December 26, 2005

Marrakech, Morocco  (212 4) 4403 353;

Our last trip to Marrakech was thirty five years ago; and some things have changed a lot and some not at all. The changes for the good are a new king with a more liberal outlook than his father, and the development of an area called the Palmyria, a few kilometers outside town with luxurious new hotels, apartments and golf courses. medina2.jpg The medina, happily, appears to be the same as it was but there must be some more stores.  Also, several riads have been bought and refurbished, both by Moroccans and by Europeans.Amanjena is in the Palmyria, and what a lush, exotic place it is.  There are only 39 rooms, each with a private courtyard and small pool.  Each room is basically the same pond.jpggenerous size, with a large bed, fireplace, couch, chair, desk. The bathrooms are immense—two separate dressing areas, shower room looking out on a private citrus garden, as does the bathtub and the WC. There are two restaurants, one is Thai and the other is Moroccan/continental.  Both are delicious, so delicious that we never ventured into town at night.

ryad-lunch.jpgIn town, after a three hour walk with a guide, we had a traditional lunch on the roof terrace of a newly renovated riad, Riad Kniza in the medina.  The owner, a “famous” Moroccan guide chatted with us, explaining the history of the riad (his wife’s family, abandoned for years, she recently bought out the other relatives).  He told us about his wife’s art/antique shop in the new town and gave us a card offering a 20% discount .  Supposedly in the new town the prices are fixed. 

The next trip to town, we concentrated on the new town, without a guide.  We did go to the recommended shop and introduced ourselves to Yousef, the son.  He laughed about the discount, and promptly told us 25% on rugs, 15% on gold and 20% on the art and antiques.  Who are we to pass up such a deal?  So we bought a painting, a three dimensional piece by Yousef himself, an antique embroidered piece, and a pair of earrings.  Lunch was at Rotisserie de la Paix, which we never would have found but which was recommended by the riad owner/guide.  It had a very nice courtyard in the back and served grilled food, salads, etc.

party.jpgNew Year’s Eve at Amanjena was special.  There was an elaborate tasting menu, with wines, followed by champagne at one of the larger decorative pools where there were large fires, a countdown projected onto the far wall, and then greetings lit in the middle of the lake.  Very tasteful, low key and just perfect for us.Being the holidays, there were lots of families, and children.  But the place was so spread out and they did such a good job of entertaining the children that we rarely saw them.  And, more important, rarely heard them.  The tennis courts, deserted except for us and a young French girl who took a few lessons, were the best ever. The back space was incredibly generous, the surface, Moroccan clay was in tournament shape, and we were served fruit juice and water to refresh us.

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