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Posts tagged ‘Africa’

Marrakech Moments: Cocktails at the Mamounia

Marrakech is a place of extremes. In the Medina, its ancient heart, you could so easily be transported back 200 years as donkeys and horses take the place of cars, and chickens, cats and small dirty looking children roam the streets. Yet outside the old city walls, you’ll find an airport, brand-spanking new, so shiny and dazzling that it makes Heathrow T5 look like an interim solution. But what marks the extremes more than anything is the evident wealth gap which exists in the society. No more obvious is this than at the Mamounia, one of the world’s great old hotels, situated just beyond the main Koutoubia Mosque but so different from its surroundings. For while the dusty streets outside are filled with beggars and tradesmen scraping to make a living, inside the hotel you find a world resplendent in its lavishness, with levels of luxury perhaps higher than I have ever seen before.


No wonder then that the place was not easy to get into. One grumpy doorman at first refused us entry, since he obviously judged our joint worth to be far less than the average guest. But a confident swagger, sunglasses donned and a second attempt got us through the grand entrance. We were after all determined to visit the hotel. Not only is it renowned as one of the most luxurious in all of Africa, it was also the location for some of the most famous scenes of Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, where Doris Day sang her famous hit, Que Sera Sera for the first time.


Once in we were understandably dazzled by the sheer extent of the opulent interiors and  expansive gardens which we were able to enjoy to full while waiting for a table to become free on the elegant terrace of the Italian Bar. In those grounds, so large they were used to film scenes from Alexander, we found tennis courts, pools, loungers aplenty, herb gardens, Arabic lounges and an entire wall brimming with bougainvillaea. There was even a pavilion at the garden’s centre just built for afternoon tea. But we had cocktails on the mind, and when our stroll was over, our table lay in wait, and we quenched our thirst with a well earned G&T and a Strawberry Daiquiri. It wasn’t the cheapest of occasions, but it was a hallmark moment of our trip. While it may have been a very different world from the city of Marrakech just outside its mighty walls, there was something about the grandeur of this 92 year old hotel which made us feel very at home.


© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The Colours of Marrakech, Part 1: Rose City

Colour, smell, thunder, stares, snakes, spices, the sound of birdsong, the call to prayer. Morocco is a country of extremes and its dazzling city of Marrakech all the more so. Those extremes began as soon as we entered its airspace, as desert planes and mighty big African clouds overhead gave way to one of the most sparkling fancy airports I have ever set foot in. A further transformation manifested as we took a taxi into town. On the left, a modern city, its roads neatly paved and lined with illuminated orange trees. On the right an old city crumbling, smelly, loud, maze like. Children begged around our legs, women enveloped in veils eyed us suspiciously and the use of donkeys in the place of vehicles marked a return to centuries past. Marrakech is different from any place I have ever visited before, and the next few weeks on The Daily Norm will bear testament to our time there; a trip which tantalised each of the senses and engendered the thrill of the different and astonishment at everything we saw.


A focus on the visual is what will shape my tale of Marrakech, as I take inspiration from the colours which were visible in such extremes across the city. Known as Rose City, by far its most prominent colour is the peachy shade of soft terracotta which characterises its ancient Medina. Stemming from the red tint of local stone and mud, the colour is a naturally occurring bi-product of the city’s quasi-desert location. In fact the rosy hue became so synonymous with the city that when in modern times concrete started to replace traditional mud construction methods, the former French rulers decreed that all such buildings must be painted in the same colour of pink.


The result is a city almost universally sculpted from rose, a place where nature itself provides the rose-tinted glasses through whose sheen Marrakech can be seen to glow a warm shade at all times of the day. But as we will see from later posts, the city’s characteristic hue changes as it reflects the light, and when an intense sunset reigns in the skies, the resulting reflected pink is like nothing I have ever seen before.

But for today, and by way of introducing to this incredible Moroccan city, I give you photos of Marrakech in its most iconic warm terracotta glow, ranging from sunrise in the morning to full sun as the baking semi-desert conditions almost cooked the city streets below. This is Marrakech, Rose City, Daughter of the Desert, and it’s going to be a wonderful Daily Norm ride…


© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.