I have a few nick-names which luckily I see as a sign of endearment. One of them is ‘Minty’ which was part of the inspiration behind ‘Mint Tea’ (Minty does Morocco). Others are slightly less cute; ‘sponge’ (sometimes extended to ‘Sponge-Bob’) for instance, is because I soak everything in and hence take too much time in a place before moving on. I am a very visual person, my eye is easily turned by fashion and design, which I then feel the need to photograph, touch and learn more about.
The benefit of being a curious ‘sponge’ is that you are constantly seeking out the on-trend places or people who are doing something interesting or different. That’s why I loved stumbling upon Rue de La Liberté in Gueliz, Marrakech and the surrounding streets. I’ve now spent quite a few hours trawling up, down and around. Here I’m giving you a snapshot of some of the nice places I’ve found so far. I will write more about the art galleries which populate the surrounding streets, and the restaurants when I have visited them.
KECHMARA: 3 Rue de La Liberté
This is a restaurant designed by a business contact of my architect mate David hence the recommendation, it isn’t new but I like it a lot. Its like the kind of relaxed eatery I enjoy at home in the UK, and it has a stunning roof terrace which reminds me of a Melbourne bar. Its a good place to meet business contacts or friends, and isn’t too hectic. If you drink you can also have cocktails, wine and beer there and if you’ve had your fill of Tagine, treat yourself to a gourmet burger or asparagus and poached egg.
SOME: 76 Boulevard El Mansour Eddahbi
SOME is a new ‘slow’ Shop and Cafe which houses a curated collection of concessions each with a different focus (ceramics, textiles, beauty etc) and some nice new concepts such as a ‘build your own bag’ station, all brought together in a 30’s loft style space with a garden. The quality of the merchandise is vetted by the owners (Noemie and Mathilde) so you know you are getting the real thing. I learned the good quality black and cream rugs sold in this shop are made from naturally black and cream sheep in Berber women’s co-cops, they are not dyed. The garden cafe isn’t open yet – I made my plea for nice cake (its not easy to find – there are more pastries than cake here – I want a sponge!).
KAFTAN QUEEEN 61 Rue Yugoslavie
Just over the junction in Gallerie Liberté is Kaftan Queen, the concept of former model and now mum of six, Sarah Buchan. Sarah and her husband Yahya (who merits his own dedicated post) have been a key influence in taking Moroccan design and luxury crafting to other markets. For ex-Londers like me you might know them through the clubs and restaurants they used to help furnish and fit out eg. Momo, Po Na Na. Sarah’s feel for fit and tailoring has inspired a range of modern boho style Kaftans and comfortable, stylish Kaftan inspired dresses. Bought by locals and foreigners alike, you can see Sarah here at work showing her best selling design. There is a tailor on site, you can have a design made or buy from the ready to wear range.
MAMOUNIA ARTS GALLERY 7 Rue de La Liberté
This is a nice place to visit for Moroccan antiques many of which are from Fes and there are some great black and white framed photos which I dream of hanging in my imaginary Riad. The manager is happy to talk to you about the artefacts such as typical milk jugs and collections of original pottery, there was even a Spanish saddle with silver detailing which cut quite a dash in the shop (and no I didn’t try it out!). Items in this shop are at the more premium end but you can buy a black and white framed photograph of a famous arabic singer for 900MAD so some of it is affordable.
LALLA 35 Boulevard El Mansour Eddahbi
You can find a fab collection of bags here under the lalla brand but what caught my eye were the necklaces, really original pieces made of leather, wood and stone. I tried one on (not easy to get on but quite striking) it was a bit maximalist with my floral shirt I think they call it a ‘Versace Sneeze’ but you could easily wear it with a pair of jeans and white T-Shirt, however at a price of I think near £300 (a months rent here) you will have to have to really love it or have money to throw around. Apparently the designer is doing very well in New York.