Is this Africa's most stylish city? Follow Yves Saint Laurent to Marrakech

6th Dec 17 | Fashion

A new museum dedicated to the designer has opened in Morocco. Sarah Marshall recommends a chic weekend away.

36ca8ae6-3bde-4ae8-80f2-d5913c77125d

Everywhere you look there’s colour: from bursts of sunshine hanging from fruiting orange trees, to cones of marigold-yellow turmeric and flaming-red cayenne pepper rising like exotic mountain ranges in the shadowy doorways of spice shops.

A delightfully disorientating mix of wild hues and exotic patterns, Marrakech captured the imagination of fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent when he first visited in 1966 – and fifty years later, its heady impact hasn’t diminished one bit.

“The city opened my eyes to colour,” the Algerian-born artist famously declared.

Yves Saint Laurent in Place Djemaa El Fna. (Reginald Gray/PA)
Yves Saint Laurent in Place Djemaa El Fna (Reginald Gray/PA)

Falling in love at first sight, he bought a property here with his partner Pierre Bergé and later restored the famous botanical gardens, Jardin Majorelle, where a museum celebrating his connections with the Moroccan city recently opened next door.

Containing numerous key pieces from the designer’s game-changing collections, the Musee Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech (mYSLm) is set to boost this North African destination’s creative appeal once again.

According to a recent survey by flight and hotel website Booking.com,  59% of travellers would prioritise spending money on experiences over material items when on holiday – so planning a short break to visit a new museum isn’t such a far-fetched idea.

Visit these places for a fashion-themed weekend escape.

Style it out at mYSLm

Designs on display at MYSLM (MSLM/PA)
Designs on display at mYSLm (MSLM/PA)

In a dark corridor illuminated by spotlights, a modest but carefully curated selection of garments is modelled by mannequins, providing a visual timeline of the fashion designer’s career. Now signature styles in high street stores, the jumpsuit, pea jacket, smoking jacket and trouser suit all started life in YSL’s sketchbooks.

Hooded cloaks, gowns with tassels and feminine Fez hats have obvious links with Morocco, but brocade jackets inspired by Van Gogh and puff-sleeved blouses belonging to Balkan gypsies were shaped by imaginary travels further afield.

Display at the MYSLM
(mYSLm/PA)

“A woman handling her gloves is a gesture I adore,” claimed YSL, and a fabulous magpie’s cabinet of accessories – including bold, garish costume jewellery and an outrageous gold-plated breast plate – is an exhibition highlight.

How much: Buy a combination ticket which includes a visit to the neighbouring Jardin Majorelle (180Dhs/£14) and avoid lengthy queues to visit the popular gardens. No cards are taken, so remember to bring cash. Visit museeyslmarrakech.com/en

Tip: Skip the designer prices and size zero portions of the museum’s restaurant, and head to the Pause Gourmande cafe across the road, where sandwiches are 40Dhs (£3).

Stay at Mandarin Oriental Marrakech for a fashionable sleep

Mandarin Oriental Marrakech exterior
(George Apostolodis/PA)

Although a 15-minute drive from the Medina, this modern property still embodies all that’s great about the city. Petals from more than 100,000 roses flutter in 20 hectares of gardens, where olive trees twirl around secluded villas and the undulating outline of the Atlas mountains hovers on the horizon.

Each room is a mini palace, with a pool dominating the open-air courtyard and a voluptuous tub almost drowning the bathroom. There’s even a touch screen-operated hammam in the shower, with black soap and scrub mitt provided.

Alternatively, let someone else do all the hard work in the mesmerising spa, where treatment rooms come with their own private gardens – and more of those roses and olive trees.

A Pool Villa at Mandarin Oriental Marrakech
A Pool Villa (George Apostolodis/PA)

For classy cocktails and trendy dining, book a table at Asian restaurant Ling Ling; and for fine Moroccan fare, head to Mes’Lalla, where outdoor tables are set beneath the stars.

How much: Rooms from €850 (£747) per night with breakfast. Visit mandarinoriental.com/marrakech

Tip: To avoid any embarrassing rows with drivers in the Medina, order fixed price taxis through the hotel reception.


Enjoy a chic eat at Le Trou Au Mur

Le Trou au Mur interior
(Le Trou Au Mur/PA)

For too long there’s been a gap in the Marrakech restaurant market; options have historically ranged from high-end hotel appendages to simple street eats, with very little in between. So this new casual diner from the owners of boutique hotel Riad Farnatchi really is in a class of it’s own.

Buried deep in the Medina’s back streets, the relaxed, friendly space is part of a renovated house with ornate stucco plasterwork and zingy lime green walls.

The menu is equally refreshing, serving a selection of forgotten classics rarely served outside Moroccan homes. (The de riguer tagines are still offered, but there’s so much more besides.)  A speciality is the meshoui – a slow-cooked lamb. At present, the restaurant is only open for dinner.

How much: Pay around 300Dhs (£24) for three courses. Visit letrouaumur.com

Tip: Ring ahead and ask to be met at the Medina walls; it’s easy to get lost.

Relax like an A-lister at the Farnatchi Spa

Riad Farnatchi Spa
(Farnatchi Spa/PA)


There’s no such thing as too many hammams, so take the opportunity to squeeze in a scrub between exploring sites and souks in the Medina. Opened last year, next door to Riad Farnatchi (who also operate the spa), it features four treatment rooms and two hammams either side of a sun-splashed courtyard.

Prepare to strip down (yes, completely) for a warm soak and thorough exfoliation, promising to leave skin baby soft. It’s a ritual Moroccans practise weekly – and it’s easy to understand why.

How much: A 40-minute Simple Hammam costs 350Dhs (£27.50). Visit farnatchispa.com

How to get there
Booking.com offers flights from Gatwick to Marrakech with easyJet in January from £110 return. They offer a two-night stay at the Mandarin Oriental from £1,497.

© Press Association 2017

MORE FROM XPOSÉ