CHANGE UNIVERSE: Magazine Jewels
MarrakechMay 30, 2008

VIP Marrakchis Night Life

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The phenomenon of Marrakech as an über-fashionable destination has so far not resulted in very much to offer in terms of nightlife.

Good sounds and creative music takes place in restaurants, cigar bars, lounges, cafes and exotic hotels. Fortunately it was never a problem picking the place where I'd spend the evenings after long days of shopping, being a tourist for a few hours or getting pampered. Here are some suggestions in the case you decide to go.

Like everywhere else, there is always a tight connection between the people you meet at night in Paris, Rio, Istanbul, Beirut or Tel Aviv. Born in Tunisia, Marcel Chich -- owner and founder of one of the most prestigious establishments in the chic neighborhood of Gueliz, Le Comptoir Darna -- is one of them.

Le Juif le Plus Arabe -- "The most Arab of all Jews" as he defines himself, moved to the red city twelve years ago with the intention of pursuing his "Fantasme Orientale" thus creating something different, something to add to his Paris lifestyle he felt at the time was no longer complete.

A friend of Claude Challe, another Tunisian Jew and today a most acclaimed artist, musician, dj and creator of the worldwide Buddha Bar concept, Marcel Chich was blessed enough to receive from Claude the Khamsa compilation assembled with his grand orchestra, available to buy on their website and from which everyday I'll propose a new song during this week's posts.

In the Old Orient, comptoirs or counters were organizations based on exchanging spices, exotic flavors, and served as an intermediary between suppliers and customers.

Sitting at this moment at Le Comptoir Darna, in the company of the attentive-to-detail Marcel, its walls resplendent with black and red tadlekt, I am listening to an Arabic orchestra churning out Egyptian and Lebanese classics, most of which I remember vaguely -- my grandfather used to sing in Beirut. I feel strange, yet somehow at home, even if I have never been in any of those countries before.

A climax in the atmosphere takes place with the arrival of several young and sexy belly dancers dressed up only with what's necessary, descending a slinky grand staircase littered with pink rose petals. Some older and more experienced ones carry candlesticks on large trays on their heads, dancing in the manner of true Bahianas during Carnival times in Brazil. So strange...

Sipping my Champagne with a small chocolate souffle decorated with rose petals, I can't help associate this signature exchange between Marcel's unconscious Jewish gypsiness in his stories about a ring with a star of David lost in a royal bathroom in Istanbul and the surrounding Caravanserai of cultural and ethnic diversity. A blending mix of good looking locals, young European models, wide-eyed tourists, sharper expats all clapping hands in the ryhthms of this nowhere-else Middle Eastern fabulous-ness.

My dinners were hosted by charming people, romantic places such as the restaurant Villa-Rosa whose refined and calm atmosphere of luxurious red velvet furniture and candlelight evoke the Napoleon III-style ambiance of Paris hotel Costes. The chef proposes Italian as well as a combination of new French cuisine with Arabic specialties inside magnificent lounges or on the patio combining the pleasant ambiance of a Moroccan ryad.

Noureddine Fakkir, one of the partners and a key persona of Marrakesh night life, and the handsome public relations professional Youssef Gourad (whose fault is not his to be so charming!) are in charge of several other hip places like the Brasserie Orientale Le Tanjia for a Pizza or a vegetarian couscous in an elegant, grey 1940's colonial decor, the traditional Marrakshi, richely decorated with Zelij tiling -- one of my favorite restaurants, perfect for sipping a Moroccan Mint tea at sunset over the magical and hectic Jemaa el Fna.

Young, Western fashion conscious, and hip is their crowd; from night to the next morning especially when it comes in the middle of the sublime Palmeraie desert at Nikki Beach to listen to amazing arabesque electro-beats with -- believe it or not -- the best sushi in the area.

Bo-zin -- with its slogan "drinking and fooding" -- whose lounge area overlooks a spectacular garden of bamboo, palm trees, cactus, papyrus and other desert vegetation, while inside deals are done on sofas in the low-lit nooks.

Bo-Zin is located a good 15 minute ride out of town, so take advantage of the pollution-free sky and indulge in some serious stargazing.... Tomorrow after all, is another new day.

Today listen to:

Joelle's Tips:

The Restaurants-Lounges:

Le Comptoir Darna - Villa-Rosa - Bo-zin - Le Tanjia - Le Marrakshi - Nikki Beach

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