Jonesy’s scribbles from Marrakech, Morocco - Oct. 2011
We love our Riad ‘Camilia’ located centrally in the Medina, rambling tentacles of permanent market stalls weaving continuously for kilometre upon kilometre within the 1,000 year old mud walls surrounding the old city. After being here for 3 nights already and with just 2 more to go, we decide to extend our stay at Camilia for an additional 2 nights before heading for the sea-port of Essaouria.
Nicholas, our young, French manager, serves his position as “mine host” to the extreme - so switched on to everyone’s needs, his diligence, efficiency and attention to detail is astounding. Along with his gentle, ever-smiling Moroccan staff, we are considered as family guests in this marvelous house of architectural riches and treasure-trove of French-Moroccan decor delicately embellished with such artistic flair. As ‘family’, which also includes “new friends” Ron and Marisa from the USA, Annika and Anna from Sweden and Martin and Suzanne from England, we are encouraged to wander into the kitchen at any given moment to observe Fatima baking her Berber bread or preparing our lamb and couscous Tangiene for tonight’s dinner, served at the roof-top garden overlooking the chaos of Marrakech below.
Whenever we fancy, aromatic tea or a simple cold ale served in a choice of seemingly a hundred different and delightful ‘nooks and crannies’ around the Riad, is always accompanied by meaty black and green pitted olives or a variety of roasted nuts, or both!
In passing, we casually mention to Nicholas our love of contemporary Riad architecture - in no time, maps are produced and directions meticulously planned with Ella, my life-time guide! We are soon in the Riad of famous Moroccan born English ‘pop-artist’ Hassan Hajjaj who just happens to be visiting from the UK. We meet him briefly and introduce him to the recently released haunting Moroccan Rock n’ Roll symphony “TANGIER” by Billy Thorpe and we become instant friends. He has invited us back to his Riad tomorrow to share life’s ‘stranger than fiction stories’. We relish the exchange!
Nicholas also recommends we visit Riad El Fenn, the home of Vanessa, Richard Branson’s sister - we are greeted by Moroccan born Dutchman Rafik, partner of the General Manager Willem. Rafik is delighted to take us on a tour of this eclectic, colourful and reminiscent ‘60‘s Riad, decorated with Morrocan influenced pop-art from our new friend Hassan Hajjaj. Vanessa’s style and decor is completely juxtaposed to her brother’s resort, Kasbah Tamadot in the foothills of the Atlas mountains outside of Marrakech, where we had Sunday lunch on the terrace.
As we have decided to stay on, Nicholas has suggested (for no additional tariff) we may wish to move to the ‘Presidential Salon’ on the first floor - this happens to be the owner’s suite and is utilized on their regular visits from Paris. A French film star, and his Haute Courture designer wife Camille, purchased this place some years back and were later offered the 3 properties sharing its boundary - 2 years ago they re-built it into a commercial Riad and decorated it to suit their own personal taste - stunning!!
I estimate the size of our ‘salon’ as approximately 175m2 including a 10 metre long balcony viewing the Riad’s traditional central courtyard through a wrought iron balustrade and powerful, whitewashed columns beautifully detailed in what almost appears to be an arabic script - heavy drapes are tied at each column.
I find it impossible to describe all the detail - hopefully my i-phone images (my Canon SLR has died!) may do it some justice. Suffice to say, we have 2 sitting rooms on either side of a 4 x 5m bedroom - each living room is 10 x 4m and features an open fire place. There is also an open fire place in the bedroom. The solid walls are at least 50cm thick - magnificent, narrow archways abound, a total of 16 in all. Delicately carved and painted doors rise 4 - 5 metres in height and pivot on a metal rod fixed to the outer side of each archway.
One portion of the bathroom alone is 7 metres in length - at one end and around the corner opens up a circular, tiled bath taking up the full space of a room approximately 3 x 3m. Five metres above the bath, a hand-made brick and solid plastered cupola adorns the room - a shower rose hangs from the centre of the dome. To one side of the bath, a wide arch is filled with a peacock in full bloom etched into the glass looking onto our private courtyard - in the corner, a 60cm wide stair winds itself to a private rooftop garden.
My description above is just of our exquisitely decorated room - 150 Euro’s per night, including breakfast on the roof top garden - each morning, Fatima surprises us with a variation on the Moroccan/Continental breakfast theme with home baked delicacies on which to spread our sweet marmalade, fig jam and fresh honey. In a city renowned for its citrus delights, ‘Camilia’s’ freshly squeezed orange juice is a joy to behold.
“Life’s true pleasures, surely come from the simplest things which life has to offer!”