Saturday, 4 June 2011

This site has moved to "Kasbah On-Line"

Trying to keep up with internet technology is always a mine-field but we are trying our best !

Rather than trying to keep all sites live is rapidly becoming a full-time job so this is what we have decided.

This site:

Is good to keep up to date with our TripAdvisor reviews. Or you can go directly to our TripAdvisor (click here).


Please follow us on Twitter(click here) for updates several time a day!


Please do add yourself as a friend on Facebook (Click here) to become a part of our community.


Is now our new Blog site. Please subscribe to Kasbah On-Line (click here) to be e-Mailed regular news wordpress articles by us.


This Guide (click here) covers the Kasbah of Marrakech and the general area and history. It is also a resource site for other accommodations and activities.


Our YouTube (click here) has reached nearly 2 Million site visits. Many are based on Marrakech and worth a smile.


Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Presenting “Adventure by Design”

As the masses are shepherded into their pre-designed package tour some are looking for a new adventure, a new experience.

The adventure can be local or further afield, UK based or global. This is the unique provision of Adventure by Design, designing treks around the world (specialising in the UK and Morocco) travelling by 4×4 or trekking on foot tailored to your requirements and aims turning them into memories; visiting places and offering the experience the package tour will not reach.

From the busy streets of Marrakech to the amazing mountain views, the gorges and desert dunes, Morocco offers so many different experiences.
To enrich your visit to Morocco we are able to provide truly bespoke treks to discover the culture and country by either 4×4 or hiking, maybe even a combination of both.

Fully insured 4x4 Vehicles
Although we do provide an English speaking leader with each trek there is a strong ethos of a sustainable and ethical provision respecting the environments and cultures we operate in.

Twisting through the Gorge

Therefore, we use locally sourced skilled and trained people, provisions, accommodation where required and vehicles whenever possible.

Adventures take many forms from day visits to overnight expedition’s dependant on your aims.

We use vehicles based in country all fully insured and checked by our drivers. Each adventure has a qualified expedition first aid trained representative. For environmental reasons we limit 4×4 treks to four vehicles, minimum numbers dependant on location. Hiking can be from one to groups of eight.

To find out more or to discuss your requirements please contact us or take a look at our web site

Saturday, 14 May 2011

The Kasbah On-Line is Launched

14-05-2011: The Kasbah On-Line Magazine has finally been launched via WordPress.

Click here to go to site

Focus: News Reviews Articles Comments

The Kasbah On-Line Magazine has been designed in a newsprint format. No doubt there will be a few early teething issues but I will endeavour to iron them out.

We aim to offer high quality images and regular overviews of Marrakech life.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Portraits of Riad Laksiba Service Providers – NEIGHBOURS

ABDELLAH – NEIGHBOUR Photo: Abdellah by Simon Hawkesley

Today comes as a sad day as I hear of the passing of an Old Friend.

Photo: The Stable and Riad Laksiba 2005 by Simon Hawkesley

Derb Kadi was historically the Royal Stables. All bar one stable has long since gone to be replaced by homes, Riad Laksiba included.

The remaining stable is directly opposite Riad Laksiba’s front door and stands testament to a bygone age.

Photo: Abdellah & Hassan's "Calech" standing opposite Riad Laksiba by Simon Hawkesley
Abdellah, the stable owner; passed away yesterday having reached a grand old age, mid-to-late 80’s, he remained active with his daily visit to the stable to ensure that his legacy was in good running order with Hassan, his son. Hassan keeps the stable in a fine condition and the horses are beautifully looked after. Abdou, Riad Laksiba’s Guardian, spends each afternoon helping in the stable and also prepares tagine meals for the Grooms when they return in the evenings.

Rather than mourn Abdellah’s death; I find myself celebrating his life and his warm neighbourly hospitality. Abdellah showed an active interest in the restoration of Riad Laksiba; he was genuinely courteous and kind toward my family and Laksiba's guests. Abdellah is a sad loss; he provided a truly rich embellishment to the street life of Derb Kadi.

My condolence goes to Hassan.

Photo: Residents of Derb Kadi, Riad Laksiba's neighbours by Simon Hawkesley

All of Riad Laksiba’s neighbours have unique characters offering a diverse mix of personalities; which bring great enjoyment to my frequent returns to Derb Kadi. I feel welcomed and accepted as a neighbour; honoured and rewarded to be allowed to share in the day-to-day interaction of this tight community.

To Abdellah: Our thoughts are with you; May you Rest in Peace 11-05-2011

Friday, 6 May 2011

Portraits of Riad Laksiba Service Providers - FABRICS

BATOUL – TEXTILES & FABRICS Photo: Batoul (Old Slave Market) by Simon Hawkesley & Abdelhamid Bousaadi

Batoul can be found, hidden away in the Old Slave Market in the Marrakech Souks.

A few times each week the Old Slave Market is taken over by Rag Trade Merchants. Unusually they are predominantly women.

Photo: Nordie & Simon (Old Slave Market) after a sucessful Tray purchase by Clare Williams

I have noticed that when I suggest that I am off to the Old Slave Market to see Batoul and the ladies; Abdou and Abdelhamid shudder, back off and argue over who’s turn is to go. The victim, usually Abdou, finally agrees; on the condition that he can sit and chat to Nordie & Zac, the Witch-Doctors, who’s Apothecary is also located in the Old Slave Market, whilst I undertake negotiations and will only assist post sale should I need assistance to carry merchandise back to Riad Laksiba.

Photo: Batoul et al by Simon Hawkesley & Abdelhamid Boussadi

It would be fair to say that negotiations can last a little while longer than anticipated; even if one has anticipated quite some time. On saying that…. I love it and feel privileged to be able to immerse myself into a centuries old culture and loose myself in the gaggle of comment, innuendo and conversation.

I don’t quite know where the politics start and finish, with the ladies chatting to a white, male, non-national, married, infidel but it seems to work; although creating the occasional stare of curiosity from other locals who ostensively end up joining the banter.

Batoul and her colleagues sell everything from single shoes, to beautiful hand woven tapestries, to new pillow covers made of Cactus Silk, to teapots and trays. All the stuff that makes a house a home. Mainly second-hand or; to my daughter Hannah’s generation “Vintage”.

The hours are not necessarily spent sifting through the bulk to find that must-have bargain…. more… sipping mint tea whilst Batoul and her clutch thrust garments in your direction, anticipating and scrutinising your reaction, whilst they sharpen their aim with what they consider “more appropiate choices”. The negotiation starts when a glimmer of interest is sensed; then, apparently, you are staring at the finest article in the arsenal.

Photo: Hannah & Kaitlin donning Tribal Tattoo's by Simon Hawkesley

For respite; Batoul makes a great “Mint Tea” and is a dab-hand at creating Tribal Henna Tattoo’s, much to Hannah & Kaitlin’s delight. Tattoo & Tea over and the negotiations commence.

Finally.... a Fabric deal is struck and Abdou will wander over with Nordie to ensure that I have not paid too much for the hospitality !

Photo: Finally... a Fabric deal by Simon Hawkesley

Portraits of Riad Laksiba Service Providers - GUARDIAN

ABDELGHAFOUR – GUARDIAN Photo: Abdelghafour Jdier Laksiba's Guardian by Simon Hawkesley

Abdelghafour Jdier “Abdou” has been the Guardian of Riad Laksiba since the day we opened the doors in late 2010. However Abdou’s story and association with Riad Laksiba goes a lot further back.

Back in 2005, when Abdou was 12 years old, two English people wandered in a little cul-de-sac called Derb Kadi…. to see where it goes.

Derb Kadi was a strategic consideration as it is the very first street one would find if they accessed the Kasbah via the Bab Ksiba entrance. Fiona and I both decided that it was a cute cul-de-sac and really like the fact that a huge Date-Palm Tree was growing at the end of the street.

No tourist homes, only locals homes and a stable. It felt great, real…. Yes the real Marrakech we were looking for. The rest is history. We purchased the Riad opposite the Stable and next to the big beautiful Date-Palm Tree. Riad Laksiba.

Photo: Derb Kadi Footballers 2005 by Simon Hawkesley
At certain times of the day, after school, Fiona and I could hear a small group of children playing football in Derb Kadi, on the opposite side of the stable. They were around 12 years of age and plying their craft very seriously. Free-kicks, penalties, throw-in’s and corners.
It was so refreshing to see; in comparison to the tethering we give our children in the west. Our fears of interference have denied our children’s generation what we took for granted.
The “team” in Derb Kadi posed for a photo. Again something that we would feel obliged to gain written parental consent for in the UK.

Photo: Not much has changed ..the same..Derb Kadi Footballers Dec 2010 by Scott Mackay

In 2010 Riad Laksiba was being renovated. I was stamping my feet over the amount of rubble and rubbish piling up on the ground-floor and demanded that the builders had a full clear-up before continuing. They agreed and drafted local assistance. As shovels and picks became windmills of toil; a small chap looked up, smiled and winked. Abdou the 12 year old footballer had become a 17 year old labourer. I gave him that look with shrugged shoulders and raised eyebrows to suggest “how come you’re here?” he responded with a similar shrug, the pout of his bottom lip and a down-turned smirk, which I translated as “why not… I’ll get paid !”. I rolled my eyes & laughed quietly; Abdou did the same as a response.

As the end of 2010 approached and Riad Laksiba’s builders were finally gone, I faced a dilemma. Furniture, beds, refrigerator………. well stuff… needed more than 2 hands to deploy around Riad Laksiba. Then there is the question of security of these items and the Riad in general, each time I return to UK. I shared my concern with Hassan who runs the Stable and he concurred that these issues did need addressing. Hassan would see what he could do. An hour or so later there was a knock at the door and there stood Abdou, nearly 18 years old but still quite tiny. He smiled and I acknowledged his greeting and continued, past Abdou, and straight to the stable.
“Who is this?”
“It’s Abdelghafour… Abdou he’s come to help you.”
“Can he speak English?”
“No but he’s a good worker and he’s honest”
“Well how do I communicate with him?”
“Look he’s the only spare Stable Lad… take it or leave it !”

I have found it amazing how pointing at things, mime and looking positively irritated is such a Global Language.

Photo: Abdou Riad Laksiba's Guardian by Simon Hawkesley

As a family we celebrated Abdou’s 18th Birthday which was novel for Abdou as birthdays are not normally celebrated. We have expanded his wardrobe, introduced him to Dentistry and hygiene standards acceptable to Breakfast service etc. at Riad Laksiba. We have accommodated the occasional hiccups associated to the dying embers adolescence and today we are very proud of the loyalty and charisma that Abdou brings to life at Riad Laksiba.

Abdou is shy, funny and genuinely caring. A true asset to the Riad, our Guests and our Family.

Portraits of Riad Laksiba Service Providers - BARBER

ABDELTIF – BARBER Photo: Abdeltif (Barber Rue de la Kasbah) by Simon Hawkesley

Abdeltif is a regular face to spot in Rue de la Kasbah, the main arterial road in the Kasbah district of the Medina; in other words ….. the Kasbah’s High Street.

Having spent roughly 7 months of 2010 and most of 2011 in Marrakech; a regular visit to the Barber has been paramount to my regular activities, especially as I am “folically challenged” and, as such, I look very scruffy, very quickly if I allow what’s left of my mop to sprout.

Years ago I remember braving it out and having my hair cut by a Barber in the Jungles of Sri Lanka, it attracted a large un-expected audience; who chanted a round-of-applause when the process concluded.

As such I hoped that Marrakech life would be a less audience attracting affair and indeed it was. Nobody gave a second thought to my entering Abdeltifs Barber Shop, sitting and waiting my turn and eventually being gowned up in the chair.

Abdelfit has Certificate’s proudly on display for European Barber Competitions he entered back in the 70’s. Thus I felt in good hands.

I see Abdeltif on most days as I wander down Rue de la Kasbah; if I don’t see him I hear “Mr.Salim” echo across the street followed by a generous wave when he has caught my eye.

Abdeltif also Police’s my crop, when he sees me; he rubs his chin, nods knowingly like a doctor considering a course of medication and murmours “2 days….. 3 maximum”. I accommodate accordingly.

Abdeltif’s French is excellent and he is keen to learn English, so I have purchased a Morocan/English English/Moroccan Dictionary to get him started.

Outside the Barber Shop Abdelfit displays an Immobilier sign (Estate Agent) which is very normal in Marrakech. If you want to sell your house….. tell your Barber as he gets to see all of your neighbours over the course of a month or so. He has a static audience in the chair to discuss prices etc. and I cannot think of a better way to discuss property matters than in the Barber Shop.!

Especially a man who has served my head and beard so well since 2005 and a man I class as a friend.

Portraits of Riad Laksiba Service Providers - RUGS

ABDELJALIL – RUGS Photo: Abdeljalil (Tombuktou Rugs) by Simon Hawkesley

Abdeljalil was a chance encounter.
I was out-and-about with Guests buying textiles and felt that we had struck real bargains.
Walking with a swagger in our steps, near Rue Riad Zitoune, we stopped outside the shop owned by Abdeljalil. He had very similar fabrics to what we had just purchased. I asked “typically what should I expect to pay for that fabric?” to my amazement he instantly came up with the same figure; that we had just spent an hour negotiating!

I promised that I would return the next day to discuss rugs for Riad Laksiba.

The meeting turned into a friendship and a great aide-memoire into Abdeljalil’s life.

He had played the Tam-Tam Drums several times at Glastonbury for Robert Plant and Jimmy Page.
Done a session with “The Cars” (Who’s gonna Drive you home Tonight…)
Also a regular visitor to the Essaouira Music Festival and played there with Bob Marley’s bassist

and even hung around with Jean-Paul Gaultier in the Jemaa el-Fna!

It all sounded very elaborate until Abdeljalil produced these photo’s

With such a “back history” how could I resist but to commission Abdeljalil to source rugs for Riad Laksiba.

I am delighted with his products and pricing.

Having spent days, if not weeks, frustrated with rug salesmen’s outrageous prices; the prices from Abdeljalil were less than least half of any past best efforts.

I still need a few more rugs to finish but at least I do not have to look anymore for a quality Rug Merchant when I can afford my next purchases.

Two weeks ago I was wondering around Marrakech with my daughter Hannah. We popped in to say hi to Abdeljalil. Hannah also found him enigmatic and asked of other English Musicians he had played with.
“Do you know The Beatles?”
“YES ! have you played with them?”
“No….. but I did do a session on the square (Djemma el-Fna) with Paul McCartney and another less known musician”
“WOW… that’s cool… who was the lesser known musician?”
“Elton John by you might not have heard of him”……..

Great rugs….. what a find !

If you are looking for Rugs in Marrakech, call into Riad Laksiba and we'll happily make the recommendation and introduction to Abdeljalil

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Marrakesh: Major Incident at Cafe Argana in the Jemaa el Fna Marrakech

13.00 Thursday 28-04-2011 MARRAKECH

A blast has hurt and killed several people in a cafe in the southern Moroccan city of Marrakesh today; Thursday 28th April 2011.

BBC World News reports that, at least 14 people have been killed in the blast, 3 Moroccans and 11 Foreign Nationals,which initially appeared to have been caused by gas canisters catching fire inside the cafe, in the main Jamaa el Fna square. It is rapidly being described as a likely criminal act. Possibly a remotely detonated Bomb Attack.

Rescue officials were pulling casualties from the cafe, according to the Reuters photographer who was present at the scene.

We have sent Abdelhamid from Riad Laksiba to ensure that our Guests were not in the vacinity and to see if we can offer any help. Abdelhamid has reported that the rumours of criminal activity are circulating around the Jemaa el Fna including the notion of a possible suicide bomber.
The British Foreign Office have reccommended that tourists avoid the Main Square at this time whilst Emergency Services and Investigators inspect the situation.

For those concerned the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) Hotline Number is 020 700 85 355 OR 020 700 81 500

Our condolence goes out to all those affected by this incident.

UPDATE: 30 April 2011

Briton killed in Marrakech bomb attack
Peter Moss, a British travel writer, was among 16 victims of a remote-controlled nail bomb explosion at a busy tourist cafe.

A British travel writer and novelist has been named among the 16 victims of a terrorist bomb explosion at a busy tourist cafe in Marrakech.

Peter Moss, 59, was at the Argana cafe in the popular Jamaa el-Fnaa square when a remote-controlled nail bomb was detonated at lunchtime.

A video released before the attack by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb reportedly claimed responsibility, with terrorism experts saying the group was one of several likely candidates.

Moss, a father-of-two, was a writer, broadcaster and comedian, who had earned praise for several screenplays and novels including The Singing Tree and The Age of Elephants.

At the British Press Awards in 2004, while working for the Jewish Chronicle, he was celebrated as "one of the country's finest travel writers, with an unmatched eye for detail".

Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt said: "While we do not yet know the exact cause of the blast, reports from the Moroccan authorities are that this may have been a result of terrorism. An act of this kind, causing the death of 16 innocent people, is cruel and wrong, and I condemn it in the strongest terms."

As investigations continued into the blast, the country's deadliest for eight years, Moroccan authorities said the bomb had been packed with nails and set off remotely and not by a suicide bomber.

Jamaa el-Fnaa square, next to the city's historic market area, draws crowds of tourists with its snake charmers, fire-eaters and tooth pullers.

Most of the dead were foreign nationals – including French, Dutch and Canadian tourists – and at least 23 others were injured by the explosion.

British ambassador Tim Morris has travelled to Marrakech to bolster the UK team dealing with the aftermath and Interpol has described the attack as "senseless and deplorable".

While police from both Morocco and Spain could be seen working in the wreckage, friends and family of the victims gathered at the city's Ibn Tofail hospital.

Mouhou Rachid, a cafe worker, said at least one of his co-workers had died and another was in hospital with serious injuries.

"The explosion was terrible. When I recovered consciousness I saw people picking up victims. My friend has injuries in the stomach, face and head."

Israel's foreign ministry said two of the victims, a man and a woman, were Jews living in Shanghai and that the woman apparently had Israeli citizenship.

The attack is the deadliest in Morocco since 12 suicide bombers killed 33 people in co-ordinated strikes in Casablanca in 2003.

The latest attack was a blow to Morocco's most important tourist city. Tourism is Morocco's biggest source of foreign currency and the second biggest employer after agriculture.

"We are going to work very hard so that this does not have an impact on tourism in Marrakesh," said Salaheddine Mezouar, the finance minister."To go to a country as a tourist and return dead is a terrible thing."

Fernando Reinares, a terrorism expert at Spain's Royal Elcano Institute, told RNE radio there were few doubts that jihadists were behind the attack.

"Morocco and its monarchy are a target for al-Qaida and for the north African groups that have been associated with al-Qaida."

The attack adds to the challenges facing Morocco's ruler, King Mohammed VI, as he tries to prevent the uprisings in the Arab world from reaching his normally stable kingdom.

He recently pardoned a raft of political prisoners, including some alleged militant Islamists.

The monarch has promised to reform the constitution to placate pro-democracy protesters. But more protests are planned for Sunday.

HM the King visits the scene of Marrakech attack: UPDATED 04-05-2011

Marrakech - HM King Mohammed VI, accompanied by Prince Moulay Ismail, visited, on Saturday afternoon, the scene of the attack that took place in Argana café at Jamaa El Fna square in Marrakech, killing 16 people and injuring 25 others.
- The Sovereign's visit shows his solidarity with the families of the victims in these painful circumstances.

HM the King had vigorously denounced this criminal attack that caused the death of several innocent victims, and strongly condemned this act, which targeted the city of Marrakech, a symbol of coexistence between religions and civilizations.

HM the King had said that "such a cowardly criminal aggression, contrary to the noble human values of respect for the sacred right to life, tolerance, freedom and peace, will not affect the determination of Morocco, King and people, to maintain the stability of this country, a peaceful crossroads of all peoples and cultures."

“This will only strengthen the willingness of Moroccans against all those who want to undermine the model they opted for to promote democratic progress and cooperate with the international community to fight all forms of crime, aggression and terrorism,” the Sovereign had stressed.

Source: Agence Maghreb Arabe Presse

Marrakesh - La Place d' Jemaa el - Fna Marrakech UPDATED: 08-05-2100

As a regular traveller to Morocco I am still amazed by the enormous diversity that Marrakech offers when one considers that it is less than three and a half hours away by plane.

Photo: The Jemaa el Fna from the Roof Terrace of Cafe de France

The main square of D' jemaa-el-Fna (pictured above) surrounded by its endless labyrinth of souks (bazaars) is well documented and conjures up visions of snake charmers, acrobats, sooth-sayers, musicians, food stalls and the like.

Fascinating, it certainly is and especially when the sun is starting to set and the rich abundance of gastronomic flavours fill the air, trapped in plumes of smoke and steam to give the Djemaa-el-Fna its twilight eeriness, a mesmerising quality I have found nowhere else. As the evening darkens, the hustle bustle of activity rages on. The exotic music appears louder and more hypnotic.

The Shaman display their apocotheries and cures, both living and dead, which always begs the question “how does one apply such a thing”? A fine example is the Black Scorpion trapped inside a jam-jar. “It’s for haemorrhoids” I am informed. “well… um.. if I had Piles…. How would I apply it”? Seemed a suitable response. “I suggest you kill it first” Came the logical answer!

Directly south of the Jemaa-el-Fna is Rue Bab Agnaou. A five minute walk takes you straight to the famous Bab Aganou entrance to the Kasbah district of the Medina.

For my family…. We do enjoy the D'Jemma el-Fna and it’s cacophony of exotic wonders but would not want to be immersed in it 24/7 during our stay. The Kasbah is “not too far…. from the madding crowd” but a short peripheral distance away to enjoy... then retreat.. to some semblance of tranquillity.

The Mystique of Marrakech does not stop at the D'Jemma el-Fna.

Cafe Argana Blast - CLOSURE Inspired by WEEKECH notes on Facebook
Many people had booked or were planning to book a stay in Marrakesh.

Suddenly, due to the criminal blast, some are hesitating to come and others have already cancelled.

Who is coming to Marrakesh ?
Entire families who want to take advantage of special packages?
Individuals who found a low cost flight ticket?
Others looking for a sence of Adventure?

The purposes vary, but lot's of them just come to have fun, some decently, others... less.....

Today, whilst in the process of making a decision, it is important not to panic and succumb to media hype.

We should not forget that London, Paris, New York and many other cities are still possible targets of extremist.

Consider: How often in European, Caribbean and Asian, resorts & cities, one reads of road accidents; or a jogger or a subway passenger being mugged, people attacked, children abducted, tourists raped, murdered.

The point being made is that regular destinations, in the west, do not necessarily make them safer, to tourism in Marrakesh.

Today, Marrakesh safety is not less than before; it is also not a "war-like" situation. On the contrary, security deployment is tighter. Activities go on, it is Business as Usual.

In modern times we know there is no country, in the world, where security, put in place, offers 100% safety to it's inhabitants.

An Orange Juice in Marrakech Click here
7th & 8th May 2011.... Thousands descend on the Jemma el-Fna in support of the Argana Cafe Victims.

Will a potential visitor treat Marrakesh; simply "as a product" and drop it ?
Or will he come because it suits his budget, his wander lust, his list of cities to see in his lifetime, his return from his past experience, the fulfilment of his desire to always visit Marrakech but be more vigilant?

As vigilant as he should be in any other City or Resort nowadays....

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Bohemium Marrakech

In the Sixties, Morocco was to the Rolling Stones what India was to The Beatles. Whereas the Fab Four were inspired by the possibility of reaching a state of bliss, Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Keith Richards and their entourage were enticed by the prospect of danger, magic and the primeval.

Image: Keith Richards " Smoking Kif " by Michael Cooper 1967

It's easy to see what attracted them. Walking through the souks of Marrakech is like entering a phantasmagoria. The narrow streets are organised craft by craft. A wall of brightly coloured slippers elides into an avenue of glinting brass that then turns into a corridor of mirrors or a cavern of freshly beaten metal reeking of oil.
Parts of the medina are positively medieval. Workers sit in small, dimly lit rooms weaving carpets, chickens are sold alive with their legs trussed together, beggars with hollowed-out eyes have their heads encased in cowls. It feels like being dragged backwards through time.
'We enjoyed being transported,' was how Keith Richards explained his early experiences of Morocco. 'You could be Sinbad the Sailor, One Thousand and One Nights. We loved it.' The Stones also loved the Place Jemaa el-Fna where snake charmers, tooth pullers, fortune tellers, card players, dancers, acrobats and child boxers still perform to mesmerised crowds.

Read more: Daily

What is bohemian? If it is not what I am......

The Riad Laksiba website homepage changed today. Now a new "Gallery Images" greets the visitor. I did consider that this made the website a little more bohemian than the conventional Guesthouse website. Which equally made me consider "What is Bohemian"?

Image: Riad Laksiba new website homepage by Simon Hawkesley

Click here to visit the actual page, you'll be able to look at enlargements of each image.

The word "bohemian" is bandied about now, applied to everyone from Pete Doherty to Kate Moss, but what exactly is one?

Eccentric. Rebellious. Amoral, quite often. But bohemianism was, maybe still is, about much more than just frightening the horses.

The writer Virginia Nicholson recently told the Today programme that "in a sense, we are all bohemians today".

But what is a bohemian, how do you spot one, and might you be a boho, too?

"Bohemian" was originally a term with pejorative undertones given to Roma gypsies, commonly believed by the French to have originated in Bohemia, in central Europe.

The Oxford English Dictionary's definition mentions someone "especially an artist, literary man, or actor, who leads a free, vagabond, or irregular life, not being particular as to the society he frequents, and despising conventionalities generally".

But the connotation rapidly became a romantic one. From its birth in Paris in the 1850s, and the huge success of Murgier's play Scenes de la vie de Boheme, the ethic spread rapidly.

Gypsy clothes became all the fashion, sparking a style which lives on today through lovers of boho-chic like Sienna Miller and Kate Moss. And artists and poets from Baudelaire to van Gogh characterised bohemian ideals.

Its foundations in the Romantic movement of the 19th Century imbued bohemians with an almost quasi-religious sense of purpose.

In Puccini's opera La Boheme, the poet Rodolfo and his friends do not shiver in their Parisian garret where Mimi's hand is famously frozen merely because of their poverty. Theirs, as Rodolfo has it, is a higher, if more sensual, calling.

I am a poet!
What's my employment? Writing.
Is that a living? Hardly.
I've wit though wealth be wanting,
Ladies of rank and fashion
All inspire me with passion;
In dreams and fond illusions,
Or castles in the air,
Richer is none on earth than I.

Although steeped in its French roots, the bohemian ideal transferred easily to many countries and cultures.

In Britain, the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the aesthetic movement of the 19th Century imbued bohemianism with a dangerous, dashing, social cachet. Later, the exploits of the Bloomsbury group - one of whom was Nicholson's grandmother, Vanessa Bell - thrust it into the cultural limelight.

Across the Atlantic, poets and writers like Jack Kerouac, William S Burroughs and Paul Bowles led their own offshoot. And the playwright Arthur Miller's prose conjures the musty essence of that temple of American bohemia, Manhattan's Chelsea Hotel, where "there are no vacuum cleaners, no rules and shame".

"Everyone has a view of what the bohemian is," says Nicholson. "The bohemian is an outsider, defines themselves as an outsider and is defined by the world as an outsider... A lot of people regard them as subversive, elitist and possibly just a little bit immature."

Bohemians were typically urban, liberal in outlook, but with few visible political passions and, above all, creative. Though critical of organised religion, they were keen - witness the pre-Raphaelites and Oscar Wilde - to defend and explore the religious spirit.

Above all, they defied the constrictions of hearth and home and the false morality which they believed underpinned it.

In essence, bohemianism represented a personal, cultural and social reaction to the bourgeois life. And, once the latter was all but swept away by the maelstrom that was the 1960s, the former was doomed, too.

The late Ian Dury lived what could be considered a bohemian life, constantly on the move, awash with musical and artistic creativity, challenging preconceptions of disability, while costumed in a range of sometimes outlandish second-hand clothes, famously complemented with "new boots and panties".

But, apparently the freedom of bohemia palled even for him, as he explained in typical fashion:

I wanna be straight, I wanna be straight
I'm sick and tired of taking drugs and staying up late
I wanna confirm, I wanna conform
I wanna be safe and I wanna be snug and I wanna be warm

So who, today, is a true bohemian?

Keith Richards who, by his own admission "used to walk down Oxford Street with a slab of hash as big as a skateboard", is regularly touted as the ultimate boho. But, as he told the Daily Telegraph's Neil McCormick: "The image thing is a ball-and-chain. There's nobody like Keith Richards that would ever be alive. No way. But you can't buck the image. As long as I don't have to be that guy all the time, or with my friends."

Paul Stokes, associate editor at the NME, says: "It's more difficult with Pete Doherty. When Pete first came out his talent was enormous. But his tolerance for the bohemian lifestyle has hit the buffers. His work with the Libertines was lauded, but the missed gigs with his next band Babyshambles saw his fans lose patience."

Stokes cites artists like Patrick Wolf, Naysayer and MGMT as worthy heirs to the bohemian tradition. Morrissey, he says, has lived a boho life but his love of boxing and league football now count against him. And Amy Winehouse "doesn't strike me as someone who would drop everything and go to Marrakech".

Laren Stover, author of Bohemian Manifesto: A Field Guide to Living on the Edge, has identified five archetypes: Nouveau, gypsy, beat, zen and dandy.

Bohemians might look for work as nude models, she suggests, will be banned from fancy restaurants for use of patchouli and will have a bookcase containing all the Romantics, Jack Kerouac's Dharma Bums and erotica by Anais Nin.

"And in the pantry there are obscure grains from South America, medieval spices and a miniature Krishna," Stover says. "Your diet may be considered extreme: macrobiotic, vegan, or a real nose-to-tailer who knows 100 ways to cook and saute a snout. And nothing you wear was inspired by a fashion magazine."

Nicholson, author of a new work, Among the Bohemians, believes today's bohos retain that original spirit of revolt. "We take it for granted that society is fluid, that informality prevails. On the other hand there's still plenty to reject: there's consumerism.

"In a sense the environment movement could be seen as today's bohemians. There's that sense of sacrifice, there's that sense of purity, there's that sense of a burning mission, of giving up things."

By Andrew Walker for BBC Radio 4

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

48 Hours In: Marrakech

The most exotic place you can reach within three hours of the UK is a mesmerising mix of culture, cafés and souks.

Click here for 48 Hours in Marrakech Map

Why go now?

It's spring, so the days are warming up and the skies are clearing. And peak season for visitors to this fascinating ancient city is still a month or two away.

Touch down

You can fly from Gatwick or Manchester on Thomson Airways (0871 231 4691; ) or easyJet (0905 821 0905; ); from Bristol, East Midlands, Edinburgh or Luton on Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ); from Gatwick on British Airways (0844 493 0787; ) or Royal Air Maroc (020-7307 5800; ) and its no-frills subsidiary Atlas Blue. The newest route in addition is BMI from Heathrow to Marrakech, flying on a Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.

Get your bearings Image:Marrakech and the High Atlas
The main attraction – the Medina – is the oldest part of town. Centuries-old planning permission allows just one building to stand high above the rest: the minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque (1). To the west of the Medina is the Nouvelle Ville, created by French colonists. Here you'll find some great restaurants, boutiques and the tourist office (2) on Place Abdel Moumen Ben Ali on Avenue Mohammed V (00 212 524 43 61 31; ) open 8.30am-4.30pm Monday-Friday. To the north-east of the "old" and "new" parts of the city is the Palmeraie – a place of palm trees, big hotels and private villas, best explored on camel or horseback.

Marrakech's Menara airport is just 6km south-west of the city centre. Expect to pay 100-150 dirhams (Dh), about £8-£12, from the airport to the Medina and 200-250Dh (£16-£20) to the Palmeraie – two or three times the "official" fares. Surprisingly you'll get a slightly cheaper ride if you opt for a "grand taxi" rather than a "petit taxi". The grand variety tend to be 25-year-old Mercedes; the petit taxis are usually Peugeot 206s.
The airport shuttle bus departs every half-hour, for a fixed fare of 20Dh (£1.70) single/30Dh (£2.50) return. It deposits you at all the key places in the city, including the main square in the old town, Djemaa el Fna (3), and the biggest roundabout in the New Town, Place du 16 Novembre (4).

Check in Image:Riad Laksiba by Scott Mackay
Ideally, every visitor to Marrakech should stay in a riad: a traditional family house authentically restored for the traveller.
A top-of-the-range example is the Riad El Fenn (5), at 2 Derb Moulay Abdallah Ben Hezzian, Bab El Ksour (00212 524 44 12 10; ). Five minutes' walk from the main square of Djemaa el Fna (3), down a half-built alleyway and behind a very ordinary looking door, you find luxury on an opulent scale: heavenly bedrooms, serene courtyards, fountains, roses and the odd wandering tortoise. There are 21 rooms and suites to choose from. Doubles start at 3,000Dh (£250) including breakfast.
For travellers on a budget the riad experience is still an option. Try Riad Laksiba, at 16 Derb Kadi, Bab Ksiba,(0044 7850 390 107 ; ) situated in the popular Kasbah quartier of the Medina, styled and restored in a very apt' "old Palace" style and offeres comfortable 5 Bedroomed B&B facility. All rooms are Twin bedded, some "pushed together", dependant on preference, at 780Dh (£60) per/room including Breakfast represents excellent value for money and can be rented as a whole from 6 to Max 10 people on discounted rates.

At the km6 point on Route Fes you can find space and Marrakech's largest swimming pool at Club Hotel Riu Tikida Palmeraie (6) (00212 524 327 400; ) – a hotel so new they're still planting palm trees in its gardens. It's a great location if you want to dip an occasional toe into the vibrant circus of humanity contained within the red earth walls of the ancient city; a 15-minute shuttle-bus ride takes you to the city centre. Thomson (0044 871 231 4691; ) has one-week packages including flights from Gatwick and transfers for under £600 per person.

Day one

Take a hike Image: Ben Youssef Medersa by Simon Hawkesley
The packed, noisy, heaving,
sense-assaulting main square, Djemaa el Fna (3), is an obvious place to start the day. But a counter-intuitive approach is to kick off north of the square and its markets and work your way down. Here, centred on a more modest square, Place Ben Yousseff (7), are three buildings to give you an insight into the history and culture of the city. A single 60Dh (£5) ticket will get you into them all, which share the same hours (daily 9am-6pm, from April to 7pm) and contact details (00212 524 44 18 93 ; ). Start with the medersa (8), the religious school next to the Ben Youseff Mosque and one of the few Islamic buildings open to the public. The mosaics, cloisters, cupolas and arches are 16th-century masterpieces. Move on to the Museum of Marrakech (9), an early 20th-century palace offering temporary exhibitions of modern art and permanent displays of Koran manuscripts, coins, ceramics and textiles. And the last exhibit on your all-in-one ticket: Quabba Ba'Ayin (10), a well-preserved 12th-century dome.

Lunch on the run
There are dozens of eating opportunities as you get deeper into the souks, but if you want some respite outside the Medina, it's worth tracking down the Café du Livre (11) at 44 Rue Tarik Ben Ziad (00212 524 43 21 49; ), which opens 9.30am-9pm daily except Sunday. It is hard to find, hidden behind a building site and tucked away in a courtyard. Yet it is popular with students thanks to free Wi-Fi, good food and a good selection of books for sale into the bargain. A tasty salad costs 75Dh (£6.25), while a spicy bowl of Moroccan soup costs 40Dh (£3.40).

Window shopping
Image: "Simon" teapot hunting for Riad Laksiba in the Antiques Souk by Clare Williams
Marrakech's souks take the form
of a covered market area spreading out into a mass of confusing lanes, alleyways, passages and small squares, guaranteed to outwit the most spatially aware visitor. A map won't really help you here, but a friendly smile and 10Dh (80p) tip to the many willing guides will get you to where you want to go.

After you've passed the same emporia a few times you realise there is a system here – of sorts. The shops tend to be grouped together by trade: herbs and spices in one area, leather and weaving in another, pottery, metalwork, jewellery, lamps and mirrors somewhere else. Bargaining is expected; enjoy it: work out what you think something is worth, attempt to stick to that target and never walk away from a purchase once you've settled on a price.

An aperitif
Alcohol is not permitted to be served within 150m of a mosque, so if it's a stiff drink you need in the heart of Marrakech, head for Café Arabe (12) on Rue El Mouassine (00212 524 42 97 28; ), one of the few bars that sells alcohol in the area. Enjoy a 35Dh (£2) glass of wine on the terrace with the Atlas Mountains as a backdrop.

If being in the centre of the action appeals more than alcohol, head for one of the many cafés and restaurants overlooking the Djemaa el Fna (3), such as Les Terrasses De L'Alhambra in the north-east corner of the square (00 212 524 427 570). Sip tea on their terrace for one of the most fascinating views of all: of food sellers, henna-tattooists, snake-charmers, storytellers, musicians, tarot card readers and amazed tourists coming together for what looks like one big, early-evening rave.

Dining with the locals
On the stroke of 6pm the food stall vendors in the Djemaa el Fna (3) appear from nowhere and spring into action, setting up shop, putting up tables and chairs, laying out tablecloths and getting their grills going. The square becomes a haze of barbecue smoke and smells. Try stall number 32 where a plate of kefta (lamb meatballs) or merguez (spicy red sausage) will cost you 18Dh (£1.50). For an exclusive, more intimate Moroccan feast, away from the party atmosphere, try Le Tobsil (13) at 22 derb Moulay Abdallah Ben Hessaien, Ksour (00212 524 44 40 52). Do book: it's deservedly very popular. For a fixed price of 600Dh (£50) you get the full banquet: vegetarian mezes, tajines (stews), couscous, delicious desserts and a choice of Moroccan wines. It's a spread best appreciated when very hungry after a day of sightseeing.

Day two

Sunday morning: a walk in the park
The best public garden to explore is the Jardin Majorelle (14), north of the Medina in the new town on Avenue Yacoub El Mansour Marrakech (00 212 5 24 31 30 47; ). It was created by the French painter Jacques Majorelle in 1924 and opened to the public in 1947. Here, amid the palm trees, the cacti, the cobalt blue and bright, bright yellow planters, you'll find a memorial to the late fashion giant Yves Saint Laurent. He took it over in the Eighties and preserved it until he died in 2008; his ashes are said to be spread here. It opens 8am-6pm daily, admission 30Dh (£2.50). Within the gardens stands the Musée d'Art Islamique, though sadly it is currently closed for renovation until the summer.

A more natural green space can be found in the Menara Gardens (15) on the Avenue de la Menara, open 8am-7pm daily, admission free. It resembles one big olive orchard broken up by a huge rectangular pool with a 19th-century pavilion situated on one side. Viewed from the opposite side of the pool you'll find yourself looking at an oft-used postcard shot of the pavilion set against the Atlas Mountains.

Out to brunch
The Menara Gardens (15) is a popular picnic spot for locals, but if you're after comfort head back into the New Town, and on the corner of Boulevard el-Mansour Eddahbi and Avenue Imam Malike you'll find Le Grand Café de la Poste (16), a former sorting office that became a French colonial hotel and which has now been restored and operates as a wonderfully chi-chi café-brasserie (00212 524 43 30 38; ). Salads start at 90Dh (£7.50) and omelettes at 70Dh (£5.80) Open daily 8am-1pm.

Cultural afternoon Image: Bahia Palace with "Simon & Molly" by Annie Coulter
Back in the old town, venture south of the Djemaa el Fna (3) to the kasbah, or royal quarter, an area with more space and more light. This is where you find the king's palace (17) and two former royal residences: Palais El Badi (18) and the stunning Bahia Palace (19), a magnificent 19th-century residence which, despite being stripped bare, is still impressive with its woodwork ceilings, mosaics, patios and courtyards. Open 9am-noon and 3pm-6pm daily, admission 10Dh (80p).

The icing on the cake
Head out to the Palmeraie and get a grasp of the geography by going on a camel or horse ride. Once you get past the carcasses of half-built villas and hotels you can trek alongside shepherds and their sheep and feel you've gained an authentic view of the Moroccan countryside. A small outfit that can help you achieve this is Marrakech Cheval (00212 524 31 1771; ); 420Dh (£35) for a two-hour camel or pony ride with a guide, including pick-up from your hotel.

by Siobhan Mulholland for The Independent

Six things you can do in Marrakech

Marrakech has been transformed from dusty hippie outpost to one of North Africa’s swishest destinations, a vital call on the glitteratis’ grand tour.

This magical boom city boasts boutique hotels furnished in high style, celebrity chef-run restaurants and deluxe hammams. But inside its sophisticated wrapping, the old city is little changed, with its masterpiece 11th century minaret rising above a sea of terracotta roofs and an ancient square saved for the world. Here is a list of six things you must do in Marrakech.


The real-life human tableau played out over centuries in Djemaa el Fna - the square celebrated in the Crosby, Stills and Nash song Marrakesh express with its cobracharmers, drummers, acrobats, dancers, storytellers and spicecake sellers - was dying out. Then the locals campaigned to save it and their protests were heard at the highest level.

The UN’s cultural body Unesco came up with a completely new designation - “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible heritage of humanity”. This square is the very first one so titled. They moved out the bus station in 2000, and the beat, and the bustle, goes on.

Image:"Hannah" posing as Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn at Riad Laksiba by Simon Hawkesley

Morocco, and especially Marrakech, sets itself apart with its own version of seductive boutique hotel accommodation.Riads are compact townhouses with a cool, secluded central courtyard, often smothered in greenery.

They come with designer panache and many pampering touches, from scattered rose petals and pastries in your room to embroidered pillows by the pool.

(Artwork: Laksiba Arch Detail by Simon Hawkesley)

There is top-of-the-range cosseting, too, in the city’s big, opulent hotels. In the ritzy royal Mansour, new in 2010, Art Deco meets traditional Moroccan design. La Mamounia, haunt of celebrities down the years, recently reopened after a lavish makeover.

Image: "Mindy" relaxed at the Ben Youssef Medersa by Simon Hawkesley

A typical day’s sightseeing in Marrakech takes in Jardin Majorelle, a botanical garden once owned by Yves Saint Laurent, the 16th Century Ben Youssef Medersa
, for its mosaic tiles
and cedar panels, and the sumptuous Bahia palace, built for a grand vizier’s four wives and 24 concubines. And all this under the shadow of the wondrous 70 metre minaret of the 11th century Koutoubia Mosque.

Late afternoon, as you begin to flag, head for a Di-Di's hammam Rue Bab Aganou near the main square, a stress reliever across the Middle East and North Africa.

For smarter places such as Les Bains de Marrakech in the Kasbah, next to Bab Aganou, standard luxuries include a lathering with black Moroccan beldi soap flavoured with sesame seeds, and a four-hand massage. The upmarket hotels have their own hammam.

Image: "Slippers" The Babouche Souk by Annie Coulter

Take a walk through the
tangle of alleys in the souks of Marrakech. You can see craftsmen at their centuries-old skills - in the Babouche (slipper) Souk, the Dyers’ Souk with its riot of colours, the Ironworkers’ Souk, and the Carpet Souk.

There’s a European variation on the local produce in a string of smart boutiques and emporia dotted around the Medina (Old Town).
Look for sleek ceramics, Arabesque embroidered blouses, striped hammam towels and djellabas (hooded robes).

5 AMAZING GAZE Image: The Caid of Tafza (copyright: Patrick Manac’h)
You can read the soul of a nation through its eyes. In the wonderful new Maison de la photographie (house of photography), Moroccan tribesmen, wrapped in their woollen haiks (blankets), fix you with their proud and noble gaze. These portraits are part of a private collection of 3 500 photographs dating from 1870 to 1950.

A star exhibit is the first colour documentary, made in 1957, of the tribal Berbers of the nearby high Atlas Mountains. After this visual bounty, climb to the roof terrace cafe for good food and splendid views over the Medina (http://


Every evening they fire up a feast in Djemaa el Fna square. Join a queue to be served the latest superior street food from grills and steaming cauldrons, which could be bean soup, sizzling aubergine, and chicken tagine with caramelised pumpkin.

Tomorrow, you might want to compare the new crop of celebrity chefs’ take on the perfect simplicity of Moroccan cuisine. So much of it is based on that elegant grain made from semolina, couscous.

My local favourites include pastilla - pigeon cooked in flaky pastry with pistachios and almonds, topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar. I like the recently renovated Grand Cafe de la poste for French fare with a Moroccan accent

by Gareth Huw Davies Daily Mail

Sights to see in Marrakech

Here's a quick guide to sights in and around Marrakech:

• Djemaa El-Fna:

is the main attraction of any Marrakech night. Musicians, dancers, acrobats and storytellers fill this square at the heart of the medina with a chaos of activity, noise, sights, smells and tastes. Scores of stalls sell an array of Moroccan fare. Enjoy the various performers, but be prepared to pay to watch. By day the square is largely filled with snake charmers and people with (ill-treated) monkeys as well as the more common stalls.

• The souks: (suuqs)
Image: The Coulter family and Simon at the Weavers Souk

or markets of Marrakech along the streets that lead to and around Djemaa El-Fna, are where you can buy anything from spices to shoes, tangine pots, djellabas (robelike garment with hood), kaftans, Moroccan carpets and basketry. Be sure to bargain. If you happen to run out of dirhams -- the Moroccan currency -- plenty of people in the souks will be happy to exchange your dollars or euros, though probably for less than the official exchange rate of approx Moroccan 13Dhs to the £1.00 (*Feb 2011). Don't expect to pay with a credit card, even at sit-down restaurants, and sometimes even large denomination dirham bills can be hard to use at the smaller stands.

• Koutoubia Mosque:, next to Djemaa El-Fna, is named after the booksellers market once located here. Although non-believers are not permitted to enter the mosque, it is the prime place for prayers five times each day and beautifully lit at night.

• The Saadian Tombs:
Image: Saadian Tombs by Simon Hawkesley

were discovered only a century ago, preserved just as they were during the glory days of the Saadian rulers. Decorated inside with Zelij (Moroccan tiles), they don't take a lot of time to explore, but are worth a visit. Also look for the tombs of Jews and Christians buried here, which are noted by different letterings and the direction the tomb faces.

• The Majorelle Gardens:
Image: "Maggie Casey" enjoying the Marjorelle Gardens

are situated just outside the medina. The entrance fee of 30 dirhams per adult is more expensive than Marrakech's other attractions, but in addition to providing excellent escape from the heat, the gardens boast an impressive collection of plants from across the globe. Once part of the estate of the French designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergere, the gardens also include a small Museum of Islamic Art, which requires an additional entrance fee.

• The Dar Si Saïd Museum: is set in an old palace five minutes away from Djemaa El-Fna. It houses an eclectic assortment of artifacts from Morocco through the ages, woodcraft, carpets, clothing, pottery and ceramics.

• Ben Youssef Madrassa:,
Image: Ben Youssef Medersa by Simon Hawkesley

one of the largest educational institutions in North Africa, is a school attached to the Ben Youssef Mosque and is home to beautiful art and architecture.

• El Bahia Palace:
Image: "Come lift me up to the water" Molly organising Simon at the Bahia Palace by Annie Coulter

Built in the late 19th century, is an ornate and beautiful complex, popular with guided tours and stray cats. Although entirely stripped of its furnishings, its ornately tiled rooms provide some insight of what it must have been like to be a nobleman in Morocco. Admission is 10 dirhams.

The El Badi Palace:
Image: El Badi Palace by Simon Hawkesley

is now in ruins and inhabited by storks and stray cats, although the view from the terrace is spectacular. There are underground passageways to explore. Admission is 10 dirhams.

by David Bear, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Senior Post-Gazette travel editor David Bear can be reached at