PaperCity Magazine

June 2019- Houston

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63 I n Marrakech, it's exciting to be at the center of the energy and creativity swirling through the old town and its mysterious bazaars. El Fenn hotel — chic, relaxed, and authentically Moroccan — is perfectly sited on the edge of the medina, in the middle of the ancient souks and shops and artisans and crafts galleries. It was created by Vanessa Branson (sister of Richard Branson) and her team; textile genius Madeline Weinrib was recently anointed a partner. El Fenn offers theatrical and ultra-cool lodging in the heart of Marrakech. This series of courtyard riads (traditional houses) is sparked with vivid and bold Moroccan colors. El Fenn is exceptional and rare. Each suite and room has its own style, its own signature colors, and its own quirky architecture and amenities. Handcrafted plaster walls are tinted in signature Moroccan colors, ranging from deepest turquoise to shocking pink, terra-cotta, blush pink, off-white, rose red, charcoal, mint green, and Yves Klein blue. Many have freestanding old-fashioned tubs, and several have wood-burning fireplaces — perfect for chilly Moroccan winter mornings. Some are modern; others are antique. All feel like home. All have Marrakech swagger and style. Enclosed courtyards, swimming pools, palm trees, hidden stairways, and romantic balconies give the hotel a special intimacy. The accommodations include two-bedroom and three-bedroom suites and a newly furbished five-bedroom annex. Three main courtyards are filled with bougainvillea, tall bamboo, and birdsong. Guests sunbathe or rest with a book in one of the many hidden nooks throughout the hotel. The hammam and spa are popular spots for relaxing. Groups of friends gather at the casual rooftop terrace. El Fenn's location beside the Bab El Ksour gate also allows instant access to both ancient and modern Marrakech. The drama and crowds of Djemaa El Fna square and the winding alleys and souks are a vivid walk a few minutes away. Further afield beyond the old city are the newer shops, bars, and restaurants of Gueliz and Hivernage, all accessible via a quick taxi ride. An Insider Look at El Fenn I chatted with El Fenn partner Madeline Weinrib, the New York artist and designer who founded the highly acclaimed eponymous textiles and rug company. She's credited with introducing luxurious authentic ikat fabrics in modern colors into the design vocabulary and popularizing and developing Moroccan and Indian rugs in American decor. DDS: What do you love about El Fenn? MW: I've been staying there since it was created in 2004 by my partners, Howell James and Vanessa Branson. The design is beautiful, and I resonated with the colors, wit, and originality right away. Many of the rooms feel like private apartments, which gives its a very homey feeling. I love having meals on the roof, where you can see the ancient Koutoubia Mosque and the distant Atlas Mountains range.

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