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Marrakech:

Where To Escape The Bleak Mid-Winter

If you’ve heard of Blue Monday, the name given to a day in January claimed to be the most depressing day of the year, then you’ll also know that Blue Monday happens to be today. At this time of year many of us escape the bleakness of mid-winter in favour of alpine retreats. A little winter recreation on the slopes has always helped detox after December’s festivities. This year has witnessed record snowfalls in the Alps, yet the news on Blue Monday is very blue indeed, because it seems the heavy snowfall is hampering the experience for many. Only a few days ago I read how hundreds of tourists in Zermatt were being airlifted out of their snow entombed chalets. Keeping this in mind an alternative type of escape might be wise to consider this January.

Marrakech has always been a place of inspiration for me. Located on the edge of the Sahara, beneath the snow-capped Atlas mountain range it is one of the four ancient cities of Morocco. Red baked-mud medina palaces, powder-pink ramparts and sensational souks. Marrakech can be a genuine assault on the senses in the summertime, but in winter you’re far more likely to take it in your stride and experience like the former Moroccan Sultans –in the lap of luxury.

 

Where To Rejuvinate

Ravishing and regal, La Mamounia hotel is set in lavish royal gardens and is always the place I choose to stay when visiting Marrakesh. Inside they have the most opulently decorated corridors and atriums, perfumed with orange blossom, jasmine and cedar. Sir Winston Churchill used to have a suite here and you can imagine he was a regular visitor the hamman that remains on site and offers guests the most tranquil introduction to Moroccan rituals.

Where To Explore

The Jardin Majorelle is a place to wander and engross yourself. A botanical creation of twelve acres, filled with the most rare and exotic plantation. For those, like me, with a love of design, then you might notice the electric blue, art deco, villa perched above the gardens. This was the accumulation of forty years work by the French painter Jacques Majorelle. Yves Saint Laurent’s ashes are actually scattered here and throughout the gardens. Another designer in a long list, who were continually inspired wandering these gardens. In this instance the designer in question purchased the site in 1980. Within this desert city the Jardin Majorelle is a welcome oasis, a retreat that delights and intrigues any creative type I know who has ever had the pleasure of walking its trails.

Where To Dine

This turn-of-the-century riad serves beautiful ‘nouvelle cuisine marocaine’, blending traditional Moroccan flavours with french technique. Popular among Hollywood actors, European creatives and the local upper bourgeois, serving them specialties such as sweet pidgeon pastila. beef kefta tajin with cinnamon and egg or perhaps the most delicate morsels of monkfish carpaccio. The gastronomy is just one reason to make a booking. Dar Moha is known as much for its decoration as its fine cuisine. The building itself dates from the French Colonial period and guests tables are strewn with fresh rose petals every evening, where they amass around a heavily bejeweled and mosaiced swimming pool, which overlooks the bustling cityscape.