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Pocketmags Digital Magazines
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From art galleries and boutiques, to cafes, restaurants and secret gardens, new life is sprouting within the ancient walls of Marrakech’s’s never been a better time to visit Morocco’s most enchanting city
PHOTOGRAPHS: Annapurna Mellor

“Where are you going!” the young man shouts. Not for the irst time in Marrakech, I’m lost. It’s hot, it’s sweaty, and I can’t tell if this is the lane I’m looking for. It looks like it. But it also looks just like the last one. At times, the Medina makes me feel like I’m exploring an Escher print, or an exotic maze in which the next door might lead to a stunning riad or a ruin, a weaver coaxing scarves from a loom, or a hammam’s glowing furnace, with several tanjia urns slow-cooking in its ashes.

“Big square that way!” booms the man, bossing his way towards me and pointing back towards Jemaa el Fna. “Hey! No tourists in mosque!”

But I’m not looking for the mosque, I say. The doorway I’m looking for is that of The Orientalist Museum of Marrakech, home to paintings and ceramics by European artists like Jacques Majorelle and Henri Pontoy. On inally inding it, I take a seat in its rootop cafe, looking out on this sprawling, peachy-pink city and over to the hazy Atlas Mountains in the distance. A neighbouring, 500-year-old minaret seems to lean over for a look into my mint tea.

“They thought I was an extraterrestrial,” laughs Nabil El Mallouki, as he pours my tea. In a previous life, 51-year-old Nabil was a banker, and his colleagues were bemused to see him leave to pursue a passion for the arts. In 1999, he opened the Matisse Art Gallery, one of the irst in the city to showcase local and emerging modern artists. The Orientalist Museum is his latest project, a rundown riad reborn six months ago as a boutique home for this collection. “Everybody is frightened or ignorant until somebody takes the leap,” he muses.

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About National Geographic Traveller (UK)

We reveal the destinations that made our Cool List 2019 — from booming gastronomic hotspots to up-and-coming cities, this is the last word in where you should visit in the year to come. Elsewhere, we explore the wild side of Quebec’s national parks; leave our shoes behind on Colombia’s barefoot Pacific coast; and spend a long weekend in Bornholm. Other highlights this issue include Kuala Lumpur, Richmond, Prague, Marrakech and Taipei while our photo story joins the wild horse herders in Iceland’s rural east.