I own a small apartment in Gueliz, Marrakesh’s so-called French Quarter so we come here every Spring to meet the lettings agent and check how things are going.
It is now rented out long-term so rather than staying in my own flat we enjoy the luxury of the five star Radisson Blu which is only a five minute walk from my apartment. I can actually see it from the bar I’m sitting in writing this blog.
Owning a property in such a culturally different place has been one of the defining experiences of my life. I feel a strange mix of emotions every time I visit, a kind of amalgam of all the highs and lows I’ve had in the 15 years since I first came here.
There were so many traumas involved in buying and furnishing the place and so many problems getting the easiest things done such as opening bank accounts, getting furniture delivered, setting up the payments to the water and electricity company.
This is partly reflective of the culture here and partly my own ineptitude, I don’t speak French, which despite various attempts at learning it, still eludes me.
On the positive side I’ve discovered so many extraordinary places. When people think about Marrakesh, those that know it at all, they’ll think of the historic medina which we dip into only now and then. The best place in my opinion as someone who really knows the city but is perhaps also a little biased is here in Gueliz, where I’m staying now, where my apartment is.
Even though it’s thought of as the modern part of Marrakesh it has a history dating back to around the time of the Second World War. My apartment, for example, was built on the site of one of Gueliz’s oldest restaurants, Bagatelle which opened in 1949. In 2010, to make way for my apartment block, it moved a few literally next door and that’s where we eat last night.
The restaurant is a bit of an institution here and despite being rebuilt it still has the feel of somewhere much older with its magnificent dome, fireplace and spacious terrace. On the walls inside there is a gallery of black and white photos which retrace the history of Gueliz over the past 70 years which I find fascinating only having known the area since around 2005
The Bagatelle serves many of the great classics of the Parisienne brasserie such as leeks with vinaigrette, mimosa eggs, snails, veal tongue, green pepper steaks, duck breasts with apples, and many other delights.
Not feeling particularly adventurous we enjoyed a vegetable tajine and a brochette de poulet which sounds so much better than its English translation of chicken kebab. Both were delicious and the first proper meal out and the start of a week’s worth of gastronomic delights in this amazing city that I have grown to love.