B&B and Beyond: Peacock Pavilions, Morocco
The globetrotting owner of this tranquil retreat outside the medina has an eclectic eye for interiors. Sarah Gilbert checks in
Saturday 14 September 2013
A decade ago, boutique riads were all the rage in Marrakech, but now new hotels are shying away from the hubbub of the medina and opting for the city's tranquil surroundings. Peacock Pavilions, which opened last year, was built from scratch in a large olive grove around 20 minutes' drive from the centre.
When American Maryam Montague and her family decided to settle in Marrakech in 2006, her architect husband, Chris Redecke, spent almost four years creating Peacock Pavilions. The owners' passion for design means that the Moroccan touches in the enormous, open-plan salon have been artfully mixed with eclectic finds from around the globe: a bowl of embroidered caps from Afghanistan, Indian warrior bracelets, African fertility symbols.
Everywhere you turn there's something fascinating to look at and you can enjoy it from a cardboard Wiggle chair by Frank Gehry, an oil-drum-turned-swivel chair or a vintage leather sofa.
Outside the main building is the three-bedroomed Medina Pavilion with its own large kitchen and the two-bedroomed Atlas Pavilion. Both have en-suite bathrooms and spacious living areas, decorated with more globally acquired treasures. A beaded chair from Aruba sits next to a Tibetan chest, Coptic crosses from Ethiopia stand beside betel-leaf boxes from Bangladesh. The black-and-gold feature wall in my bedroom is based on a Lanvin screen and antique Yemeni tassels hang from the curtains. Custom-made, Egyptian-style lanterns light the living area, where a colourful ikat-covered chair is teamed with a sofa draped with Moroccan handiras, or wedding blankets, dotted with sparkling sequins.
Breakfast can be served on the terrace overlooking the swimming pool, in your villa, on the roof terrace of your villa or, in cooler months, at the long communal table in the salon or in front of a log fire. Fruit salad and yogurt, olive bread, home-made jams and baked eggs with cheese and tomato is washed down with freshly squeezed orange juice and mint tea.
Maryam, Chris, their two children and a menagerie of animals – including a dog, five cats and several peacocks – live adjacent to the main building. When Maryam's not travelling the world in her role as a human-rights specialist, the expert shopper and author of Marrakesh by Design finds time to write her blog, "My Marrakesh" and sell Moroccan textiles from her online shop, Red Thread Souk. She also runs a weekly art and sports project for young girls from the neighbouring village. Maryam will happily send you recommendations tailored to your interests before you arrive.
There's no public transport but Time Tours (00 212 524 44 91 92; timetours-transport.com) can drive you into Marrakech's medina for 300 dirhams (£23) return.
In the medina, the three buildings around Place Ben Youssef will give you an insight into the city's history and culture. The Medersa, the religious school next to the Ben Youssef Mosque, is a masterpiece in Arab architecture.
The Museum of Marrakech (www.museedemarrakech.ma) is housed in a late 19th-century palace and the Koubba Ba'adiyn is the only surviving example of the Amoravides dynasty which ruled the Sahara during the 12th century.
Marrakech will satisfy the most ardent shopper. Mustapha Blaoui (00 212 524 385 240), the "Moroccan Ikea", stocks everything from carpets and candlesticks to chairs.
In Guéliz, the new town, you'll find leather loafers at Atika (00 212 524 43 64 09) and beautifully embellished kaftans and accessories at Moor (00 212 524 45 82 74). Meanwhile, 33 Rue Majorelle (33ruemajorelle.com) has changing stock from around 90 Moroccan designers.
Opposite, the cobalt-blue house in the Jardin Majorelle (jardinmajorelle.com) was once the home of Yves Saint Laurent. Go early to enjoy the small Berber Museum and the exotic flora, lily ponds and shady pathways of this mini oasis, without the crowds.
Kaowa, opposite Jardin Majorelle, sells juices, smoothies and salads, such as quinoa tabbouleh (00 212 524 33 00 72; salads from 59 dirhams/£4.50).
If you're tired of tagines, head to L'Italien by Morelli at the Delano hotel where you can dine on Moroccan-influenced Italian dishes (00 212 5 24 42 42 55; mains around 200 dirhams/£15).
Peacock Pavilions, Kilometer 13, Route de Ourzazate, Marrakech, Morocco (00 212 664 41 46 53; peacockpavilions.com).
The entire Atlas Pavilion (two bedrooms and a living room) costs from €350 (£295) per night, including breakfast; or one bedroom and the living room from €200 (£168).
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