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During film festivals, critics often spend their time in two separate venues; their hotel room and the cinema. Naturally, when in a city as beautiful as Marrakech, that simply won’t do, and while editors might bemoan the lack of actual copy, it’s because we’re all enjoying the sun, the setting and the spices. Here’s a list of things to discover within this striking and dynamic city.
There’s an unnerving sense of familiarity to Marrakech, irrespective of whether it’s your first time in the Moroccan city or not – and it becomes patently clear why this is the case, as so many filmmakers have chosen to shoot iconic scenes in the beautiful surrounding landscape. Even when travelling on the highway you may feel you recognise the setting; Tom Cruise shot Mission Impossible 5 on those very streets. Thankfully they took the shoot to Stade de Marrakech, which is an easier place to visit than the motorway.
The lair belonging to James Bond adversary Blofield, featured in Spectre, is also located in Marrakech – though given the £3m property is actually lived in, a visit is out of the question.
Sadly, there isn’t an abundance of cinemas in Marrakech – though the way the public flocks to the theatres during the festival suggests there really ought to be. The most noteworthy, however, is the resplendent Palais des Congrés, home to two large auditoriums and remarkably comfy chairs.
If you’re after a nice meal either before or after a viewing, be sure to check out Amaia, a restaurant that serves up a beautifully eclectic range of European food. If you need to walk it off afterwards, you’re minutes away from the Menara Mall, a large space with enough shops, kids areas and arcade sections to appease all members of the family.
As the most lavish hotel in Marrakech, it’s not necessarily affordable to stay at La Mamounia, but that’s not to stop you from going to visit and enjoying a cup of sweet Moroccan tea in their courtyard, overlooking the breathtaking gardens. If you’re looking for a connection to Hollywood, you’ll be pleased to know that Alfred Hitchcock shot scenes there in The Man Who Knew Too Much, and when you’re sat there living the high-life, it’s hard not to feel like Jimmy Stewart or Doris Day. On the other end of the spectrum, the cast of Sex and the City 2 also stayed in this very location during the making of the popular sequel.
During the film festival, the famous Jemaa el-Fnaa square becomes the place to be, as screenings take place outdoors every evening for hundreds of locals to enjoy. The rest of the year it’s a pretty remarkable place too, particularly when if you’re looking to purchase some local souvenirs, be it street food, slippers, rugs or spices. A word of warning, the sellers will fight quite fervently for your custom, and if you don’t like snakes you may want to wear a scarf just in case a snake charmer tries his luck by resting one over your shoulders. However, the sheer experience of just wandering around, soaking up the smells and the visuals, make for a visceral, immersive experience.
With the Atlas Mountains looming over the streets of Marrakech, you might want to make the most of the breathtaking views by going on a camel riding expedition. Whether you’re looking to emulate Lawrence of Arabia or if you’re just keen to try something new, it’s quite an experience.