Jewellery designer Paloma Picasso fell so in love with "the landscape, the colours… the designs and the beautiful blue skies" of Marrakech that in 2006, she and her husband Dr Eric Thévenet decided to call it home. Today, the city plays a vital role in her work, with the olive groves around her house serving as inspiration for some of her designs for Tiffany & Co. We caught up with Ms Picasso to find out where she eats, shops and passes the time in the ochre city.
Describe a typical day in Marrakech for you.
The wonderful thing about our daily life here is it's hard to predict what's going to happen. There really is no such thing as a typical day. Every day is different: we swim, we cycle, we play tennis, good friends may pay a visit. The favourable weather helps keep options open.
What would you recommend every visitor to Marrakech must do?
Of course, one must experience the medina for its ancient charm and frenetic energy. Visit the ironmongers in the souk to experience traditional craftsmanship. The colourful mountains of spices and olives that line the souk are also very beautiful, not to mention the delicious dates, figs and numerous carts selling fresh orange juice. For centuries the souk has been the meeting place for Marrakechi - it's the magical spirit of Marrakech. Another fascinating place is the Majorelle Gardens (Rue Yves Saint Laurent), designed by French artist Jacques Majorelle. He came here in the early 1900s and was spellbound [by Marrakech]. His fascination with the city, and other places in Morocco, is reflected in the colourful landscapes he painted. [The gardens] were lovingly restored by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé.
Where are your favourite places to eat?
Eric and I occasionally go into the medina for tea at La Terrasse des Épices or go to the Beldi Country Club on the road to the dam for a change of scenery.
How about special occasions - where do you celebrate?
We'd normally go to Riad Madani. This is owned by our dear friends and it's a smaller, more boutique hotel than some of the famous larger ones, but no less elegant or charming. Here, we have delicious food surrounded by beautiful décor and artefacts from around the world.
Where do you shop in the city?
The medina offers wonderful shopping experiences if one can avoid the tourist traps. Mustapha Blaoui (142-144 Bab Doukkala, Marrakech) is definitely a favourite of ours for décor and also just for the experience of being in what appears like Aladdin's Cave. In the Gueliz we rely on Scènes de Lin for luxurious special orders of linen and tabletops.
Are there places worth investigating in the countryside?
Absolutely. A daytrip to the quaint town of Ouirgane in the Atlas Mountains is a nice way to enjoy the countryside. Visiting the Atlas Mountains will also give you an opportunity to experience the Berber culture. Another idea would be to go to Essaouira on the coast. That's the fabulous thing about Marrakech - within a couple of hours' drive you can either be high in the mountains or down by the sea.
Where's the best place to stay?
The iconic La Mamounia remains a classic in the great tradition of old-world luxury hotels, and it's nicely located near the medina. There's also the elegant Royal Mansour Hotel.
In what way does the city influence you creatively?
My Zellige jewellery range was directly inspired by the geometric shapes and intricate patterns that can be found throughout Marrakech. One can find the patterns, for example, in the tiles adorning fountains or in the beaded tassels seen throughout the medina. I've used these lattices, patterns and shapes to design medallion and tassel pendants, bangles, rings and earrings. Another one of my collections, Villa Paloma, was also inspired in many ways by Marrakech and the Moroccan countryside, particularly by the lush flowers and vegetation, fountains, terraces and the golden light of a desert oasis. The garden is a gateway to nature. I wanted to create jewellery that captures the infinite beauty and diversity of the area's gardens.
What is the inspiration for the Olive Leaf collection?
The [Olive Leaf] collection is inspired by the olive branch as a symbol of peace, abundance and longevity. It captures elements from the olive groves surrounding my home in Morocco - a place of serenity - and also represents a link to my name. "Paloma" means dove in Spanish, and most people are familiar with the symbolic image of the dove carrying an olive branch as a peace offering. The jewellery I've created pays tribute to both the dove's noble mission and gardens as a refuge of peace and tranquility.