Everywhere you look there’s colour: from bursts of sunshine hanging from fruiting orange trees, to cones of marigold-yellow turmeric and flaming-red cayenne pepper rising like exotic mountain ranges in the shadowy doorways of spice shops.
A delightfully disorientating mix of wild hues and exotic patterns, Marrakech captured the imagination of fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent when he first visited in 1966 – and 50 years later, its heady impact hasn’t diminished one bit.
Falling in love at first sight, the Algerian-born artist bought a property here with his partner Pierre Berge and later restored the famous botanical gardens, Jardin Majorelle, where a museum celebrating his connections with the Moroccan city recently opened next door. Containing numerous key pieces from the designer’s game-changing collections, the Musee Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech (mYSLm) is set to boost this North African destination’s creative appeal once again.
In a dark corridor illuminated by spotlights, a modest but carefully curated selection of garments is modelled by mannequins, providing a visual timeline of the fashion designer’s career. Now signature styles in high street stores, the jumpsuit, pea jacket, smoking jacket and trouser suit all started life in YSL’s sketchbooks.
Where to stay: Head to the Mandarin Oriental Marrakech (rooms from £747)per night with breakfast. mandarin oriental.com/marrakech)
for a fashionable sleep
Although a 15-minute drive from the Medina, this modern property still embodies all that’s great about the city. Each room is a mini palace, with a pool dominating the open-air courtyard and a voluptuous tub almost drowning the bathroom. There’s even a touch screen-operated hammam in the shower, with black soap and scrub mitt provided.
For classy cocktails and trendy dining, book a table at Asian restaurant Ling Ling; and for fine Moroccan fare, head to Mes’Lalla, where outdoor tables are set beneath the stars.
Where to eat: Enjoy a chic eat at Le Trou Au Mur (letrouaumur.com). For too long there’s been a gap in the Marrakech restaurant market; options have historically ranged from high-end hotel appendages to simple street eats, with very little in between. So this new casual diner from the owners of boutique hotel Riad Farnatchi really is in a class of it’s own.
The menu is equally refreshing, serving a selection of forgotten classics rarely served outside Moroccan homes. (The de riguer tagines are still offered, but there’s so much more besides.) A speciality is the meshoui – a slow-cooked lamb. At present, the restaurant is only open for dinner. Three courses will set you back around £24, but a word to the wise, Ring ahead and ask to be met at the Medina walls; it’s easy to get lost.
Where to relax: Make like an A-lister at the Farnatchi Spa (farnatchispa.com). There’s no such thing as too many hammams, so take the opportunity to squeeze in a scrub between exploring sites and souks in the Medina. Opened last year, next door to Riad Farnatchi (who also operate the spa), it features four treatment rooms and two hammams either side of a sun-splashed courtyard.
Prepare to strip down (yes, completely) for a warm soak and thorough exfoliation, promising to leave skin baby soft. It’s a ritual Moroccans practise weekly – and it’s easy to understand why. A 40-minute Simple Hammam costs around £27.50.
Booking.com offers flights from Gatwick to Marrakech with easyJet in January from £110 return. They offer a two-night stay at the Mandarin Oriental from £1,497.