Last month, Meissen, the legendary German luxury brand known for its porcelain, opened a flagship store in Beijing, a moment that the CEO Christian Kurtzke referred to as “coming home.” When King Augustus of Saxony founded Meissen over 300 years ago, Qing dynasty China exported fine porcelain to European aristocracy for whom porcelain or “china” was de rigueur. In order to create Meissen, King Augustus, an admirer of Asian and Ottoman art, had to bring an alchemist back to Dresden from exile in order to develop the European technique for porcelain production.
At Jnane Tamsna, we believe that our ecosystem involves more than the flora and fauna within our walls. As custodians of our land, we play a role in Moroccan society and bear a responsibility to extend opportunities in a country that has afforded us so many. Giving back to the community is an intrinsic aspect of Jnane Tamsna’s mission, which is why I am overjoyed to share our latest initiative with the Cogito Scholarship Foundation. Cogito selects and sponsors exceptional underprivileged boys and girls to achieve their highest potential at the world’s most esteemed high schools and universities.
I have always been a fan of vintage stores, because for me there is nothing more elegant and feminine than fifties fashion. My mother, my aunts and their friends looked like Hollywood stars with their fabulous dresses, skirts and tops. When I was a broke New Yorker in the early eighties, working hard and partying like there was no tomorrow, I discovered vintage stores, which allowed me to have the most diverse and elegant wardrobe with amazing cocktail dresses for only $20.
When I found out there was a vintage store opening new options for shopping in Marrakech, I was thrilled. Topolina has breathtaking clothes, with custom-made fur coats, dresses, hats, clutches and shoes. Isabelle, the owner, also uses unique hand dyed fabrics from the Sahara and makes wax fabric coats, as pictured here. Marrakech caftans are known to be some of the best, but once you've picked up one or two, stopping by Topolina is a must. The shop is full of charm, with skilled Moroccan embroiderers working in front of you. She has an eclectic, bohemian chic vintage apartment above the store where she lives. She is opening a new location for the summer in Tangiers. Get ready to shop!
Walking through the garden of Jnane Tamsna, our boutique hotel in Marrakech, I find that the early summer heat has ripened an explosion of mulberries. The mere picking of these subtle berries from the trees gives me a taste of paradise. We use them in the kitchen to add a burst of flavour to breakfasts, fruit salads and desserts.
I run into a family whose children giggle, their little mouths spotted with mulberry juice. Their father says that he had never stayed in a hotel where he could pick things to eat straight from trees in the garden. Yesterday Lamia, the art teacher, had a workshop with 7 little ones, aged 4 to 7 years old, in the garden. Her students were Dutch and English, and while the Dutch were too young to speak English, every one communicated through drawing and eating mulberries!
The bird song is loud and a gentle breeze blows through the trees. I find a client reading under a tree with a bowl full of mulberries next to him. He smiles and says, “I am in paradise.”
I am never blasé about the incredible creative energy Marrakech attracts and generates.Ever since the iconic figure of Moroccan interiors, the American Bill Willis, came here in the 1960s, hundreds of visitors have come, stayed or returned to be part of the incredible design crucible rooted in this millenary cultural crossroad.
I found new evidence of this creativity last week when I went to the Four Seasons Resort, where a new gallery is showing the jewellery of Marrakech resident Joanna Bristow. I have known Joanna for over 16 years; we were selling her work in Ryad Tamsna, a gallery I had in the Medina from 1999 to 2004. It is intelligent, tasteful and elegant. Chic design whose elegance is international and whose ethnicity is modern and timeless. It made me feel like reincarnating my gallery at Jnane Tamsna (stay tuned!).
I was in Rabat last week at the Fondation Orient-Occident founded by our remarkable friend Yasmina Filali. Over 500 refugees, who have fled Iraq, Kurdistan, Afghanistan, Ivory Coast and the Congo, find purpose for their new lives in the Fondation’s welcoming building. On their long journey to Morocco, during months and years, they would wake up to a day of uncertainty, with miles to walk from civil unrest, abuse, rape and no future. People from these very diverse places have a space to cook, embroider, learn, play, sew, sing and perpetuate the creativity that is in their veins, spirits and souls. The Fondation allows them to have a social life, recreate a community and cling to hope for their culture.
In April, the first book on Gardens of Marrakech will appear with the spring flowers, written by Angelica Gray and illustrated with gorgeous photos by Alessio Mei. The reviews are glowing, including one in The Independent. We are thrilled that the verdant entrance of Jnane Tamsna, our Marrakech boutique hotel, was chosen for the front cover.
The photo captures the magic of our lush courtyard. I designed the house around the date palms that had been on the land for centuries. As they were too big to be moved, we left one is in the middle of the front entrance as you may see here, through the Moorish arches! The first riad courtyard – from where this photo is taken – was planted around another robust date palm.
Stefani Greenberg and Desirée Gruber, the founders of Theodora and Callum, the very cool fashion company, were recently visiting Marrakech on what they called “a voyage of inspiration.” I was honoured to be asked by their public relations company to organise a dinner where they could meet creative locals. From the fields of architecture, fashion, furniture, interiors and jewellery, I assembled a dozen Marrakech-based designers to meet with these brilliant and achieved New Yorkers.
Looking for a good place for Sunday brunch in Marrakech? Our recommendation is Crystal Restaurant Lounge, at the end of the Boulevard Mohamed VI, an area of Marrakech that features new hotels and nightclubs. While it may be best known for its vibrant nightlife, we like going late on a Sunday morning. Fati will greet you at the entrance and seat you in the beautiful outdoor terrace; and don’t hesitate to ask for Ludovic, the general manager, who is always on site.
Some of our favorites are the carrot gazpacho with courgette and feta, the star anise-flavored braised quince and the saumon en croute (salmon with olives and vegetable in a pastry shell). There’s a sinfully attractive dessert buffet to top it all off. We didn’t indulge, but the chocolate macarons look decadent.
The well-chosen music – contemporary afternoon lounge – adds to the relaxed chill out atmosphere. The pool is available for a dip, making it a great place to bring the whole family.
Jnane Tamsna is always happy to support good causes connected to culture, education, environment, health, leadership and other issues. Giving long weekend stays for charity auctions allows us to meet the successful bidders and their friends, always socially-engaged people!
For example, we just welcomed Winthrop and Annie Ruml who prevailed at an auction supporting the Harlem Academy, an independent school in New York City that prepares bright, motivated students for success in top secondary schools and lifelong learning. Jnane Tamsna has been supporting the Academy by giving inclusive stays at our boutique hotel for auction during their annual fundraising gala.
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