Marrakech, a former Berber imperial city and a modern day Moroccan magic carpet ride, is a sensory explosion steeped in colorful culture and brimming with of-the-moment energy. It is a brilliant juxtaposition of influence – both French and Arabic are widely spoken, Moorish architecture meets with Art Deco details, posh cafes and avant-garde galleries line the streets alongside minaret-ed mosques and secret gardens. An exotic assortment of experiences awaits beyond the fortressed walls of the Medina, or old city, from sumptuous Hammam spas to maze-like souks to by-appointment-only boutiques to hidden lounges where you can rock the kasbah till dawn (like Victoria and David Beckham did recently for his 40th). Drawn by the heady allure of its hedonistic roots, this place is a sartorial style mecca for a certain type of beautiful boho girl – think Sienna Miller or Poppy Delevingne (Miss P even held a second wedding here with a guest list including all of her fashionable besties–Alexa Chung, Matthew Williamson and a smattering of aristos). They journey in the footsteps of their idiosyncratic Red City loving predecessors - 60s It Girl Talitha Getty and party boys the Rolling Stones among them. Hollywood is beckoned yearly by the Marrakech International Film Festival, where stars like Marion Cotillard, Eva Mendes and Bill Murray walk the red carpet. Perhaps no event drew more celebs (Gwyneth Paltrow, Salma Hayek, Adrien Brody and Jennifer Aniston) in recent years that the re-opening of La Mamounia, whose interiors were overhauled by Jacque Grange of Parisian Hotel Costes fame. This grande dame is the most glamorous spot in town, and along with the Amanjena and Royal (and we do mean royal – it’s owned by King Mohammed VI himself) Mansour, help Marrakech offer more over-the-top luxury than many cities triple its size.
Mystical moments arise around every corner of this city’s circuitous streets, and just wandering can feel like a dream in itself. At the center of town you’ll find Jemaa el-Fna, once the busiest square in Africa, still maintaining heavy foot traffic due to its UNESCO World Heritage status. It is the symbol of the city and a great place to start soaking up the sights, smells and taste of Morocco – just beware of the snakes, monkeys and camels that hawkers will ‘offer’ to you. Make your way to the souks, a treasure trove of interconnected alleys and shops, each specializing in a particular product (jewelry, poufs, carpets, olives, chillis, perfumes, leather, fruits, nuts, clothing), and get ready to hardcore haggle as you should only be paying 10-25% of a vendor’s initial offer! While the new, new thing can be found in the neighborhood of Gueliz, we still have a few shops we must stop at in town, such as Bouriad Karim for kaftans (a Calypso supplier!), after which we refuel with divinely delicious Moroccan dishes such as tagine and traditional mint tea. For the stylish set, no trip is complete without a pilgrimage to Jardin Majorelle, once the home painter Jacques Majorelle, it was lovingly restored and lived in by Yves Saint Laurent and partner Pierre Berge. Its villa and botanical garden are set almost entirely in a cobalt blue hue, which is sure to inspire you for years to come. If your fantasies are more far-flung, head to the nearby Atlas Mountains for a stay at Kasbah Tamadot, owned by Sir Richard Branson (sister Vanessa also owns El Fenn, an uber understated and terribly chic accommodation option in town). Now hop back into this decade – nights out come in Marrakech come courtesy of hip restaurants/bars, where the international elite congregate – Le Comptoir and Bo-Zin both belly-danced their way into our hearts.
A trip to Marrakech is certainly a chance to sport your ethnic threads, but please don’t take it as license to dress the part of crop-topped Princess Jasmine – Morocco is a Muslim country and, as always, local customs should be respected. During the daytime in spring/summer, a Vita Kin kaftan couldn’t be more apropos – it is both demure and playful. In fall/winter’s cooler months, a Talitha fringe jacket with wide-leg Alexis pants will look the part. Bring lots of pashminas for chilly nights and visits to holy sights – extra points for accessorizing with a Missoni turban! For dinner at Dar Yacout (Poppy’s personal fave) and a nightcap at La Mamounia’s sophisticated Le Churchill Bar, we would choose a D'Ascoli printed dress and a Paula Mendoza bracelet. We don’t want this fairy tale to end – yalla, back to magical Marrakech!