MARRAKECH – WHAT TO SEE ACCORDING TO JASPER CONRAN

Ten tips of what to see in Marrakech by designer Jasper Conran who has recently designed his own stunning Riad in the heart of the Medina…..’L’Hotel Marrakech’,  (Images and text courtesy of Elle Decor Italia Itineraries). I will add my own personal recommendation for lunch at Cafe des Epices, sunset at Cafe de France and cocktails at La Mamounia…..next trip scheduled for early March 2018!

1. A place to have breakfast:

After strolling in the heart of the Medina among the numerous bazaars, and having visited the Souk (typical market in the central square), enchanted by the myriad of colors and perfumes, stop at the Café des Epices, the perfect place to enjoy a mint tea on a large multicolored rooftoop.

2. A fascinating place:

The Koranic school Medersa Ben Youssef, dating back to the 14th century. It is the best place to observe the typical decorations in stucco and inlaid cedar, combined with zellij tiling, typical colorful Moroccan mosaic tiles.

3. Somewhere to enjoy the sunset:

Nothing better than the main square, perhaps drinking a freshly squeezed juice or spice tea at one of the local street food stalls.

4. An architectural work to admire:

The Bahia Palace, a complex dating back to the 19th century, covers over 8 hectares of land and includes the gardens and areas reserved for the Sultan’s harem.
Among the decorations made by local artisans, you can stop for a quick drink at the Cozy Bar. From there, you can spot the nests of the storks on the ancient city walls.

5. A place to relax:

A stone’s throw from the Saadian Tombs, the SPA Les Bains de Marrakech is the perfect place for those who have never experienced the unique experience of Turkish baths.

6. A special place:

The Jardin Majorelle, acquired by the couple Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé in 1980, which immediately underwent restoration work. Inside them, there is an unmissable Berber museum.

7. Where to go for lunch:

Outside the city, the rural atmosphere lends itself to a bath and a relaxing lunch among the rose gardens, olive trees and orchards of the Beldi Country Club (also known as Jnane Tamsna).

8. An afternoon break:

An ice cream at the famous and historic Mamounia hotel is a must. Here, hundreds of colorful flowers and 18th century cider orchards create a unique atmosphere.

9. A restaurant for dinner:

In the heart of the main Jamaa el Fna square, from booth number 47 to 98, to experience all the good local food. Do not miss the Fish & Chips, the stew and hibiscus tea.

10. The following day. A corner from which to admire the sunrise:

The sky. Ciel D’Afrique balloon offers an exceptional view of the High Atlas Mountains and the Imperial City of Marrakech. It is an experience to be tried.

 

GLOBAL FUSION

Homes & Antiques magazine, October edition, is out now, echoing the continuing interiors trend for arts and crafts from far flung locations, especially when they are handmade and support local artisans.

 

Check out H & A Lifestyle Homes this month, a former carpenter’s warehouse which dates back to the 1800’s, once part of the East End of London’s thriving furniture district, which now reflects the owner’s love of Thailand and industrial design.

Marble and Mint are included in their favourite global picks, along with several other amazing e-tailers selling artisan items from China, India, Tibet, North Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Well worth a read!  On sale from 17th August.

 

A TRADITIONAL BERBER HOME

Well worth a read in the current edition of World of Interiors magazine is an article entitled ‘Menage and Menagerie’ featuring a traditional Berber home in the High Atlas Mountains, near Taroudant and some fantastic photography by Roland Beaufre.

The home of El Habib and Fatima has been constructed entirely from natural materials found in the mountains, with rooms arranged around a central courtyard in traditional Moroccan style.  The courtyard contains the building’s one and only tap, where the family do the laundry and washing up.  The whole structure is supported by twisted branches from the Argan tree, well known for producing the famous Argan oil now used widely in cooking, cosmetic products and for medicinal purposes.  The family receive visitors in the main reception room, dotted with palm stools arranged around a low round table, to eat and drink tea.

Man and beast live in harmony in traditional Berber homes, a hole in the floor providing light and ventilation for the cows kept in the basement below, who in turn provide a natural source of heat to the occupants upstairs.  Peacocks are kept and stay indoors during the day and guard the house outside at night.  Dogs, however, are always kept outside.  Donkeys even have their own doorway!

A 1950’s space, with seating arranged around the walls of the room and soft, pastel coloured plaster walls, has the addition of a brightly coloured Boucherouite rag rug.

You can read the full article and the interview with the family by Marie-France Boyer in May’s Edition of World of Interiors.  Photography credit: Roland Beaufre.

 

MODERN WEAVING IN THE MOUNTAINS – BENI OUARAIN RUGS

With a wide spectrum of colours available, and the ability to specify your own size and even the design, modern Beni Ouarain rugs are becoming increasingly popular.  Using wool from sheep kept at high elevations (thick and soft) Berber women weave these rugs on vertical looms, in exactly the same way as they have been made for centuries. Each rug can take at least one month to complete, and is washed and dried in the sun many times to achieve its characteristic soft and silky texture.  The texture improves with each washing.

Our partner, a family business in Marrakech, Bazar du Sud, have their own workshop in the Anti Atlas region, an area of rocky outcrops and small villages, where their workforce arrive every morning to produce, for them exclusively,  their own designs and bespoke orders.  They travel the long journey into the mountains regularly to check on orders and to transport completed pieces back to Marrakech.  If you would like to commission a custom made Beni rug, or would like to see more of our stock in Marrakech, please email us at info@marbleandmint.co.uk.  We will be happy to help.

 

 

Symbolism of Berber Rugs

Morocco is the country where most Berber people live today.  Their origin is not really known and neither is the origin of the name Berber.  Recent research suggests that the Berber people once populated the whole of North Africa until Arab immigration drove them out of the Eastern regions.  We now describe all tribal and village carpets from Morocco as Berber even though the tribe may now speak Arabic.

Berber carpets generally have a coarse quality.  They are creations of rustic folk art by women living with their families in villages or as nomads.  They are woven for their own use, as bedding or blankets, or to decorate their homes for special occasions such as a wedding.  They are prized possessions but if cash is needed, a carpet is taken to a local souk to be sold.

Whilst weaving, the lower part of the carpet is rolled and disappears from sight, so the weaver must rely on her creativity to continue her work, using tradition but also her imagination.  The symbolism of the Berber carpet is the expression of a primitive fertility cult, originating from remote early cultures.  There is no other form of artisan art in which this still survives to this day.

A weaver will not generally be aware of the meanings of the symbols she uses, simply saying that her mother or grandmother used the same ones.  However, we do know that the main ‘female’ symbols in Berber carpets are the lozenge, the chevron and the X shape.  The eight pointed star, known as ‘Solomon’s Star’ also belongs to the feminine fertility symbols.  Maternity is the most important aspect of a Berber woman’s life.  ‘Male’ symbols are always long and thin, straight lines or sticks next to one another, sometimes forming a fish-bone pattern.  The ‘snake’ also plays an important part in male symbolism and is the only animal which appears in Berber carpets with a symbolic meaning.  Male motifs usually frame the female motifs and almost always form a border to the rectangular area of a carpet. 

Understanding the meaning of symbols gives a Berber carpet a new dimension other than just aesthetic admiration.

Extracts and images from ‘Berber Carpets of Morocco – the Symbols, Origin and Meaning’ by Bruno Barbatti.  A recommended read for anyone interested in exploring the history and style of Moroccan carpets.