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THE MERCURIAL COLORS OF MOROCCO
White, like the towns overlooking the cool blue of the restless ocean. Fanned by the trade winds, the beach at the foot of the ramparts in Essaouira comes alive every morning with fishermen bringing in bream and mullet. Horsemen ride by, spurring their mounts to a gallop. To the north, the aptly-named Casablanca is a showcase of modern buildings from the first half of the 20th century. The forward-thinking architects of the Kingdom’s cosmopolitan economic capital paired Moroccan wrought iron with art deco motifs, and functionalist or Bauhaus-inspired forms with the spare cubist volumes of the traditional dwellings.
Ochre like the medinas, those mazes of narrow streets whose high walls protect riads with sumptuous inner courtyards as well as simple fondouks, the only buildings with gates tall enough to admit loaded draft animals. In Fez, Meknes and Marrakech, visitors learn to abandon their sense of direction, navigating by sound and smell through the labyrinthine souks. The clanging of hammers on metal precedes the sight of the brassworkers, busy embossing and chasing their teapots, platters and lamps. The fragrances of curcuma and anise herald the spice vendors, their wares displayed in colorful heaps. In every little square the locals sip sweet mint tea to the sound of babbling fountains adorned with zellige tiles. The aroma of freshly-baked bread leads the way to the hammam, its chambers heated by the neighborhood oven. The herbalists’ stands are stocked with pure argan oil, ready to be used in a restorative massage. Much sought after by international cosmetics manufacturers, it is derived from a shrub that grows only in Morocco — in the south, where the land itself is ochre.
South is the direction of the snowy peaks of the High Atlas, and of Ouarzazate. Called the “doorway to the desert,” it also opens the door to a green Morocco: the vast palm groves of the Drâa Valley are no mirage. For 200 kilometers (125 miles), streams of clear, precious water flow gently in the shadow of almond and date trees, irrigating each plot in turn. In the Dades Valley, a long oasis between arid mountains, the setting sun tints the mud-brick ksars, oleanders and narrow gorges with all the warm hues of a captivating land.
Top to bottom and left to right: Ksar Char-Bagh, nestled in the palm grove of Marrakech / A patio at Villa des Orangers, Marrakech /
Dinner in the desert of southern Morocco / The view of the medina of Fez and the Atlas Mountains from the terrace of the Riad Fès / Interior view of Dar Ahlam, Skoura
Hotel and restaurant in a park. The intoxicating fragrance of the herb garden and fig and olive orchards wafts through the air of the magical Ksar Char-Bagh, a Moorish palace nestling in the palm grove of Marrakech, just ten minutes from the Medina. The gentle rushing of the water irrigating the gardens reaches your harim, a small private suite overlooking a terrace or a private garden. Guests may eat their meals where the fancy takes them: the French chef uses vegetables from the palace cottage garden. A huge red marble hammam, strolls in the gardens, orchard or around the farm, and a cigar cellar, smoking lounge and library bar add the final touches to this Moroccan paradise. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant on the seafront. This palace of marvels lies in the heart of Essaouira, a mysterious and spiritual place loved by artists and adventurers alike. L’Heure Bleue Palais has succeeded in preserving the character of a traditional Moroccan house and the hospitality cherished by this country. At the crossroads of African, Moorish, Portuguese, English and oriental influences, the rooms and suites are located around the patio, where a fountain sings and the heart of the Riad beats. The traditional hamman is the perfect place to relax, the panoramic outdoor pool on the terrace overlooks the medina and the ocean, and the cuisine is a subtle blend of French and Moroccan influences. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant in town. A subtle mix of Andalusian sumptuousness and Moroccan art de vivre, the Riad Fès reflects its prestigious past and the refined civilisation to which it belongs. This majestic palace is an authentic example of Hispanic-Moorish architecture, boasting four harmoniously styled patios, sculpted doors and zelliges on the walls, stucco arcades and marble basins. It offers panoramic views of the magical spectacle of the sun rising over the Fès Medina, and the Atlas mountains. Hammams and massages, fountains, smoking-rooms, sophisticated cuisine and a trendy lounge bar: this is a world where traditions and contemporary conveniences combine delightfully. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant in town. Véronique and Pascal Beherec have used the best of Moroccan craftsmanship to decorate this palace, which is full of fine fabrics, sofas, and pillowcases embroidered with gold thread. The moment you arrive, you know you are in for a real treat. The private Riad suite has its own swimming pool and patio, and you can sip mint tea and nibble Moroccan delicacies. With a big garden and patios full of plants, a massage rooms and a Nuxe beauty salon, a restaurant that blends French, Mediterranean and Moroccan influences, a cigar cellar, and three pools, including two which are heated during the season and one on the roof overlooking the Koutoubia and the Atlas mountains, you will be left wondering what more you could wish for. ... Learn moreless