In general, Mustapha tour hours are as follows:

morning – 9am to 1pm
afternoon – 2pm to 6pm
Tours cover the medina, historical buildings, museums, gardens, souks and various exotic and authentic aspects of Marrakech.

Postcard from Mallorca & Marrakech: Interior Designer Ariel Ashe’s Top 5 Things to Do

Clockwise from top left: Ariel Ashe, wearing Tory’s Lipsi one-piece, in Mallorca; the Spanish architecture there; Ashe, in Tory’s Carina top, while in Marrakech; poolside in Marrakech; the Moroccan landscape; Mustapha Chouquir, the best local guide; a snapshot of Tory’s Elora slides in Marrakech; view of the Mediterranean from Mallorca

MARRAKECH, MOROCCO

1. Souks
Tour the souk with Mustapha Chouquir — he is the best guide in Marrakech.

2. El Fenn
Visit this hotel. We stayed in a villa outside of town, but if you want to stay in the city, El Fenn is magical. The rooftop bar has a beautiful view of the city and amazing textiles.

3. Hammam
Have a body scrub with Morocco’s black soap.

4. Al Fassia Restaurant
A restaurant created by three sisters and run by all women, Al Fassia has really good food. Tip: Sit in the garden.

5. Kasbah Tamadot
Stay a night at this resort in the Atlas Mountains. It’s a real oasis and only an hour from Marrakech (or two hours if you take the scenic route through Berber villages.) And visit a Berber family for tea.

Follow Ariel Ashe on Instagram.

El Fenn, Marrakech: A Calming Oasis in the Heart of the City

El Fenn Marrakech hotelEl Fenn Marrakech hotel

Despite being in the heart of Marrakech near the busy Medina, luxe boutique hotel El Fenn offers a calming retreat tucked away from the hustle and bustle. The brainchild of Vanessa Branson (of the Bransons) and Howell James, the riad houses seven traditional courtyards, three pools, a spa/hammam, a bar and restaurant and plenty of beautiful terraces in which to relax and lounge. During an inspiration trip to Morocco, Travel Editor Emily Cater went to check it out – here’s three reasons she loved it…

City: Marrakech

Where: El Fenn, Derb Moulay Abdullah Ben Hezzian, 2, Marrakesh 40000 / 212 5244 41210

Type: Stay

1. The Design

An obvious highlight of El Fenn is its rich, creative design aesthetic and contemporary art collection. Every room, courtyard and space has a different colour scheme and feel, with riotous colour and stylish decor at every turn, as well as a combination of contemporary and retro elements. The renovation and interior design was carried out by general manager Willem Smit, with features including spacious courtyard seating in bright fuchsia, purple and sunshine yellow, while rooms feature marble baths, dual sinks, monsoon showers, open wood fireplaces, plunge pools and private terraces. Meanwhile, Branson’s private collection of art work can be seen all around the hotel, with pieces including a chandelier by Francis Upritchard and a painting by Antony Gormley. Rooms are spacious, yet homely and comfortable, allowing for total relaxation.

The Roof Terrace at El Fenn Marrakech hotel - stunning views

The Roof Terrace at El Fenn Marrakech hotel

2. The Roof Terrace

One of the stand out spaces within the hotel is its 7,000 sq ft roof terrace housing a bar, restaurant and beautiful plunge pool and sunbed area. Expect panoramic views stretching out across the Koutoubia mosque and the Atlas mountains, making it a breathtaking spot to watch the sunset – a real must in the evenings. The hotel restaurant, meanwhile, serves delicious fresh fish and meat options, based on a combination of Moroccan and European influences, but it’s the breakfast that’s the real winner. Enjoy freshly baked bread, pastries, fresh fruit, homemade granola and yoghurt, and eggs done any way you fancy, all washed down with freshly brewed coffee – perfectly setting you up for the day.

3. The Concept Store and Local Shopping

If in search of local trinkets and design, look no further than El Fenn’s in-house concept store and boutique, co-curated by general manager Willem Smith and model Paul Rowland. The store stocks a range of carefully sourced items including vintage-style clothes in a range of print and patterns, plus bags, accessories, jewellery, coffee table books, perfumes and home accessories like Fez pottery. If haggling is more your scene though, simply head right out of the hotel and into the souks where you’ll find everything and anything you can imagine, in a true assault of the senses. We’d highly recommend organising a tour with Mustapha Chouquir to get a sense of the local culture and history, as well as finding the best stalls for bargains. We were led to some great hidden spots for shopping leather sandals, rugs, berber baskets and lamps.

article in EasyJet Traveller’s December issue, “Where to Get Stylish in Marrakech”

Photographer Tim E White and I reported on a trend happening in one of Marrakech’s oldest and most authentic neighborhoods. Check out the 4-page feature on pages 26 through 29: http://traveller.ink-live.com/desktop/stage/default.aspx?pubname=&edid=3488e914-10b7-41c5-9c57-39650bb56c1c&pnum=27

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I included Mustapha in the Local Knowledge section of the article on page 28:

“Kaât Bennahid’s foundouks are turning into artisan workshops today, doing away with the middlemen so you deal directly with the artisan and pay less. I have friends in these workshops; one man I know is making babouches [pointy shoes] more than 60 years in the same shop.”                                    -MC

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-Paige Darrah

Trip Advisor’s #1 Destination: Marrakech!

Trip Advisor just ordained Marrakech the #1 Traveler’s Choice destination in the world.

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The new Travelers’ Choice #1 Destination in the world, Marrakech is a magical place, brimming with markets, gardens, palaces, and mosques. Exploring the intimate courtyards and snaking alleyways of the historic Medina can easily eat up a day. Find inner peace at the serene Jardin Majorelle or take in the beauty of one of the city’s historic mosques (taking note that you may only step inside if you are Muslim).

 

http://www.tripadvisor.com/TravelersChoice-Destinations-cTop-g1

everyone loves Mustapha!

Here’s a lovely note from Lauren Godfrey transposed from the ‘Experiences’ page…

From Lauren Godfrey on 31-March, 2015:

Mustapha is such a beautiful and kind hearted person. From the first time I contacted him months before the trip, he was incredibly responsive and warm. I went to Marrakech with a group of 12 women and Mustapha not only kept us completely entertained with some of the most incredible shopping and cultural destinations, but also with his jokes! We told him we wanted to have fun in Marrakech and he never let us down! We spent our final day in Marrakech without Mustapha as he had been booked by another group, but even though he wasn’t with us, he was still looking out for us. He texted to let us know that the time was changing in Marrakech that night, so to be extra aware as to not miss our flights. We would have had no idea if it wasn’t for Mustapha!

Our time in Marrakech was made so much better thanks to you Mustapha. I can’t wait to come back and see you again some day!

mustapha
MC!

 

A Broad Travel Trend

The following is an excerpt from a wonderful talk I had with Condé Nast Traveler contributing editor Dani Shapiro about her stay at Salisbury, Connecticut’s trademark White Hart Inn (which I’m covering in my Backyard Travel column for Main Street Mag’s March issue).

Paige Darrah: “In the era of Air BnB, where travelers increasingly want to feel that they’re digging in to the culture and connecting to their destination, do you think that hotels have evolved and stepped up their game to offer/accommodate that?”

Dani Shapiro: “A tremendous cultural trend in travel is that people are looking for something both unique and authentic in a way that I think can be very difficult for hotels that are brands, even the most wonderful brands, to replicate or create.  Nobody wants to feel like a tourist, they want to feel like they’re having the experience of being a local.  For example, I remember the last time I was in Paris I was wanting very much to shop, and feeling like it was harder and harder to find something that wasn’t also available on Madison Avenue or Nolita. Even the smaller brands felt like they were proliferating and that everyone was having the same experience but still wanting so much to have that unique experience.  So, to your point Paige, I do think there’s been a shift in travel.  I think that hotels (particularly smaller, family-owned ones) are beginning to figure out that travelers are longing to feel at home in the world [wherever they are] and how to help them experience that feeling.”

It seems to me that Marrakech hotels like La Mamounia, Riad El Fenn, and Riad Farnatchi offer this kind of insider experience via Mustapha.  You can’t find anything like the Beni Ouarin carpets at Assoufa on Madison Avenue (here’s a previous post about Assoufa).

La Femme d’Art à Marrakech

King Mohammed VI* opened an eponymous museum for contemporary and modern art in Rabat last week.  The king and his wife Lalla Salma invited Vanessa Branson to the museum’s inaugural dinner.  The King used the occasion to present Vanessa – the veritable woman of art in Marrakech – with the prestigious Ouissam Alaouite medal in celebration of her contribution to the Moroccan art world.

photo
Jack Lang, president of L’Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, is the dark-haired gentleman sitting on the right.
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Musée Mohammed VI d’Art Moderne et Contemporain

 

* if you’re like me and breath a sigh of frustration when confronted with roman numerals, I looked it up for us – VI means the sixth.