Saturday, 30 December 2017

Our Marrakech Muses

An exciting 2017 draws to an end. As we reflect back on the events of the year, there is obviously plenty to be grateful for: Our company Red City PR has become Morocco's leading communications agency with lots of new customers and exciting projects. The Project Soar charity organization has grown from one to 26 villages and now supports girls throughout Morocco. A new family member, the cool dachshund puppy Cicero, joined our tribe. A lifestyle and way of working that allows us to have our main base in Morocco but also spend a lot of time in Italy and Sweden. And of course all our amazing friends, both new and old ones and all the move in our lives.

So many talented women and friends.

It is especially the people that we met that made 2017 to a year of interest and substance. People who shared their experiences with us, opened up their homes, told us their stories, showed us alternative pathways and helped us to become better version of ourselves. In Marrakech, we have the privilege of knowing a number of wonderful women who lead the most amazing lives and whom we are proud to call our friends. We could even call them our Marrakech muses since  they inspire us a lot and in this blog post we want to highlight six of these ladies and tell you a little bit about who they are.

Elisabeth, aka "Madame"

Elisabeth Bauchet-Bouhlal
Elisabeth Bauchet-Bouhlal, or "Madame" as we refer to her most of the time, comes from a distinguished French family who founded the casino and nightclub Moulin Rouge in Paris back in the days. Elisabeth's father bought land in Marrakech where he built a casino as well as the iconic luxury hotels Es Saadi and Es Saadi Palace. Elisabeth grew up in Paris and Marrakech and was friends with Yves Saint Laurent and also one of his first customers. The profitable casino has secured family fortune and her hotels are iconic destinations for the international jet-setters. The Es Saadi Palace features one of four Dior institutes in the world and also boasts the coolest nightclub in town, Theatero. Madame lives on the top floor of her hotel and her son and daughter-in-law live there too. She drives around the property in her golf car, keeping a watchful eye on everything that happens in her empire and welcomes all guests personally. Her hotel supports all major cultural events in Morocco and the Es Saadi Palace features one of the country's premier art collections. We got to know Madame because we have our gym at Es Saadi Palace and therefore visit the hotel regurarly. Elisabeth soon became the main sponsor of our TEDx-events. We meet Elisabeth almost daily and are so grateful for her support and friendship. She is such a cool lady!

Maryam - saving the world in style

Maryam Montague
Maryam Montague is an author, designer, hotelier, style guru and expert on human rights issues. She has written a best-selling interior design book (Marrakesh by Design), decorates the homes of the  superstars in the United States, designs interior and clothing collections, is a frequent guest on CNN and in Vogue as an authority on Marrakech and design. When she is not running her chic boutique hotel Peacock Pavilions, just outside of Marrakech, she travels to some of the world's most dangerous places to establish project organizations and optimize aid efforts for the US government because her "day job" is to consult in humanitarian aid work. Maryam is both incredibly glamorous but at the same time an activist who wants to make the world a better place. Her latest initiative is "Agent Girl Power", a feminist clothing brand. It was also via Maryam and her husband Chris as we became involved in Project Soar, the charity project that we have now been a part of for three years. Maryam and her entire family have really become our closest friends in our new life here in Marrakech and together we try to save the world while having lots of fun doing it.

Forever Marisa 

Marisa Berenson
Marisa Berenson is the model of all the supermodels. The fact is, there is no one who can measure with her greatness, and yet, today, there are not so many outside fashion circles who recognize her name. Marisa was one of the the world's most famous photo models and actors in the 60's and 70's, and was the world's most photographed woman before Princess Diana took over. She is the model that has been on the most Vogue covers ever and she has been in over 70 movies, including "Cabaret", "Death of Venice" and "Barry Lyndon". She was one of Yves Saint Laurent's muses and he called her the "it-girl" of the 60:s. Vogue called Marisa to "the most beautiful woman in the world ever". Her mother was the famous Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, and Marisa has really lived a cool jet-set life. Marisa is 70 years old today and still active as a model for her own beauty brand, Marisa Berenson Beauty. She is a spokesperson for Sofitel and regularly walks the runways of major fashion shows. Marisa commutes between her homes in Marrakech and Paris, and it was of course in Marrakech we got to know her. Marisa is a wonderful hostess who organizes the most spectacular parties, intimate dinners and decadent lunches, always with exciting international guest list  and a sense of style and "old Marrakech".

Andrea - fashion and do-good

Andrea Bury
Andrea Bury came to Marrakech to create a beautiful boutique hotel, the Riad Anayela, that she still operates as a highly successful Starwood design hotel. She is also the founder of ethnic chic do-good fashion brand Abury, that aspires to save dying craftsmanship around the world while creating great fashion at the same time. Her ethnic chic Abury collections are already international hits. She is a former model, famous as Celine, and a well-known fashion and tv personality in Germany. She is the creator of Fashion Talks and splits her time between Berlin and Marrakech. Andrea is also our TEDx partner and a dear friend with whom we have some new exciting projects planned. She is pure joy and all about making the world a bit better and a bit more beautiful.

Jewels in her Marrakech office

Jewels is the fitting name of an internationally recognized jewel and jewelry designer from the United States who spend half her year in Marrakech. Just like "Madonna" she is only known as "Jewels", no one knows her last name. In the late 1960s she lived in Tanger, then a free zone for drugs, criminals and people on the run. Jewels were at that time the mistress of some prince whose wife wanted to clear Jewels out of the way. She was rescued by a bodyguard who smuggled her out of the Prince's palace and she fled the city in the middle of the night without any belongings. In addition to a number of famous lovers, Jewels have always been in the midst of power and has lived a global nomadic life. Allthough today she looks like a harmless little lady, she has lived a life that makes us want to write her memoars. When she does not create tribal-chic jewelry, Jewels organizes magnificent parties in her and partner Roberts home in Marrakech.

Animal rights activist Susan

Susan Machin
Susan Machin is the top lawyer from the UK who sold everything and settled down in the rural areas outside of Marrakech. She and her husband Charles operate Jarjeer Mules & Donkey Sanctuary, a refuge for donkeys and mules. Abandonned, injured and old donkeys from all over Morocco come here for help, care and a worthy end. Susan's work has gained a lot of respect and she is now well on track to create a change in the animal rights laws of Morocco that will hopefully generate a more human animal welfare in Morocco. She has also given some 40 abandoned dogs a new home in her modern James Bond like luxury villa where we love to visit. Charles makes the most gorgeous lunches! 

Global power influencers in town!

And then there were even more talented women...
2017 was the year when we befriended some of the most influential influencers in Morocco and the world, some very talented women who created their own power houses of communication. Yusra, Yasmina, Chiara and many more are the new generation of professional bloggers and PR pros and we are very happy to know them both as friends and partners of our communications agency Red City PR. Yusra is "Moroccan Musthaves" and Yasmina is "Fashion Mintea", both very talented and highly professional women. Yasmina was even one of our speakers at TEDx. And then there is Chiara Ferragni, the Italian super model, turned power influencer, turned CEO with some 11 million followers and her own fashion brands. These girls are really a force to recon with.

Chiara Ferragni, one of the most influential women on the planet, we were so excited to finally meet up with her.

Always suround yourself with beauty and talent. These two (Victoria Secrets) angels are iconic models Karli Kloss and Elsa Hosk, whom we have worked with in several projects. Maybe they are the muses of the next generation but we stick to our stylish Marrakech ladies for inspiration!

Wishing all the amazing women (and the rest of you) a sparkling new year and a fantastic 2018!

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Top-10-list of Moroccan food

We have frequently listed our favourite restaurants in Marrakech but we have never listed what typical food you eat in Morocco, so here we go! The Moroccan kitchen is very delicious and diverse in its flavours, influenced by many different cultures like the Berber, Arab, Jewish, Spanish and French. We have put together a top-10-list of dishes, for all you foodies out there, that you just have to try while visiting Morocco.

Tangine is the national dish of Morocco! 

1. Tagine
This is THE national dish in Morocco! It defines not only the Moroccan cuisine but also the way of life here. Tangine is slow food and you mustn't be in a rush when preparing it. One uses a traditional clay pot and fill it with beef, chicken, fish or vegetables. Then one cooks it for a several hours with special spices and herbs into a magical dish filled with unique flavours! One then eats it with lots of bread in order to collect all the tasty gravy in the pot!

The best Tangines in town are served at our own Riad!

2. Tangia
If Tangine is the Moroccan national dish, the Tanjia is a national dish of Marrakech! It is said that the single men used to cook this in their hammam while they were at work during the day. Cooking it very slowly on low temperature over 7-8 hours. The clay pot is more like an urn and is traditionally filled with beef, chicken or lamb together with the usual spices.

Marrakech is known for this local dish - the Tangia!

3. Couscous
Couscous has its origin from the Berber culture and is always served on Fridays in Marrakech! It is made from semolina grains (durum wheat) together with vegetables and meat cooked in broth. 

In Morocco one eats Couscous every Friday!

4. Briouat
Rachida always makes these delicious treats whenever we have guests over for drinks or as a starter before dinner. Briouats are triangular pastry covered with a paper-thin dough. We always eat the savory briouats filled with chicken, fish or cheese but sometimes Rachida makes them sweet with banana, almonds or chocolate. 

Briouats taste best on a roof terrace on a traditional Riad! And maybe with some champagne! 

5. Pastilla
Another very traditional Moroccan dish is the Pastilla, filled with either chicken or pigeon. It is a true delicacy tasting quite sweet since it is garnished with cinnamon and sugar. 

A favourite dish! Both sweet and savory! 

6. Brochettes
The brochette is like a kebab or a grilled skewer filled with meat, chicken or vegetables. The brochette has usually 5-6 pieces of meat, chicken or fish and is rubbed with salt and spices, often paprika and cumin.

Chicken Brochettes are served best by a little Riad-pool!

7. Tride
Tride is a traditional historic Moroccan dish with chicken, lentils and shredded pancakes. It sounds quite strange but it is just delicious! It is seasoned with Rasel Hanout blend and saffron and often served at very special occasions. In Marrakech you can go to the new restaurant Le Trou Au Mur to taste this amazing dish!

At Le Trou Au Mur you can try Tride and alot of other forogotten Moroccan food!

8. Harira
Harira is a simple lentil soup that is often served as a small starter. It is also served during Ramadan to break the fast at the sunset. Then it is often added with some meat. 

Moroccan Harira Soup - Often served as a starter or to break the fast during Ramadan.

9. Moroccan pancakes - M'smmen
M'smmen - the name says it all! Crispy, flaky and fluffy - all at the same time! Yummie! It is such a delicious pastry, often served for breakfast but also as an afternoon snack. In the Medina you can buy it everywhere in the streets! M'smmen is Morocco's favorite pastry, served warm with honey or argan oil! 

Moroccan pancakes comes in many different sizes and forms!

10. Mint Tea
You cannot write about Moroccan cuisine and food culture without mentioning the Mint Tea. It is the drink you are served as a welcome drink when visiting someone or arriving for the first time to your Riad. The mint tea is not just a hot drink, it is very rooted in the ways of life as a sincere gesture of friendship and hospitality. Walking through the Medina you see people sipping it from tiny glasses and you are always offered some when you are negotiating the price for a carpet. 

Moroccan Mint tea has lots and lots of sugar in it! It's often sweeter than Coca-Cola! 

There are of course several other interesting Moroccan dishes like traditional Offal Medley, Tripe, Cherchma, Berkoukesh and Stuffed Poussin. But start with our top-10 list, if you are a true foodie you are going to love all of these dishes!

Bon Apetite everyone!

Monday, 16 October 2017

All about Yves

Fashion legend Yves Saint Laurent

This weekend was all about Yves Saint Laurent here in Marrakech since the much anticipated opening of the new "Museé Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech" premiered and opened up it's stunning doors for a very exclusive international guest list. The museum was officially opened by Princess Lalla Salma, wife of King Mohammed VI, and then followed private pre-viewings for selected guests and VIP:s as well as several lavish parties around Marrakech in the honor of Yves Saint Laurent and his life achievements. The museum will open officially on October 19 and is an absolute must-visit. 
The stunning Yves Saint Laurent Museum is designed by very talented Karl and Olivier of Studio KO. It is just breathtaking.
Beautiful architecture throughout!
The museum is located right next to the Majorelle Garden, another major tourist attraction that was donated to the city of Marrakech by Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé. The opening of the Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Marrakech followed the previous opening of another YSL museum in Paris. Marrakech served as a great inspiration for Yves and he spent many happy times in the Red City with his long time partner in business and love Pierre Bergé. Together they renovated several beautiful properties both in Marrakech and Tangier and their love for Morocco was life long. Sadly Pierre Bergé passed away only weeks before the opening of this museum.
Grand opening with Princess Lalla Salma of Morocco (in pink) and the muses of Yves Saint Laurent: Betty Catroux, Catherine Deneuve and Marisa Berenson (all fashion icons and super models/actresses).
The new Yves Saint Laurent Museum is one of the best museums we have experienced. It is beautifully curated and features truly mind-blowing fashion and architecture. If you love fashion and history it is a must-visit.

Another local celebrity during opening weekend: Per of Red City PR
No photos can do justice to the amazing experience of visiting this museum, but below you find some examples of the iconic fashion and amazing couture featured in the YSL museum.


The Master

Catherine Deneuve 
Yves and Marisa Berenson, 1972 in his apartment in Paris.

There were several offical parties as well as private dinners and private parties held in the honor of Yves Saint Laurent the past weekend. We were thrilled to be invited to fashion legend Marisa Berensons private party themed "Back to fun" held at a beautiful palace in the medina. It was an epic Marrakech night and so much fun. Marisa rocked the dance floor.

Marisa Berensons private YSL party "Back to fun"

Marisa Berenson was the most photographed woman in the world in the 60:s and 70:s and was dubbed "the most beautiful girl in the world by Vogue" and Yves Saint Laurent called her his muse and the it-girl of the 70:s. She has starred in over 70 movies and is still, 70 years old, active as a model and entrepreneur with her own skin care line. We met Marisa through her partner Jean-Michel. They also love Marakech and live close to us so we have visited their beautiful home several times, always a fun crowd hanging out there.

Naomi, Marisa and Lenny - a dynamic trio

What to read about YSL:
-"All about Yves" (the ultimate coffee table book about the designer)
-"Letter to Yves" (letters to Yves from Pierre written after the designer died)
-"Un Passion Marocain" (private photos and handwritten notes about Yves and Pierres life in Marrakech)

What to watch about YSL:
-"Yves Saint Laurent" (feature film about the life of YSL)
-"L'Amour Fou" (documentary with Pierre Berge about his life with Yves and their love of art)

The museum opens October 19. We were so very grateful to be included in the pre-opening program.

Forever YSL!

Thank you Yves and Pierre for everything you have done for fashion and Marrakech. We are forever grateful! You made the world a more beautiful place. Amen.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Ocean Break - Ponza

The island of Ponza is a true gem in the Italian archipelago.

When the tourists go to Capri (oh, it's a gorgeous island, read more about it HERE), the Italians go to Ponza. Like Capri, Ponza boasts amazing and dramatic nature as well as great restaurants and even beautiful sandy beaches (something that Capri is lacking). It is the perfect spot for a genuine ocean break. Ponza is the obvious choice for both the Italian jet-setters and the ordinary Italian sun-seakers. Non-Italian tourists seem to be very rare which makes the island very genuine. You come here for beautiful nature, great food and amazing private beaches.

Cicero had his bags packed and was ready to go!

Ponza is the largest island of the Pontine archipelago. The island was inhabited from Roman times and according to the legend the Ponza was named after the biblical person Pontius Pilate. 

The charming and colourful harbor of Ponza.

For us it is just a short drive of an hour from Arpino to the charming coastal town Terracina, where we can catch a speed boat that takes us to Ponza in less than an hour. So we packed our bags and two hours after leaving our house in Arpino we checked into our ocean front hotel on Ponza.

Villa Esiria - a charming hotel with the best location, overlooking the Ponza port town.

We stayed at a charming boutique hotel called Villa Esiria, located in a beautiful old villa with stunning views. Our suite had a big private terrace and even a small garden so Cicero was very pleased with his new temporary little kingdom. Most of the restaurants and all night life is located in the colourful and busy harbor area, which was a short but very steep walk from our hotel.

Cicero enjoyed the terrace immensely! 

Beautiful views from our private terrace and garden at Villa Esiria.

Ponza is famous for it's beautiful sandy beaches. 

There are some beaches centrally located in the town of Ponza but the best ones are secluded and can only be reached by boat. So rent a boat with a skilled captain and set out to find your own private bay, there are plenty to chose from! There are also some nice beach clubs available.

As evening falls the big yachts arrive to Ponza, a very popular bay for super yachts.

The locals are not easily impressed and if you don't have a reservation it doesn't matter how big your yacht is or how famous you are. During peak season reservations are crucial if you want to enjoy excellent seafood with a sea view. The food on the island is amazing, weather you go to a simple joint or fine dining establishment you will have a great Italian food experience.

"EEA" is the best restaurant on the island and boosts stunning sunset views. Make sure you book well in advance.

"Gennarino a Mare" is a charming hotel, exclusive yacht club and amazing restaurant. We came here  for both lunch and dinner.

Our little tribe enjoying another beautiful sunset from our terrace.

An absolute must when you visit Ponza is to rent your own boat and captain and go around the entire island to experience the dramatic coast lines and stunning nature, not to mention discovering caves, giant rocks and private beaches. There are also bigger boats taking groups of tourists around the island available but we strongly recommend you yo to get a private boat so you can set the pace yourself and have a more unique experience. We had a great day including several swims through natural rock arches and stunning bays as well as a lunch at a beach club on the back side of the island.

Best thing to do is to go around the island by boat. Ship Ahoy!

Beautiful nature everywhere you look!

Cicero really enjoyed the ocean and proved to be quite the skipper. 

He was a bit reluctant to dive into the salty waters though!

Chrystal blue water to go swimming, snorkeling or diving in.

Dramatic landscapes with giant rock formations.

Harbor life was very serene and beautiful.

Where to stay
- Grand Hotel Santa Domitilla (the only true luxury hotel on the island)
- Villa Ersilia (A charming boutique hotel with amazing views, get a room with private terrace)
- Gennarino a Mare (An iconic hotel located on the main beach)
- Hotel Mari (A classic hotel located in the busy harbor)

Where to eat 
- EEA (Fine dining restaurant with amazing food and views)
- Gennarino a Mare (Beautiful seaside restaurant with great seafood)
- Il Pescatore (Excellent fine dining)
- L'Aragosta (Classic restaurant with harbor front location)

What to do
- Rent a boat with a captain and go around the island for a day.
- Relax and enjoy the views.
- Find your own private beach and go swimming.
- Walk the marina at night and enjoy the buzzling nightlife.
- Have dinner and watch the sunset.

Thanks Ponza, it was just great!

Ocean breaks are simply the best!