Vanessa Branson's love affair with Marrakech began in 1997, when her brother Richard was waiting (and waiting) for the weather to change. He was attempting to launch his hot-air balloon from a nearby airport in the hope of circumnavigating the globe. Branson didn¹t make in into the record books, but his cloud had a silver lining: Vanessa bought a crumbling merchant¹s house with a garden at its center. Read on to discover a few of her favorite Marrakech haunts.
Previously a gallery owner in London, Vanessa brings her curatorial eye to Marrakech; she initiated the AiM International Biennale (Arts in Marrakech), which enters its 10th year in 2013. And, with the help of co-owner Howell James and French designer Frederic Scholl, Vanessa opened the 21-suite Riad El Fenn, where she runs a wide variety of creative courses. Vanessa's contemporary art collection feels completely at home behind the thick, cool ochered walls of the riad, with its mosaic floors, scented gardens, and rows of Moroccan slippers lined up for guests (go to Riad El Fenn for information).
Who better, then, to guide us through the city and beyond?
Above: Vanessa Branson, in Marrakech mode, at Riad El Fenn. Photograph by Leila Alaoui.
Above: Rue 33 Majorelle is a concept shop with a carefully chosen roster of young designers and the best of the souks with a contemporary edge.
Above: Atika, a Gueliz shop known for its suede driving shoes, available in a wide range of colors; photo via Market Manila. N.B. The Sidi Ghanem area is full of workshops and exciting designers, including the Fan Wan Noor gallery, and is well worth the visit.
POOLS AND CLUBS
Above: Meryanne Loum-Martin's hotel and spa, Jnane Tamsna, offers wonderful food from the organic gardens.
Above: The Beldi Country Club has a beautiful pool with loungers under ancient olive trees (cool spa and shop, too).
Above: The super chic pool in the desert garden at Fellah Hotel is a must.
Above: Kechmara Cafe, for its amazing quality, always.
Above: Near Riad el Fenn, the Cafe Arabe is always a good bet.
Above: The Kaowa Snack & Juice Bar is conveniently near the Yves Saint Laurent Majorelle Gardens.