THE JOURNAL

The Red City: A Marrakech Travel Guide

Known for its ochre-tinged beauty, history and cuisine, Marrakech is a feast for all senses. Sarah-Louise and Christopher share their experiences in The Red City.

Morocco’s glittering bohemian jewel Marrakech is only four hours from London, yet feels a world away. The sights, scents and flavours of the Red City serve up a dose of ancient wonder combined with sensuous luxury and aesthetic simplicity. It’s the kind of place you visit once — and immediately know you’ll be back: from the warm morning glow as the sun rises over the Atlas mountains, the flurry of fast paced traffic, powder pink buildings and magicians in Jemaa el-Fna Square to the majestic Medina walls, terracotta walkways and thrill of haggling for rugs and gleaming trinkets in the city’s souks. An exotic, sensory overload like no other, Marrakech will captivate all who venture behind its ochre-coloured walls.

Rooftop view of Marrakech
— A rooftop view of Marrakech

Sarah-Louise at Amanjjena
— Sarah-Louise at Amanjena

Sights, scents and sounds

Located seven miles south of the Medina at the gateway to the Sahara Desert, our oasis for a few days was the prestigious and inimitable "peaceful paradise", Amanjena. Influenced by Marrakech’s Saadian tombs, the majestic arches, lush palms and olive trees sit in perfect harmony with the dusky pink walls, stunning water reflections, and tranquil villas; a spacious and serene escape from the bustle of the souks.

 

Each room feels like a private palace adorned with local Berber rugs, traditional lanterns and majestic furnishings — and, as with all Aman resorts, the service, food and ambience was effortlessly flawless. A place of pure untarnished tranquillity, Amanjena is a marvel worth experiencing at least once in a lifetime.

 

Hidden behind the 12th century walls of the Medina, it’s easy to lose yourself in the scents, sounds and winding walkways of Marrakech’s iconic souks. Chaotic yes, but despite its reputation for pushy traders, there is an energy and atmosphere unlike anywhere we have ever visited, and the chaos plays a central role in the charm.

Fine dining in the Red City

As the sun began to set, casting a golden glow across the beaten clay walls, a quick glance at our Big Pilot’s and Portofino Automatic Moon Phase timepieces told us it was time for dinner. Tucked along an alleyway in the heart of the Medina, El Fenn is made up of seven traditional courtyard houses decorated in rich jewel tones, unique works of art and natural textures. It claims to have the best rooftop in the city and we’re inclined to agree. Our dinner was truly magical, a candlelit affair under the stars, looking out over the Koutoubia Mosque. The food was faultless, three delicious and beautifully presented courses of modern Moroccan cuisine. In the distance, the sun disappears behind the Atlas mountains as the call to prayer echoes across the Medina; we were well and truly under Morocco’s enchanting spell.

 

In recent years, Marrakech has seen a rise in new wave riads, contemporary eateries and vibrant boutiques, securing the Red City a place at the top of every jetsetter’s bucket list. Here are a few of our favourite places to eat, shop and see.

Seating at El Fenn in Marrakech
— Traditional elegance at El Fenn
Christopher wears the IWC Big Pilot IW501001 at Nomad
— Christopher wears the IWC Big Pilot's Watch at Nomad

A cultural feast

Lunchtime views don’t get much better than Nomad; secure a seat on the rooftop for fresh Moroccan delicacies and unrivalled views of the lively souks below. For modern textiles and ceramics, suffused with a retro sun kissed nonchalance and hint of Picasso, jump in a taxi 30 minutes from the centre of the city to LRNCE, a boutique and studio by artist Laurence Leenaert. Step back in time and explore the city’s cultural heritage at Bahia Palace, a masterpiece of Moroccan design. Escape the bustle and head to Beldi Country Club for lunch in a garden oasis. Discover the mesmerising architecture and cactus-lined walkways of the Musée Yves Saint Laurent, an artistic hub dedicated to the legendary couturier and a handful of his finest works of art.

 

Follow @iwcjournal on Instagram to stay up to date with our adventures and find out where we venture to next.

 


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Sarah-Louise Marks and Christopher Phelps run the popular travel blog "The Adventures of Us". The London-based couple are sharing their breathtaking escapes on The Journal in a special travel series.