Tuesday, 27 January 2015

A run around Marrakech

Now we have been here in the Red City for two weeks and are really getting into our new daily routines. Our days here include studying French, some new projects on the riad, meeting new people and trying to stay fit. As far as health is concerned the Moroccan food is actually very good and all products are ecologically produced in the area of Marrakech. We are doing yoga on the roof terrace every day and have been running almost all days, we have identified a very nice 8-10 km distance around the pink walls of the city - come join us for a run!

We start out with a quick 1 km walk through the narrow alleys of the medina

After that we reach a bigger street where we start this 8,5 km run

We run through one of the gates in the city wall and are outside the medina

We follow the majestic pink walls of the city

Surounded by palms

In the distance you see the snowy Atlas mountains through out this run

We continue around the city

We pass through the gate of Marrakech and are back in the medina

And we end this run in our little street, tired but happy

Every day its also yoga on the terrace. Per is a trained to become a "yogi" in India

We need a gym and decided to go for Hivernage spa & health club, a five star hotel where you can become a member to the health club.

Our run in Marrakech is, as you can tell from the pictures, very flat so you have to work with the pace and intervalls. Running in and around Marrakech we at some points have to zick zack your way between people and vehicles. We are a quite exotic sight running in Marrakech and get a lot of cheering from people, castle cards and police. Nevertheless there was a half marathon last weekend so we believe running is picking up here as well.

Now its Friday morning, We are off the French class and this afternoon we hit the streets again.

Have a nice weekend!

Friday, 23 January 2015

Turtle Time!

The lush gardens in the riads attract a lot of birds and are perfect for exotic animals like turtles or camelonts. We have always liked turtles. We swam with big ocean turtles in Galapagos, met Lonesam George (the last turtoise of his kind, who passed away last year) in the Darwin Center, saw turtle eggs hatch in Borneo and Per used to have a pet turtle as a kid. So needless to say we felt our riad should also have a couple of domestic turtles.

Happy about our new pets

The Morish land turtles (turtoise) are happiest as couples and can live for 50-60 years. Morocco has the perfect climate for these animals so we felt it would be a natural thing to add these pets to our riad. We bought a male and a female turtle, both three years old and named them Vincent and Valerie. You should avoid two male turtles living together since they become competitive. These two are very playful and sweet to each other.

Vincent (left), Valerie (right), enjoying the sun on the roof terrace

We also got a giant bird cage with a 1m2 surface to act as their turtle house. The cage was painted white and placed in a niche by the pool (matching the white lamps). This is where they sleep and relax when we are not home. 

The turtle house

During day time they join us by the pool or on the roof terrace and enjoy the sun and some excercise, they are remarkably fast and active. Both the patio and the roof terrace have levels that keep the turtles  safe and confided in the areas where we leave them to enjoy the sun.

Vincent by the pool

Valerie in the turtle house

They are vegetarian and feed on sallad, tomatoes and carrots. 

A light sallad for lunch

A drink or a bath? 

Diaco get on very well with them and likes to follow them around on a distance.

Fun in the sun, Disco and his new friends

Disco and Valerie

This is Viktor, a three year old camelont.

Chilling in a tree

Vincent taking a walk

These are the pets of Riad Arabe, we better stop now before the place turns into a zoo. Did anyone say peacocks?

Turtle Time!

Insiders Guide I: Our favorite places to stay

Marrakech is the perfect getaway destination. With direct flights from Stockholm, London, Paris, Amsterdam and many more the red city city works perfect both for exotic weekends as well as longer stays to explore the Atlas mountains and coast outside the city. Marrakech is sunny and warm all year round but the optimal time to visist is March-May and September-November. Here you find our favorite places to stay, check them out and book your trip today!

The spa at La Mamounia

There are very many different options of accommodation in Marrakech. Some of the best and most luxurious hotels in the world are here as well as cheap and charming B&B riads. The first choice you have to make is if you want to stay in the medina (old city) or outside the city where the resorts are. In the medina you find charming riad hotels of all kinds, from budget to top end. The medina is where the charm is and you get the real "Marrakech feeling" and the magic of the souks. To escape from the hectic buzz in the medina into your own little palace is a very unique experience.

If you are only in town for a few days we suggest you chose a riad in the medina. If you stay for a week or more you can combine a few nights in a riad with additional nights in a resort outside town. For instance you find Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton, Oberoi, Beachcomber, Taj, Nikki Beach and other international luxury hotels some 20 minutes outside the city, many are located in the Palmerie area.

Here we list our all time favorite hotels, all are on a five star level but very different in character. They all feature very nice restaurants as well so regardless of where you stay these hotels and riads are well worth a visit just for the food and ambiance.

Palais Lamrani

Palais Riad Lamrani is located in a 19th century palace in the best district in the medina (just around the corner from where we live). For 5 years it has been carefully restored by a French/Moroccan family and it opened for business in the fall of 2014. It is the perfect riad with a big and lush garden, excellent decor and a few large and luxurious suites and a nicce pool. A lot of original details and beautiful interiors. This is our riad favorite, a true haven and real palace with a heritage.

La Mamounia

La Mamounia is ranked as one of the best hotels in the world. This is where Winston Churchill painted and smoked his cigarrs. It is ultra exclusive and top end. Very expensive and very good. In our opinion it is a bit impersonal but it is an icon with very nice suites and many fine restaurants. The spa is world class. If you look for a luxury hotel located in the medina, with history and top end service this is the place for you.

El Fenn

El Fenn is a trendy boutique riad with a lot of modern art that attracts a fashionable crowd. It has been the place to stay for many years now and is owned by Vanessa Branson. It is a very nice riad if you want a more modern decor. Very nice rooms and suites, some with their own terraces and pools.

 La Sultana

La Sultana is a top end hotel/riad with a few large suites in a great location. The ambiance and spa are great and the restaurants amazing. La Sultana has a palatial atmosphere and is a superb choice if you want a posh and private palace-like hotel.

Maison MK

Maison MK is also a very nice classical riad with a 600 years heritage but a modern take on design and decor. The riad features very nice and large rooms/suites. It lacks the garden that Palais Lamrami has but otherwise a very nice place to stay with a top end fine dining restaurants. Best view in town from the beautiful roof terrace.

The Taj

Taj Sahara Palace , the Taj opened up some years ago outside the medina and was successfully featured in the Sex & the City 2 movie.This is a super luxury hotel with amazing interiors and beautiful suites. If you stay outside the medina we opt for this palace! Beautiful views of the Atlas mountains from most suites.

Peacock Pavilions

Peacock Pavilions is located in an olive grove outside of town. It is operated by interior design guru Maryam Montague and a very "nomad cool" place to stay with amazing interiors and a personal service. They regularly host different yoga and art retreats. A stylish B&B with a twist. And yes, the peacocks room free in the garden.

Erg Chigaga, Desert Luxury Camp 

Erg Chigaga, Sahara desert luxury camp, the ultimate experience is perhaps to be found a day trip from Marrakech. In the Sahara desert you find this luxury camp site, where you stay in large tents with double beds, bathrooms and a berber decor. You can gaze at the stars, enjoy great food and experience the unique Sahara desert in a five star setting. Many companies offer "luxury Sahara camps", this is the best one! Go and be amazed! 

The riads and hotels above are all five star and top international standard. If you want to go for something smaller and more basic (3-4 star) but still very charming and genuine we recommend Riad Dar Zaman or Riad Saba:

Riad Dar Zaman
Riad Dar Zaman is a traditional riad, small but very charming and tasteful. It is a genuine and well maintained little riad and the owner can arrange good excursions and day trips. There is a small plunge pool and great food/service. African decor and a very nice roof terrace.

Riad Saba
Riad Saba is a beautiful classical riad with great location and personal service. The riad is under swedish management and the owner also runs a first class tour operating company, M Travel. Here you find all elements of a riad, beautiful decor, nice food and friendly staff.

Both Riad Saba and Riad Dar Zaman are excellent options if you want to experience riad living and get the Marrakech feeling without paying a fortune. Great value for money. Say "hi" from Per & Patrick when you make your reservations and you will get extra nice rooms.

These are our favorite places to stay that we can strongly recommend but there are hundreds of other optionsCome and find your own favorite little palace! Riad-living is the best! 

Now we are going to relax in our very own riad, in our own lush patio garden by our own indigo blue pool. Its good to stay in fabolous hotels but its great to have your own place.

All the best from the Red City,
PS, our home, Riad Arabe, was successfully rented out as a full service riad when we were not in town for the first 1,5 years we owned this place. Soon we fell so much in love with the riad so we stopped the B&B business. Perhaps in the future it will be possible to rent Riad Arabe again, but for now it remains 100% our private home in the medina. www.riadarabe.com is still active if you want to check it out.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The first days

We are finally here! No problems at all with getting Disco into the county and we all arrived safely a couple of days ago to our riad in the medina. Our housekeeper, Rachida, had arranged for the riad to have a new coat of white paint and the whole house was in perfect condition with fresh roses in all rooms to welcome us to Marrakech.

The first days have been about practical projects such as getting a better wifi installed, having different carpenters and handy men over to start building some new features in the riad, buying some additional lamps (how many lamps is it possible to have in a riad? We have bought some 30 lamps since we moved in...) and inspecting the roof since we had some small problems after a heavy rain some weeks ago.

A dachshound in Marrakech

Disco in his golden bed in the gold lounge

Disco seems to really love Marrakech and all the new smells in the medina, he jumps for joy everytime we go out. He also spends a lot of time exploring the riad and going off on small adventures of his own in the big house. Dogs are not so common in Marrakech and Disco is already wellknown in our street and greeted by name by our neighbours. He has charmed Rachida and likes to hang with her in the kitchen. He has two beds, one in our bedroom and another one in the "gold lounge". So far so good.

The little patio of our riad

Fresh roses everywhere

This January is actually exceptionally cold in Marrakech, in the sun during daytime it is still some 20c and warm but in evenings and night the temperature drops to 5-7c. When we arrived it was raining in the city with 340 days of sun/year and chilly. Weatherwise it was not a warm welcome but now the sun is returning and we hope for spring in early February. The riads are very open with many rooms opening up to the outside, this is great in the spring, summer and autumn but less optimal in January.

The local Jellbah (kaftan) is an excellent fashion piece in the winter time

Cosy log fire in the salon

We enjoyed two excellent dinners in our own riad so far and also had time to visit and dine at Villa Flore and El Fenn as well as a French lunch at La Bagatelle.

Patrick at El Fenn

We got these lamps, traditional Moroccan design but painted white for a more contemporary look. They look nice in the white 'b hou', pool side lounge.

New white lamps by the pool

Another new lamp, this one is copper, for the wall in the gold lounge.

It is actually a strange feeling that the world in Stockholm is going on without us. Management meetings are held, decisions are made and it is business as usual in our workplaces while things changed so dramatically for us. A strange but very good feeling. It is now 7:30 in the morning, time to get out of bed. Breakfast is soon being served on the roof terrace and then we will meet with our carpenter and textile designer to discuss some new sofas and a pergola.

Have a nice day out there!