Judith Baker follows in the steps of her name sake Jazz Age icon Josephine Baker to enjoy the colours, style and cultural gems of the timeless Moroccan city
I am sitting with my feet in the dipping pool in the cool courtyard of the pretty Riad Star Hotel in the centre of Marrakesh – a haven of calm and peace away from the bustle and excitement of the so called Red City.
Just in front of me is a stunning 1930s costume, topped with a feather cape. It was once worn by Josephine Baker, the dancer, entertainer and civil rights activist. She stayed in this building in the 1940s while recuperating from illness. Her costumes and other memorabilia are dotted around this enchanting hotel.
Riad Star has just 13 rooms and its own Hamman, perfect for refreshing scrubs and massages. There is a roof terrace with sun loungers and secret shady corners to escape the heat.
Rooms are individually decorated with silk duvets, statues and Moorish touches as well as modern day essentials including TV and free Wi-Fi. Fragrant orange blossom toiletries feature in the shower room.
Delicious home cooked Moroccan dinner is available and breakfast can be taken on the terrace or in the dining room. The Hotel has its own cookery school where local chefs share their love of traditional Moroccan dishes.
The Riad Star is right in the heart of the medina ideally placed for exploring the vibrant historic areas that make this city so fascinating.
You could spend days just mooching around the old town’s teeming alleyways and souks and marvelling at its vast palaces and gardens. A walking tour with a guide or a tour of the city by horse and carriage will ensure you won’t get lost, although the Riad Star offers guests the loan of a local mobile phone and its App is invaluable. Haggling is a way of life here but once you get the hang of it, it is a real thrill to buy leather, glass and other trinkets from the multitude of stalls and shops.
Marrakech is fast-gaining a reputation as Africa’s hottest art hub, with the newly-launched Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL) which houses a vast collection of digital art, painting, sculpture and video created by leading artists from Morocco and neighbouring countries.
Just around the corner from Riad Star is the just opened Orientalist Museum which takesalook at the historical works of non-native artists, who have travelled through or stayed in Morocco.
I loved the beautiful Museum of Marrakesh with its lavish interior courtyard. Collections include pottery, calligraphy, old gravestones, coins, paintings, clothing, and historic documents. The café outside is a lovely spot to linger with a mint tea.
Maison de la Photographie houses many old photographs that show snapshots of Morocco and Moroccan life from the 1870s through to the 1960s. The roof terrace has a small cafe with great views out to the Atlas Mountains.
Don’t miss in Marrakesh
Djemaa el Fna. The city’s main square is the beating heart of Marrakesh where you can expect to see snake charmers, magicians, acrobats and musicians. Browse the hundreds of stalls and pick up some street food. Or head to one of the rooftop terraces with views over the 12th century Koutabia minaret
The Saadian Tombs, near the Kasbah Mosque. Saadian Sultan Ahmed Al Mansour Ed Dahbi spared no expense on his tomb, importing Italian Carrara marble and pure gold to make the 16th century Chamber of the 12 Pillars a glorious mausoleum.
Majorelle Gardens 12 acres of lovely gardens formerly owned d by Yves Saint Laurent. His ashes were scattered here
British Airways is launching new four times a week direct service to Marrakech from Heathrow terminal 5 starting October 2018. Other airlines with direct flights to Marrakesh include easy Jet, Ryanair, air Arabia (the budget brand of Air Maroc) and Tui.
Riad Star is the flagship property of Marrakech Riad which has four character hotels in the old medina district. For best rates book direct online, www.marrakech-riad.co.uk
Room rates at Riad Star from £112
Phone: 020 7193 7357
For more information on Morocco see www.muchmorocco.com