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INDUSTRY EVENTS

Third Annual Moroccan Travel Market Takes Place in Marrakesh Exposition extends the “Beautiful Friendship” with the U.S. R O B I N S WA D O S

Places to Stay To the first-time visitor to the magical city of Marrakesh— with its effortless combination of personal warmth, sunshine, colors that range from an eye-popping variety of rugs and carpets to fragrant rose petals and baskets of rare spices and herbs, all swathed in a city whose primary color is antique rose—the 233-year-old friendship between the United States and Morocco should come as no surprise. It’s a remarkably easy city in which to feel at home, whether on foot, in a horse and carriage, a “little cab” (for one passenger) or a “big” one (for more passengers). From the expansive, elegant boulevards that line its upscale neighborhoods to the souks off of the Place Jemaa el Fna, its famed central bazaar, Marrakesh is a stunning blend of sophisticated, contemporary shops, restaurants, clubs and cafés, and wildly exotic alleyways filled with a kaleidoscopic array of merchandise—jeweled boxes, tin ceiling lanterns, leather goods, pottery, and rugs and carpets, to name but a few. Marrakesh is a jewel of the Arab world, yes, but it also compares in certain ways to Paris and even the palm-lined, sun-dappled boulevards of Los Angeles. For all its antiquity, Marrakesh contains a broad spectrum 10 • MARCH 2010

ROBIN SWADOS

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he third annual Moroccan Travel Market took place in Marrakesh from January 13 to 17 in a warm, sunny and festive atmosphere. Although it was 1942 when Humphrey Bogart made cinematic history in the film Casablanca when he said, “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” the truth of the matter is that the real friendship between Morocco and the United States dates back to December 1777, when Moroccan sultan Muhammad III included America in a list of countries to which Morocco’s ports were open, making Morocco the first country whose head of state publicly recognized the new United States. Relations were formalized with the Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship negotiated by Thomas Barclay, and signed by Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Muhammad III in 1786. The 2010 tourist market was only the latest example of the friendly relationship that has long existed between Morocco and the United States.

The entrance to the 2010 Moroccan Travel Market.

of elegant, state-of-the-art places in which to stay, at all price levels, ranging from the famed La Mamounia Hotel, which recently underwent an enormous renovation, to the more mid-priced chain of Ryad Mogador Hotels (there are seven in Marrakesh alone), to stunning one-off boutique hotels like the Dar Rhizlane Hotel, located on the quiet, unassuming Rue Jnane El Harti. The intimate Rhizlane is an especially glorious example of Marrakesh at its most exotic and elegant, with cascades of bougainvillea and roses everywhere, fountains and reflecting pools strewn with incredibly fragrant rose petals (most of them freshly plucked from the owner’s own farm), and rooms so beautiful they would be remembered forever—a perfect setting for a wedding, or special occasion of any kind. La Mamounia Hotel, www.mamounia.com; Ryad Mogador Hotels, www.ryadmogador.com; Dar Rhizlan, www.dar-rhizlane.com Another special place to stay in Marrakesh is the Hivernage Hotel & Spa, one of the Great Hotels of the World, and an ultra-luxurious wellness center located in an elegant residential quarter of the city just a few steps away from the Mamounia. There are 60 suites, several restaurants, high-end shops, and (of course) numerous pools, all focused on a Zen environment of tranquility and well-being. Hivernage Hotel & Spa, www.hivernage-hotel.com

Alternatives to the Tried and True Some of the more noticeable exhibitors at the tourist market www.travelworldnews.com • Travel World News


INDUSTRY EVENTS this year focused on a number of out-of the-way vacation spots ideal for families with children, couples seeking a romantic getaway, athletically inclined vacationers, or anyone interested in branching out to unusual and frequently stunning locations in which to spend leisure time. The first and perhaps most traditional of these is the Samanah Country Club, a gigantic community currently under development (parts are already finished), located some 15 minutes south of Marrakesh. Situated at the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, the Samanah has already been awarded the Best Golf Development Morocco by the Arabian Residential Property Awards, in conjunction with CNBC, and no wonder: it’s a spectacular development of villas of various sizes and styles, available for rent or for sale, to suit any taste or budget, all of them in close proximity to very beautiful golf courses. Though the Samanah’s focus is primarily on golf, there are also eight tennis courts, among many other athletic activities. Other accoutrements include child-care facilities, many restaurants, shops, and full concierge service. Samanah Country Club,www.samanah.com Another of these remarkable and unusual vacation getaways is the Bivouacs du Desert, an open-air community of tents, carpets, candlelit nights, bonfires, and Moroccan-style meals under the desert stars, complete with live music and traditional live spectacles. The Bivouacs offer an opportunity to live life a bit like the nomads do in a luxurious atmosphere every bit as romantic as one might expect. Bivouacs du Desert, www.bivouac.com For the ever-increasing number of tourists concerned about sustainable eco-tourism, Couleurs Berbères—a highly secure, tented community located at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, and about a 45-minute drive from Marrakesh— offers a truly unusual and delightful alternative to the tried and true. Founded by the brothers Loutfi in Marrakesh, this ultra-secure, walled vacation getaway, with its circular arrangement of fully air-conditioned tents, two swimming pools, and a gigantic bonfire around which to commune in the early evening, has more than just tourism on its mind. Created less than two years ago to bring people of different countries and cultures together for even a brief moment in time, Couleurs Berbères is designed to promote solidarity among all its guests, to foster communication between them that might otherwise never occur by providing art workshops for groups or single individuals, and to encourage teamwork through fun activities, whether artistic, creative, athletic, or introspective. It’s a beautifully unusual way to gather a variety of people together, be they individuals, couples or families looking to spend time in a breathtaking geographical environment, or even for business groups to gather together as an expression of a particular marketing message none of its associates are likely to forget. There’s a full bar and tented restaurant serving traditional Moroccan cuisine, an amTravel World News • www.travelworldnews.com

phitheater for live performances each evening, conference rooms, and sports activities that include hang-gliding, mountain climbing, swimming, and even meeting the local Berbers, all of which are enjoyed in ways that improve the standards of living in the surrounding local villages, respect the local population and preserve the environment. Couleurs Berbères, www.couleursberberes.com

Wandering Marrakesh’s City Streets There’s something to be said for simply wandering the streets of almost any city you happen to be visiting, and Marrakesh is certainly no exception. There is, however, a central attraction—the Place Jemaa el Fna, located at the epicenter of the medina (the old city), a visit to which is simply essential. During the day it is a bustling market, replete with friendly monkeys, mysterious snake charmers, and lively musicians; at night, it transforms itself into the world’s largest open-air bazaar, with literally hundreds of food stands selling everything from seafood to chicken, lamb, beef, sausages, tagines, and assorted other local specialties—all not to be missed. For a more traditional sit-down meal, laid-back, casual cafés like La Table du Marché, located at 4, rue du temple are a lovely way to pass the time, and the spectacularly atmospheric Grand Café de la Poste, a two-story mansion built in 1926 that now serves delicious meals in an ambience that can only be described as straight out of “The English Patient.” [The restaurant’s intriguing Web site alone is worth a visit.] And if the visitor to Marrakesh is lucky enough to spend some time exploring the glorious, massive El-Badiâ Palace, the Kosybar Restaurant offers not only fantastic views of it but excellent meals to boot.

Some Souvenirs If one had to choose mementos of Marrakesh, the city might be said to be especially memorable for two things—its carpets and its spices. As for the former, one of the best-known and most reputable collections of antique rugs, Berbers, and kilims is to be found at Aux Merveilles de Marrakech, located at 14, Souk Semmarine, just off the Place Jemaa el Fna. And a great way to bring back special gifts from Marrakesh at low prices is to pay a visit to the beautiful Herboristerie Palais El Badiâ, an herb and spice shop located at 22, bis Arset lamâach Touareg jdad, which has a truly remarkable collection of spices, herbal teas, essential oils, creams and ointments, perfumes, and hibiscus flowers. You won’t forget the shop. And you’ll never forget Marrakesh.

How to Get There All flights from the U.S. to Marrakesh make a stopover at Casablanca, which is a 25-minute flight from Marrakesh.

Moroccan Travel Market, www.mtm.ma MARCH 2010 •

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Marrakech