a great boutique on site.

Don’t forget to post your Christmas wish list to the following address: