Our microguides series is inspired by the slow travel movement, encouraging travellers to relax their pace and take a deep dive into one particular neighbourhood in a well-loved city. Rather than a whirlwind itinerary which aims to hit up every must-see attraction, these compact, close-up guides encourage you to zone in, take your time and truly explore like a local.
Similar to Marrakech’s famed souks, where artisans hammer metal lanterns and create leather goods in tiny workshops, Sidi Ghanem – the city’s industrial zone – is a hub for designers and craftspeople. They’re just producing on an industrial scale. And in much larger ateliers.
But don’t let the word “industrial” put you off.
Its swanky showrooms are filled with carefully curated collections of fine artisanal goods, many of which are created in on-site workshops. Fashionably dressed designers often greet shoppers against a backdrop of vibrantly coloured objects of desire. Travellers who’ve not yet adjusted to the haggling of the souks will be delighted to know that most prices in this part of town are fixed, with credit cards widely accepted.
While the area is laid out in a grid-like pattern, map views can be deceiving in estimating the distance between shops. Instead of attempting to walk the area, hire a driver for a half-day, at minimum, with your stops pinned on Google Maps.
As most factories and showrooms close by 6pm on weekdays and mid-afternoon on Saturdays, this isn’t a place to stay the night – but it’s certainly worth a day or afternoon of your Marrakech exploring time. As it’s just a 20-minute drive from the medina, we’ve selected two central hotels within easy taxi reach for overnight stays.
The installations at this new contemporary art gallery are off the wall, literally. The opening exhibit featured sheep grazing on the rooftop while inside Amine el Gotaibi’s textile artworks draped down to the floors. Emphasis is placed on both established and emerging artists from Morocco, but also across Africa and the diaspora.
For those who know photographer Hassan Hajjaj’s style, stepping inside Jajjah feels like being on set of one of his photoshoots. Stop by to visit the photography gallery highlighting emerging Moroccan talent, then shop for one-of-a-kind babouche slippers (some are upcycled from couscous sacks), T-shirts, or bold sunglasses as part of Hajjaj’s Andy Wahloo streetwear collection. The cafe side with its colourful tiles, bespoke wax-style cushions and vivid table settings makes for a trendy option for Moroccan street food, too: marinated chickpeas, minced meat with grilled onion and tomatoes and more. Thursday is rfissa – roasted chicken on a bed of lentils and savoury pastry – day and well worth the trek to the area for this dish alone.
Known for their woven stripy trousers, jumpsuits and bright cotton caftans, a visit to the Marrakshi Life showroom provides a glimpse into the production process. Twenty-four weavers work on 12 looms, in addition to four spinners, to bring Randall Bachner’s textile visions to life next to the showroom where you can buy the finished product.
Marrakshi Life in Marrakesh’s industrial zone (Marrakshi Life)
Trendy and hip, the outdoor courtyard restaurant at Maison Sarayan is perhaps the finest in the area. Seasonal dishes, such as artichoke carpaccio and falafels stuffed in batbout bread are served on the restaurant’s collection of hand-painted dishes decorated with leopards and scenes that recall travels in India. They’re on sale in the onsite boutique-showroom, along with vividly coloured, oversized sofas, vintage pottery, jewellery and enviable tableware for your next dinner party.
This cafe brand has locations scattered throughout town and has recently opened up in the industrial zone. Perfect for a coffee and a little cake or a savoury pastry for a light lunch, the restaurant is located on the corner of a main artery through the area, making it a great meeting point for reconnecting with a driver.
It goes without saying that in reasonably conservative, mostly Muslim Marrakech, alcohol-serving bars aren’t freely available outside of the hotel areas. That said, it’s worth a stop at Marrakech Fine Food for a coffee or iced tea along with some people-watching. The coffee is roasted before visitors’ eyes, and ground to their liking. Grab a seat at the outdoor table for front-row seats to the hive of activity in the area.
Maison Sarayan is one of the finest in the areea (Maison Sarayan)
We never know what we’ll stumble upon at this antique store meets curiosity cabinet of sorts. Delphine Mottet curates a collection, sourced in Europe and restored in Marrakech, that spotlights homewares and accessories dating back to the 1900s: photographs from the era, fine china, large furnishings and other oddities, recalling the golden age of travel.
Rainbow-bright fabrics, many of which are vintage, are used to create one-of-a-kind jackets and blouses in a variety of styles and shapes at this fashion boutique. To complete the look, choose between a chic turban or a pair of patterned loafers. A men’s collection is also available.
Striking the balance between timeless and contemporary, Atelier Landon mixes so-now design with Morocco’s traditional artisanal know-how to create bespoke original lanterns and lighting designs. While some ready-to-go designs are available for purchase in the showroom, appointments are required to discuss a custom design.
LRNCE is not to be missed for kaleidoscopic hand-painted ceramics with a Picasso-esque vibe, kimono-style jackets in earthy tones, and one-of-a-kind woven carpets. The location is easily strolled by, however – so look for the sign next to the small door, and head on up to the second floor. Best to call in advance.
The Radisson Blu is in the heart of the contemporary art and design scene in Marrakech’s new city, Gueliz, with galleries and trendy restaurants all around to explore by night. Rooms overlook the central pool area and there’s a buzzy bar (alcohol is not readily available at all hotels in the city) that comes to life as the sun sets. Doubles from £145, B&B. radissonhotels.com
Continue the design immersion with a stay at pretty El Fenn in the city’s Medina, where works by local artists decorate the walls – along with the odd Jackson Pollock and Anthony Gormley – and the rooms are furnished with some of the finest artisanal finds. Expect metallic lanterns that create constellations after dark, inlaid tables, and richly upholstered armchairs mixed with classic mid-century designs. Doubles from £250, B&B. el-fenn.com