Maryam Montague is the type of woman most of us secretly want to be.
A designer, writer, hotelier and humanitarian, fifteen years ago she moved to Morocco “sight unseen” with her architect husband. They proceeded to pitch a tent on an olive grove, before up-scaling somewhat by building their own hotel, Peacock Pavilions, where they still live, with their two children.
She now runs the beautifully curated lifestyle brand, M. Montague Souk, through which she contributes to Project Soar, a not-for-profit organisation that works to build the confidence of Moroccan girls and encourages them to pursue an education.
We asked Maryam to give us the insider’s tour to Marrakesh...
How would you describe Marrakesh to someone who had never been?
Marrakesh’s appeal comes from so much more than the snake charmers, the fortune-tellers, and the souks - although they help too. The hospitable people, the delicious food, the mysterious architecture, and the fascinating Moroccan culture all add up to make Marrakesh a city like no other.
Breakfast Out: Café des Epices
After a lie-in, start your day with coffee on the rooftop of Café des Epices. You’ll love the bohemian chic décor, as well as the simple, rustic food. And as it’s smack in the middle of the Marrakesh spice souk, this might be the most fragrant breakfast you’ll ever have.
Lunch Break: Dar Les Cigones
Make a reservation for a cooking class at Dar Les Cigones. You’ll start with a hilarious (and fascinating) market tour. Then you’ll learn how to make a Moroccan lunch that you can replicate for friends back home. Recommended for beginning and expert cooks alike!
Dinner with Friends: Nomad
Hang out with residents in the know at Nomad. This polished but relaxed restaurant serves excellent food and signature cocktails. On sultry evenings, the mister feels like heaven. You can also just come for drinks at the gorgeous zig zag tiled bar.
Girl's Night Out: Le Comptoir, Le Theatro and La Palace
For over-the-top 1001 Nights décor, complete with belly dancers, head for Le Comptoir. For a dance party Moroccan-style, there’s Le Theatro. For more grown up lounging, you’ll find me downstairs at the uber glam La Palace, which also has a superb chef.
Where to Stay: Peacock Pavilions
Of course I recommend that they stay at my own boutique hotel, Peacock Pavilions, located a private olive grove. Site of numerous fashion and magazine shoots, we designed it for stylish nomads everywhere.
Where to Shop: 33 Majorelle and Max and Jan
Get the goods at 33 Majorelle, the city’s best concept store – there you’ll find gifts for foodies, fashionistas and home lovers alike. For cool Moroccan loungewear, check out Max and Jan. And no visitor should miss out on the opportunity to purchase at the atmospheric carpet souk – just be prepared to haggle!
Must-See Tourist Spot: Ben Youssef Medersa, Majorelle Garden and Bains de Marrakech
There’s so much to see and do in Marrakesh. For architectural splendour and sacredness, there’s the Ben Youssef Medersa. For the most world’s most fashionable garden, there’s the Majorelle Garden (once owned by Yves Saint Laurent himself). And finally, for the most sublime relaxation, a hammam and massage at the Bains de Marrakesh is a requirement.
And lastly, describe Marrakesh in 3 words:
Color, Pattern, Mayhem.