But in a city dependant on tourism, eco-tourism is encouraged, and in the days leading up to the international event more than 30 hotels have received a Green Key for their environmental efforts across the Kingdom, from the cozy Touda EcoLodge in the Ait Bougmez Valley to the Bab El Oued on the edge of the Sahara Desert. The label is supported by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). More than 50 per cent more hotels have received the accreditation over 2015 in the lead-up to the international conference. It is expected the conference participants will be looking for this certification when booking accommodations.
Most notably, the luxurious, hand-built Royal Mansour hotel was among the recipients recognized for their efforts both on a guest and personnel level. Typically quite private, the Royal Mansour, in working with landscape gardener Luis Vallejo, will this month open its Arab-Andalusian style gardens to the public.
The various elements of the new gardens work together beautifully, revealing the beauty not only of the planting but also of the spaces. A grid of olive trees recalls the structure of historic gardens, such as the Ménara and the Agdal, forming the backbone of the garden and lending a sense of unity. Palm groves stand tall, creating, as in the hotel medina, shady zones or sun-dappled clearings. Date palms rise above the ramparts, visible from the exterior and providing a link with the city outside. In the lower part of the garden, parterres segue into the olive trees. Their geometric patchwork of greenery recalls the look of traditional agriculture and ancient systems of irrigation.
Around town, gardeners are working hard to spruce up the gardens, creating new green spaces and parks. In the Mellah area of the medina, the area has undergone a massive renovation in recent months that has resulted in renewed market stalls and a public square where children run free in the evening hours, enjoying a game of football or bike riding.