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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Known as the Pearl of the South, Marrakech is an exotic city in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains in the Kingdom of Morocco. Like many North African and Middle Eastern cities, Marrakech has two main sections — the old city (medina) and the modern. It has the largest traditional souk in Morocco, and Djemaa el Fna is the busiest square in the entire continent. It is where you see charlatans, story-tellers, snake charmers, jugglers and other performers. It never sleeps.

Marrakech is one of the country's largest cities, is green and bountiful and all buildings, old and new, are in the trademark ochre colour. The old and new are cleverly fused, but Marrakech is still a city shrouded in myth and mystery. Despite all that, it's going through a renaissance covering everything from fashion to food, interior design to music.

The beating heart of Marrakech is its labyrinthine medina, overflowing with riches. The 12th-century walled city is as it always was. Made up of around 2800 souks, you will see basket makers and wood turners, ironworkers and saddlers, rug sellers and copper workers trading the way they have been for centuries.

In the food markets you will be amazed at the array of colours and aromas. Lush strawberries, oranges, artichokes, green peas and beans, dates, apricots, nuts and figs and every imaginable herb and earth-coloured spice.

Behind the walls are hundreds of elaborate and breathtaking guesthouses known as riads, Arabic for garden.

La Villa Nomade is an elegant and traditional Arabic house in the centre of the medina. It reflects the Garden of Eden of the holy texts, depicting heaven with birds, flowers and water in its centre.

Even though it is close to Djemaa el Fna Square, it is a quiet and serene walled refuge with a closed garden open to the sky. Visitors enjoy sipping mint tea by a small pool and fountain and the riad offers massages and beauty care with essential oils, and other body treatments.

There are twelve bedrooms and suites on two levels around a patio with tall arcades. Each is different and named after an explorer. They are air-conditioned and have central heating.

The decoration is fascinating — natural earth tiles on the ground, walls adorned with a mix of lime, plaster and pigments, carved plaster, baked clay jars, beautiful white metal lanterns and the most wonderful palette of colours — saffron, melon, deep purple, sand, jade, clay and poppy which work so well together.

Furniture has been made by Moroccan craftsmen using ancient methods with contemporary touches.

A 15-minute walk away is one of the city's most beautiful natural attractions. The Majorelle Gardens were originally the studio of French botanist and painter, Jacques Majorelle who settled in Marrakech in 1923. He built his dream house and planted a subtropical garden of bougainvillea, hibiscus, lotus and other fragrant flowering plants of magical colours.

After his death in 1962, the property fell into disrepair. But thanks to the generosity of French designer Yves Saint-Laurent, it was restored and given to the city. The studio is now an Islamic art museum.


Central Morocco.


La Villa Nomade rooms start at around $143 per person a night, twin share. Breakfast is included.

Emirates has return flights to Casablanca. Validity dates apply.

Fares from;
  • Perth, $2022
  • Melbourne, $2069
  • Brisbane, $2071
  • Sydney, $2088
  • Adelaide, $2389
  • Darwin, $2562

Please note that the prices listed are valid at the time of filming.

More information

La Villa Nomade
7 Derb el Marstane Zaouia El Abbasia
Bab Taghzout
40 000 Marrakech — Medina
Ph: (33) 1 42 86 17 90
Fax : (33) 1 42 86 16 19

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