Marrakech

Marrakech
a master’s muse

The villa in the Jardin Majorelle, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé’s Moroccan retreat.
Marrakech

Au sommet du mont Ishizuchi, toit de l’île de Shikoku.

On top of Mount Ishizuchi, the roof of the island of Shikoku.

Marrakech

Ryoko Sekiguchi, écrivain et traductrice, au restaurant Botanique, 71, rue de la Folie-Méricourt.

Ryoko Sekiguchi, writer and translator, in the restaurant Botanique, at 71, rue de la Folie-Méricourt.

Marrakech
Portrait of Pierre Bergé by Jérôme Schlomoff.
Marrakech

Ryoko Sekiguchi, écrivain et traductrice, au restaurant Botanique, 71, rue de la Folie-Méricourt.

Ryoko Sekiguchi, writer and translator, in the restaurant Botanique, at 71, rue de la Folie-Méricourt.

Marrakech

Ryoko Sekiguchi, écrivain et traductrice, au restaurant Botanique, 71, rue de la Folie-Méricourt.

Ryoko Sekiguchi, writer and translator, in the restaurant Botanique, at 71, rue de la Folie-Méricourt.

Marrakech
Mustapha Blaoui, owner of a high-end furnishings shop.
Marrakech

Ryoko Sekiguchi, écrivain et traductrice, au restaurant Botanique, 71, rue de la Folie-Méricourt.

Ryoko Sekiguchi, writer and translator, in the restaurant Botanique, at 71, rue de la Folie-Méricourt.

Marrakech

Ryoko Sekiguchi, écrivain et traductrice, au restaurant Botanique, 71, rue de la Folie-Méricourt.

Ryoko Sekiguchi, writer and translator, in the restaurant Botanique, at 71, rue de la Folie-Méricourt.

Marrakech
Björn Dahlström (right) and Fayçal Tiaïba, project manager for the Studio KO architectural firm.

The new Yves Saint Laurent museum in Marrakech promises to inject new energy into the ocher city, offering a fitting tribute to its adopted son.

For the moment, inquisitive passers-by are greeted by logo-splashed construction site fencing, but this architectural project is the talk of the town. In this atmosphere of feverish expectation, a discreet figure is running the show. When Pierre Bergé isn’t around, all eyes turn to Björn Dahlström in the city known in French as the “Gateway to the South.” The opening is slated for October 19, but in the meantime everyone is trying to prise tidbits of information about the program and upcoming events out of him, while the most persistent among them hope for a tour of the site.

The tall, classically elegant Dahlström fends off all requests with a charming smile. A born diplomat, he’s skilled at dodging questions while displaying the rigor required to handle a project of this magnitude. His path has seemingly led straight to this job. He’s known Morocco since infancy. “During my childhood I absorbed the scents, colors and sounds of the country. They’re part of me.” At the time, his father was running the family’s construction company. In his teens, Dahlström took off for other horizonsMadagascar, Paris, Luxembourg, Japanforging a nomadic temperament and nurturing a familiarity with different cultures.

Marrakech and the blue hour

Soon after graduating in museology and art history from the École du Louvre, Dahlström was appointed head of programming at the Musée d’Art Moderne de Luxembourg (Mudam), before moving to New York, then Tokyo, as contemporary art consultant for Puma.

An encounter with Bergé persuaded him to return to his country of birth. “After Japan, it was quite a shock to rediscover the light and scents of Marrakech, and that special rapport with time,” he recalls. He had to readjust his childhood memories. “I remembered it as a vacation spot where we’d come every year for ten days or so. Now it’s a cultural and business center. Marrakech has become an iconic international destination that’s no longer the preserve of those in the knowYves Saint Laurent, Winston Churchill, Mick Jagger, Andy Warholas it once was,” he explains, in the shade of the flowering daturas in the Jardin Majorelle.

Behind the lush bamboo we catch a glimpse of the gardens of Villa Oasis, home of Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Bergé. This hectare of land in the city center is filled with citrus trees and rare cacti. “It’s in the evening, after the visitors have gone, that the Jardin Majorelle is at its most pleasant,” a regular tells us. “This garden brings together the myth of Saint Laurent and that of oriental voluptuousness,” says Dahlström. “It was a refuge during the happiest years. A time of friendship and insouciance.” A blue dream.

The idea for the new museum came to Bergé after the huge success of the Yves Saint Laurent and Morocco exhibition in Marrakech in 2011. The businessman felt he had a “debt of life and art” toward the country, and decided to invest €15 million in the project. It was a rare initiative: to date, only Cristóbal Balenciaga and Giorgio Armani have their own museums.

Haute couture tribute

From the garden, a few steps down the recently renovated Rue Yves-Saint-Laurent, you come to the spectacular structure built out of Moroccan terracotta bricks, interwoven in subdued damasks. Its interlocking, projecting volumes that vary from building to buildingexhibition spaces, auditorium, library, conservation spacesoccupy three levels and cover 4,000 m2. “The conservation section is extremely complex because of the dramatic variations in temperature,” explains Dahlström.

Studio KO drew inspiration from one of the designer’s sleeve designs for its curving lines. “It’s the first time we’ve used curves and raw brickwork in this way,” explains Karl Fournier, one half of the French duo of architects. “We wanted to combine Moroccan traditions with the world of Saint Laurent.” The two-meter-high plinth in pink terrazzo sweeps like a bride’s train across the ground, creating the impression that the building draws its strength from the earth. The inside is bathed in a play of light and shade. After passing through a dark corridor, the visitor is greeted with an explosion of light in a huge patio decorated with Saint Laurent colorsa nod to James Turrell’s volcano.

The inaugural exhibition in October will showcase the Moroccan paintings of Jacques Majorelle, whose works are already on display at the nearby Berber Museum. With this ultimate tribute, Bergé will have come full circle with the museum, the garden and the Villa Oasis, where Majorelle lived before them.

Yves Saint Laurent and friends

But Saint Laurent’s aura extends beyond this lush haven. Not least at La Trattoria, decorated in part by the designer Bill Willis, a friend of the group. “I met them in 1988. Saint Laurent often came here with Bill. Away from the paparazzi, their life seemed carefree and high-spirited,” recalls Mohamed Anaflouss, the restaurant owner. Farther along, the Grand Café de la Poste, renovated by Studio KO, still seems to buzz with past gatherings.

When they came here, Bergé and Saint Laurent were undaunted by the intense summer heat. “They lived Moroccan style, without air-conditioning, and merely waited for the evening before going out. Saint Laurent was fascinated by Jemaa el-Fna square,” says Dahlström. “It was a very simple life,” says Ludovic Petit, founder of the Lup31 showroom. “We’d go and collect wood in a horse-drawn cart. There were just half a dozen of us, and we had guests all the time.”

To taste the magic of the Pearl of the South, you only have to immerse yourself in Mustapha Blaoui’s shop, which is hidden behind a discreet metal door. This affable Moroccan knows everything about the local jet set and the decor of its members’ luxury homes. The latest to join them, Naomi Campbell, visits this shop regularly, to rummage through the maze of rooms packed with rugs, furniture, objects and tableware. Mustapha offers us tea. “Everyone loved Yves Saint Laurent. He was very kind and generous. They’d get around in old cars or on motorbikes. I followed them the day they photographed the logo in the sand. The sand was blowing everywhere but it was a magnificent picture.” He also remembers the Jardin Majorelle, before their time. “It was a meeting place for lovers. I was quite a regular visitor,” he says with a smile.

Dahlström was too young to hang out with that group. He only met the master once, amid the hubbub of a party. Today the historian lives with this ever-growing legend, while taking in the unique atmosphere of the Almoravid city, an inland port, a harbor without a sea that is so hospitable to travelersall the while keeping a close eye on this project that will forge the link with a great past.

The last visitors are leaving the Jardin Majorelle. And who knows, perhaps tonight, after dark, it will weave its magic once again.

 

The Jardin Majorelle brings together the myth of Saint Laurent and that of oriental voluptuousness.

Almaha Marrakech

This sumptuous riad, located on the site of the former royal stables of the Kasbah, will take visitors by surprise. Once past the heavy metal door, guests have to identify themselves before a lobby bookcase opens, as if by magic, leading to a patio with emerald-colored zellige tiles. And it continues on in a series of poetic delights. An origami of books creates a poem in the dining room; farther on, architect Charles Kaisin dreamed up a mosaic-covered lounge lined with multicolored swatches of silk, forming a stylized replica of Jemaa el-Fna square. Everything was custom-designed to offer the ultimate in Moroccan refinement in the 12 spacious rooms featuring carved plaster walls and a private rooftop terrace covered in flowers. From the restaurant to the pool and lavish spa, the service is attentive: owner Ichem Bouzenad wants his guests to feel right at home. Mission accomplished.

Almaha marrakech

55, derb ben-Zina, Kasbah. Tél. +212 (0)524 386 782.

www.almahamarrakech.com

Next

The world within reach

Carnet d’adresses

Almaha marrakech

55, derb ben-Zina, Kasbah. Tél. +212 (0)524 386 782.

www.almahamarrakech.com

Shopping

Chez Soufiane

In his huge, modern showroom, Soufiane displays magnificent carpets with designs spanning tradition and the contemporary. His upcoming organic bistro on the terrace is sure to be a success. 13, souk des tapis, médina.

www.instagram.com/soufiane.zarib

Ben Rahal

The top of the line for antique carpets; this is the place to find the city’s most beautiful heritage pieces.28, rue de la Liberté, Guéliz. Tél. +212 (0)524 433 273.

www.benrahalart.com

Anitan

A selection of designer carpets and tableware, near the Jardin Majorelle.Rue Yves-Saint-Laurent, Guéliz. Tél. +212 (0)524 332 342.

www.anitanrugs.com

Mustapha Blaoui

An Ali Baba’s trove stretching over several floors, where Mustapha Blaoui displays a fabulous collection of reasonably priced carpets, furniture and objects.144, Arset Aouzal, Bab Doukkala.

Chabi Chic

Located under the restaurant Nomad, this small shop sells exclusive cosmetics and lovely tableware.1, derb Aarjan, médina. Tél. +212 (0)524 381 546.

www.chabi-chic.com

Topolina

Gorgeous little form-fitting dresses in silky fabrics by a French designer.134, Dar-el-Bacha, médina. Tél. 212 (0)679 726 026.

Norya Ayron

Housed above the restaurant Jardin, this new label has a series of cotton and viscose caftans and abayas in shimmering patterns.32, souk el-Jeld-Sidi-Abdelaziz, médina. Tél. +212 (0)661 295 990.

www.norya-ayron.com

Lalla

Laetitia Trouillet, who used to have a stall at Portobello Market, created a line of lightweight, chic accessories. Her beautiful bags will tempt even the most blasé shoppers 35, bd el-Mansour-Eddahbi, Guéliz. Tél. +212 (0)524 447 223.

www.lalla.fr

Atelier Nihal

Iridescent carpets, fabrics and accessories are woven with leather and cotton, using a unique process developed by Marion Verdieravailable at 33, Rue Majorelle, next to the museum.

www.33ruemajorelle.com

Voice Gallery

Rocco’s gallery hosts an interesting selection of painters and photographers whose work is often linked to Morocco.366, zone industrielle de Sidi-Ghanem. Tél. +212 (0)524 336 770.

www.voicegallery.net

Restaurants & cafés

Nomad

Enjoy the laidback ambience on the terrace, with a great view over Rahba Lakdima, aka “Spice Square.” The two floors inside mix cement tiles with cozy cushions. 1, derb Aarjan, médina. Tél. +212 (0)524 381 609.

www.nomadmarrakech.com

Café des Épices

The terrace of the pretty restaurant remains an institution. 75, Rahba-Lakdima, médina. Tél. +212 (0)524 391 770.

www.cafedesepices.net

La Trattoria

This Italian restaurant once hosted the neighborhood’s best parties. It’s been expanded, but its soul remains intact. 179, rue Mohamed-Beqal, Guéliz. Tél. +212 (0)524 432 641.

www.latrattoriamarrakech.com

Bars

Bar Churchill

The only spot to survive the renovation of the Mamounia. Guests here may sense the ghosts of Churchill, Saint Laurent and all the jazz musicians whose portraits adorn the walls.La Mamounia. Avenue Bab-Jdid. Tél. +212 (0)524 388 600.

www.mamounia.com
Address Book

Going There

www.airfrance.com

Almaha marrakech

55, derb ben-Zina, Kasbah. Tél. +212 (0)524 386 782.

www.almahamarrakech.com

Shopping

Chez Soufiane

In his huge, modern showroom, Soufiane displays magnificent carpets with designs spanning tradition and the contemporary. His upcoming organic bistro on the terrace is sure to be a success. 13, souk des tapis, médina.

www.instagram.com/soufiane.zarib

Ben Rahal

The top of the line for antique carpets; this is the place to find the city’s most beautiful heritage pieces.28, rue de la Liberté, Guéliz. Tél. +212 (0)524 433 273.

www.benrahalart.com

Anitan

A selection of designer carpets and tableware, near the Jardin Majorelle.Rue Yves-Saint-Laurent, Guéliz. Tél. +212 (0)524 332 342.

www.anitanrugs.com

Mustapha Blaoui

An Ali Baba’s trove stretching over several floors, where Mustapha Blaoui displays a fabulous collection of reasonably priced carpets, furniture and objects.144, Arset Aouzal, Bab Doukkala.

Chabi Chic

Located under the restaurant Nomad, this small shop sells exclusive cosmetics and lovely tableware.1, derb Aarjan, médina. Tél. +212 (0)524 381 546.

www.chabi-chic.com

Topolina

Gorgeous little form-fitting dresses in silky fabrics by a French designer.134, Dar-el-Bacha, médina. Tél. 212 (0)679 726 026.

Norya Ayron

Housed above the restaurant Jardin, this new label has a series of cotton and viscose caftans and abayas in shimmering patterns.32, souk el-Jeld-Sidi-Abdelaziz, médina. Tél. +212 (0)661 295 990.

www.norya-ayron.com

Lalla

Laetitia Trouillet, who used to have a stall at Portobello Market, created a line of lightweight, chic accessories. Her beautiful bags will tempt even the most blasé shoppers 35, bd el-Mansour-Eddahbi, Guéliz. Tél. +212 (0)524 447 223.

www.lalla.fr

Atelier Nihal

Iridescent carpets, fabrics and accessories are woven with leather and cotton, using a unique process developed by Marion Verdieravailable at 33, Rue Majorelle, next to the museum.

www.33ruemajorelle.com

Voice Gallery

Rocco’s gallery hosts an interesting selection of painters and photographers whose work is often linked to Morocco.366, zone industrielle de Sidi-Ghanem. Tél. +212 (0)524 336 770.

www.voicegallery.net

Restaurants & cafés

Nomad

Enjoy the laidback ambience on the terrace, with a great view over Rahba Lakdima, aka “Spice Square.” The two floors inside mix cement tiles with cozy cushions. 1, derb Aarjan, médina. Tél. +212 (0)524 381 609.

www.nomadmarrakech.com

Café des Épices

The terrace of the pretty restaurant remains an institution. 75, Rahba-Lakdima, médina. Tél. +212 (0)524 391 770.

www.cafedesepices.net

La Trattoria

This Italian restaurant once hosted the neighborhood’s best parties. It’s been expanded, but its soul remains intact. 179, rue Mohamed-Beqal, Guéliz. Tél. +212 (0)524 432 641.

www.latrattoriamarrakech.com

Bars

Bar Churchill

The only spot to survive the renovation of the Mamounia. Guests here may sense the ghosts of Churchill, Saint Laurent and all the jazz musicians whose portraits adorn the walls.La Mamounia. Avenue Bab-Jdid. Tél. +212 (0)524 388 600.

www.mamounia.com