“You can’t help but be inspired by the light, the colors and the extraordinariness of the place.”
With its brightly painted walls and dramatic deserts, vibrant markets and intimate restaurants tucked away in boldly designed Riads, Marrakech is a city full of mystery and surprise yet one of the most popular destinations for travelers around the world. How does one get into a city so layered and visually dense? A local expert of course. In 2016, internationally renowned designer and Essentialist Globalite, Jasper Conran, OBE, opened L’Hôtel Marrakech, a luxurious five-suite hideaway set within a former palace deep in the Medina. The mix of Moroccan craftsmanship with antiques, art, and textiles reflects this multi-talented designer’s ability to make magic, whether it’s accessories, womenswear or hotel suites. Jasper Conran talks to Essentialist about how Marrakech continues to inspire him and a few of his favorite places to visit while in the famous “Red City.”
Essentialist: What drew you to Marrakech originally and how has it continued to be an inspiration for your work as a designer and personally?
Jasper Conrad: I first went to Marrakech in 1984 and been in love with the city and its’ people ever since. You can’t help but be inspired by the light, the colors and the extraordinariness of the place. There is the thrill of walking along dusty medieval streets and then coming across unexpected beautiful places that transport you back to the 12th century.
E: What is on your design radar right now in Marrakech?
JC: Le Jardin Secret opened in 2016, its’ origins date back to the late sixteenth century. It has been restored by Lauro Milan and the garden designed by Tom Stuart-Smith. It’s wonderful returning to see how the garden has matured each time I visit.
E: An Iconic shop is for you?
JC: The souk of Marrakech. This is one enormous shop, an array of herbs and exotic spices, piles of olives, aromatic pastes, preserved lemons, rows of my favorite wooden spoons and rails of djellabas. These are just a few of the wonderful things on offer. There really is something here for everyone.
E: What are your favorite food haunts? For a quick casual meal with friends? For an elegant culinary experience?
JC: I love eating on the square, le jemaa el fna, at night. Not only is the food delicious, fish and chips, tangia, spiced fried vegetables, it is also pure theatre. It has probably been pretty much the same for centuries. For a proper dinner, I think that without a doubt I would head to L’Hôtel Marrakech or the Grand Café de la Poste.
E: A rooftop terrace with a great view and a drink is?
JC: The Café de France, be sure to go in the early evening as the sun goes down over the roof tops of the souks and the food stalls prepare for the night ahead.
E: For a unique day trip outside of Marrakech?
JC: like to head out to Berber Lodge for a swim and lunch. The lodge itself is situated in a garden amongst centuries old olive trees, where a delicious fresh lunch made from home grown and locally sourced ingredients is served.
E: What is something surprising about Marrakech that most people would not know or expect?
JC: a) The ruins of El Baldi Palace are topped with white storks who build their nests on the old palace walls.
b) Tangia, Marrakech’s specialty dish. The tangia (known as a bachelor’s meal) is a traditional dish only prepared in Marrakech. Not to be confused with tagine, it’s often cooked in a terracotta urn with lamb or beef, spices and ingredients as saffron, cumin, garlic and lemon. Once the urn is filled, it’s placed in the hammam’s furnace, on the coals. Marrakchis leave it there all night to obtain a tender meat.
c) Marrakech has the largest souk in the whole of Morocco.
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