Looking beyond its ceaseless urban hum, Marrakech reveals itself as place distinctive for its sensitivity, hospitality, beauty and ability to transform itself and offer a whole world of new discoveries. Photographer Céline Marks experienced it over the space of a weekend.
- What is it that makes Marrakech so special?
It may be only 3 hours from Paris, but this is a totally different world of unstinted sun, palm trees, color and the medina, where losing your way is the best thing to do. Marrakech is all of these, and a lot more besides. Straddling tradition and the modern world, this city amazes and enchants me. Every time I come here, I see changes. It understands how to refresh and reinvent itself. It is innately magical and attracts us like a magnet.
- What's your favorite moment for exploring this labyrinthine city?
Very early in the morning before even the souks are open. The atmosphere then is timeless; there’s virtually no one in the lanes and alleyways, so it’s a great time for atmospheric shots. And also at the end of the day, when the sun sets over Jemaa El-Fna square: the light is truly exceptional.
- Your inspirational moment?
Marrakech is a powerful source of inspiration. I’m always on the lookout every time I walk through this city. Its colors, the decorative style of the riads and the rich diversity of the souks are definitely the most inspirational things for me as a photographer.
- Your favorite shopping moment?
Undoubtedly my encounter with a man around 70 years old sandwiched between two vegetable stalls who was using his fingers to paint beautiful terracotta mugs. I was completely blown away by his creativity. His cups now have pride of place on my kitchen shelves. I love to bring home beautiful souvenirs from my travels, and those cups are just some of them.
- Your delicious moment of the trip?
Rose petals in the bedroom, a fire in the hearth and a private dinner for two... I’ll never forget my birthday at the Ksar Char-Bagh! Surrounded by the Marrakech palm grove, the Ksar Char-Bagh is an amazing hotel; a corner of paradise in the style of a 14th century Moorish palace, whose name evokes tales of the Orient, and where you absolutely have to spend a few days. The hotel has only 13 bedrooms, and offers superb facilities for its size, as well as the highly personalized service that only small boutique hotels can deliver. All the food is organic, and the jams and olive oil are homemade with ingredients from the chef’s own organic vegetable garden: unmissable!
- Your photo moment?
Everything in Marrakech is totally photogenic! To get really successful shots, all you need to do is wander off the tourist trail and keep your eyes open. Keep out of sight in a porch and just observe. Play with shadows and shapes. It’s a real visual playground for me.
Marrakech destinations recommended by Céline Marks:
1/ La Famille: This is a hidden place in a tiny whitewashed courtyard that's a haven of green peacefulness. This is the place to lunch in the shade of the trees on homemade vegetarian dishes prepared using ultra-fresh ingredients. Everything here is wonderfully delicious!
The bonus: its tiny adjoining boutique packed with pretty objects created and crafted here. Wicker baskets, small mirrors, macramé... it’s impossible to resist!
2/ Le Jardin: This new restaurant created by the team at Le Café des Épices is as surprising as it is engaging. You can lunch here beneath the shady trees or soak up the sun on the terrace. The menu features simple, delicious Moroccan and European-inspired dishes. I recommend the vegetarian couscous. It’s amazing!
The bonus: the embroidered straw hats provided on every table... adorable!
3/ La Villa des Orangers: this luxury hotel close to Jemaa El-Fna square is a masterpiece created out of the very best Moroccan craftsmanship. Even if you’re not staying at the riad, you can still lunch here in the fine dining restaurant or luxuriate in the Nuxe Spa. It’s a really beautiful place, and once you enter, you really don’t want to leave.
The bonus: Its hospitality and its view of the Koutoubia Mosque and central Marrakech.