Going to Morocco during winter was a great deviation from a long trip in Europe. While preparing for Art Deco beauties of Casablanca, Marrakesh was a real surprise. Beyond the World-famous Medina, getting lost in the souks and admiring the beautiful Atlas Mountains, a series of chance encounters allowed a unique view of the unknown Art Deco side of the city.
Most tourists come to Marrakesh to spend time in the old part of the city, the Medina while they spend little time in Gueliz, the former French district which is mostly residential. After the 1912 protectorate of Morroco, French troups built a fortress on Mount Gueliz and the area was chosen for the French army soldiers to settle. Most of the original architecture on the main road has been replaced by newer buildings during the 1990s, but our guide knew where to look. Rachel Thomann has lived in Marrakesh for years and became the specialist of the Gueliz district while writing her thesis about the area, that is soon to be published as a book. She took us on the sidecar tour with Insiders (a company started in Shanghai), searching for lost Art Deco in Gueliz, starting with an overview of the city by climbing on Mount Gueliz.
French officers based in Marrakesh built their villas in the 1920s and 30s, in Art Deco style that was popular at the time. Traveling through the small streets lined with orange trees looking at Art Deco / Modernist villas was a great discovery off the usual tourist track. in the 1920s and 1930s,
Gueliz was a modern city, next to century old Marrakesh. Rachel has deeply studied the history of the area. “ Local people living the old City were rarely allowed in the French district. The ones who had this privilege had the feeling they had traveled to France.”
One of her most beloved place is former Cine-Palace that she managed to save from destruction. 1920s Cine-Palace is to early to be truly Art Deco style, but later additions are spot on. The tour ended with a drink at Café de la Poste, a restored bar and restaurant that is perfect keeping the 1930s feeling.
This time travel day ended up with a visit night cap at 1923’s grand hotel and Marrakesh icon, La Mamounia. Although the building is from the 1920s but not really Art Deco, but current renovation and lighting really gives the feeling of a trip back to the 1930’s. A grand style ending for a day trip in Marrakesh Art Deco.