El Fenn, a place where time stops

Marrakech, Morocco

Jul 2013

Text Paola Corini

Listen: Scott Matthew, Unlearned


“El fenn” means “art” and this riad is full of it. It’s a place where time stops. From the red streets of Marrakech you enter the medina and at first your eyes struggle to adjust to the darkness of the rooms you walk through. But then, you’re back to the light, in the shaded garden at the centre of the building. In the square-shaped, deep and tall patio, the vegetation rises up to the blue sky and houses birds that have found here their paradise. There are turtles walking on the marble and coming to greet you by lightly hitting their head against your feet. This space, where you arrive and will keep coming back to, is like an open-air living room where to meet before heading toward other corners of this magical and intimate house. In the morning, a tray with warm teas and coffees, and the Beldi basket with your brioche are waiting for you outside the wooden door of your room. Bare feet, you walk out quickly to collect it. Then you get ready to savour your breakfast. The rooms are perfectly elegant. Furniture from the ‘30s, leather sofas, design lamps, marbles, greys, mustards and black tones blend with Marrakech’s typical materials and colours: purple red, intense blue and ochre, ceramics and lime; the best of contemporary western taste meets the Moroccan style. There’s a divine hammam, an enchanting and superb restaurant, a small cinema room for two with a big screen and a great movie selection. Wherever there’s a table, you’ll find precious books of photography, art, food and literature. An immense terrace overlooks the roofs of the city and Koutoubia mosques. You can relax in the secluded and quiet swimming pool or enjoy the amazing food from chef Hafid and his team. Art is everywhere: Vanessa Branson, the owner, is a collector from London. She owns a private art collection and is the founder of the Marrakech Biennale. Dine in the restaurant under a stunning chandelier created by Francis Upritchard or curl up with a book in the library next to a work by British Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj. On your bedroom walls you might find a set of photographs taken by Terence Donavan. In the corridors, you’ll see pressure cookers transformed into conceptual art by Batoul S’Himi while Guy Tillim’s arresting series of portraits of Congolese boy soldiers hangs outside the restaurant.



Photo Courtesy Liesbeth van der Wal, Joanna Vestey

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