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MARRAKECH’S CREATIVE REVOLUTION

Sarah Gilbert meets some of the new wave of artists and designers that is reinventing Marrakech’s artisanal heritage and checks out the coolest creative hubs in the Medina and beyond

Wandering along the labyrinthine alleyways of the Medina, it seems that little has changed for centuries, as I watch craftsmen hammering metal, carving wood and weaving wool on handlooms. There was a time when Morocco was only valued for its traditional arts and crafts. A turning point came in 2004 when Vanessa Branson — Richard Branson’s sister and owner of the beautifully restored riad El Fenn — founded the Marrakech Biennale to establish the Red City as one of culture, embracing creativity and celebrating new ideas.

Initially a one-off exhibition of Moroccan artists, today the festival has gone global, opening up galleries and public spaces around the city — everywhere from the historic El Badi Palace and Koutoubia Cisterns to L’Blassa, a repurposed abandoned apartment building in Gueliz — with a focus on contemporary art and new media. Of course, Marrakech’s warren of souks is the quintessential Moroccan shopping experience. But the city is also home to a new wave of home-grown and expat artists and designers that is reinventing the city’s rich artisanal heritage. And, if you know where to look, much of it is happening within the Medina’s ancient walls.

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