Monday, November 13, 2006

Travel writing about Morocco - part ten

Continuing our series examining travel writing about Morocco, we zip off to New Zealand, where Harriet O'Brien writing for the New Zealand Herald, Escapes on a magic Moroccan carpet ride. The article is lightweight but informative.

Here is an excerpt:

A decade ago, Morocco was regarded principally as a backpacker destination, charming and cut-price, if a little short on comfort. You can still find cheap digs: try the shacks on the roof of the Hotel Farouk in Marrakech - NZ$14 a night, including breakfast. But accommodation options have been transformed by an explosion of style - notably riads, the traditional houses in Morocco's old towns, or medinas. Built around a courtyard where the women could have access to fresh air yet remain unseen, these retain a sense of beauty and mystery.

Meanwhile, away from the towns you can find oasis hotels, tented desert camps and seaside hideaways.

Publicly vibrant and privately elegant, Marrakech is unique, with its magnificent backdrop of the High Atlas Mountains. For all its hippie-chic image in the 1980s, it is now regarded as a cosmopolitan centre of cool. The hub of the city is the Djemaa el Fna, the main square of the medina, within which you can get lost in a labyrinth of alleyways and converted riads.

The city has oozed glamour ever since French artist Jacques Majorelle bought land here, turned it into a garden, and opened it to the public in the 1940s. The Jardin Majorelle was restored in the 1980s by Yves Saint-Laurent, whose ownership adds more than a touch of prestige to the city. The Jardin Majorelle is off Avenue Jacoub el Mansour, open 8am to 6pm daily, admission 30 dirhams (NZ$5); the garden also contains a small museum of Islamic art (DH15/NZ$2.50).

More recently, other foreigners have been transforming Marrakech. Vanessa Branson, sister of Sir Richard, bought Riad El Fenn in 2002 and has turned it into a wonderful six-bedroom boutique hotel. It has a hammam - a steam-driven relative of the sauna - and fine dining in the courtyard or on the terrace. Doubles cost from around NZ$556, including breakfast.

Read the full story here: Escape on a magic Moroccan carpet ride.

Earlier Travel Writing stories:

Travel nine
Travel writing eight
Travel writing Seven
Travel Writing Six
Travel Writing Five
Travel Writing Four
Travel Writing Three
Travel Writing Two
Travel Writing One


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