Driving Forces at TEDx Marrakesh

I recently spent a weekend filled with inspiring talk by fascinating people.  Oh and good food and wine over interesting conversations.  All at TEDx Marrakesh, one of my favourite events in Marrakech, at Riad El Fenn.

Co-hosted by Vanessa Branson and Andrea Kolb, this event always promises an exciting and diverse line-up.  And this year was no exception as each speaker discussed his/her “driving force”.

To kick of the event, British Ambassador Clive Alderton reminded us of something important: the need to disconnect from Twitter, Facebook, emails and our online life and in doing so allow ourselves time to think, dream, plan in both business and personal.

Oh I couldn’t agree more.

And this event provided the perfect opportunity to switch off and hear about what drives others (and spend some time reflecting on what my driving force may be).

Beate Wedekind really spoke to me when she talked about being true to oneself, and the moment she realized she wasn’t being true to herself.  She was letting herself be driven by recognition and other such external forces.  So she decided to launch The New Africa, a magazine focusing another side of Africa and its people:  the rise of the middle class, the creative class, the educated class.  It’s launching mid-October and I can’t wait.

When Eric Van Hove took the stage to present his car motor made using traditional Moroccan arts and crafts, he referred to the completion of his project as giving birth.  But he’s not stopping there.  He’s so dedicated to these craftsman, whom he calls family, he’s opening a foundouk in the Marrakech environs to continue their great works.  And while we only saw an image, his dedication to this project shone through in the beauty of the crafts involved.  In fact, I think there was a collective ah when he displayed the photo.  (The motor will be on display during the Marrakech Biennale in February 2014.)

The life events of Uri and Oren, a truly inspiring duo, have allowed their life events to be their driving force.  The result: use highly specialized equipment and resources to capture video evidence of human rights’ violations. In doing so they have exposed human rights’ abuses around the world.  While the videos they displayed were at times difficult to watch, their efforts have brought justice and change. The issue they chose to highlight was their effort in bringing awareness to and ultimately reducing the occurrences of female genital mutilation.

So I can only thank the organizers and hosts for a wonderful day.  And hope that I am being true to my driving force.

Top tips for dining in Marrakech

When it comes to restaurants, I’m always up for trying something new.  But often the restaurant scene here in Marrakech fails to live up to my expectations.  Either it’s a repeat of what already exists, it’s too expensive, service is horrible or it just doesn’t live up to the hype.  And sometimes it’s all of that!

Thankfully I have a few that I return to on a regular basis.  While I typically eat Moroccan food, the best of which is prepared in the riads, from time to time I need a burger.  Or just even a change of scenery.  So to prevent any restaurant disappointment, I’m happy to share my favourite establishments in Marrakech.

Le Jardin

Set in an old, traditional riad in the medina, Le Jardin is always a hit.  The service amazing, the ambiance brilliant and the food delicious.  The team here is so friendly and goes out of their way to accommodate.  Combine this with the trendy decor and interesting spaces, a blend of cozy and open, throughout the restaurant to create a relaxing atmosphere.  In winter I tend to head up to the rooftop terrace to soak up the sun, or next to a fireplace.  It’s the perfect retreat when you’ve had enough of the souks.

32, souk El jeld
Sidi Abdelaziz
Marrakech Médina

Le Loft

A trendy restaurant in the Gueliz district of Marrakech with a French menu.  As the owner pointed out recently, I’ve probably tried everything on the menu *embarrass smile*.   It’s just one of those places that you know will deliver.  The food, the service and the patio.  Oh the patio, a little oasis.  Outside, yet hidden, the way it has to be here in Marrakech.  Whether it’s for after-work drinks, dinner or a boozy lunch, I always head for the patio.  Casablanca beer, a nice selection of Moroccan wines, great starters and fabulous mains.  During lunch they have a menu at starter+main or main+dessert menu for just 110 Dhs/$15.

18 Rue de la Liberte
Gueliz, Marrakech
+212 524 34216

16 Cafe

While I originally avoided this cafe, thinking it was too pretentious for me, I have a new love of this cafe located in the Marrakech Plaza.  Great people watching, combined with good coffee and great sandwiches, salads, breakfast and juices make this a favourite spot any time of the day.  I’m a fan of the chicken burger, calamari and any of the salads.

Marrakech Plaza
Corner of Avenue Hassan II and Mohamed V


A Marrakech institution, the Italian food is always delicious.  Popular with both locals and the expat community, reservations are mandatory.  Especially if you’ve had enough tajines, couscous etc.  The prices here are reasonable, the food delicious, the service attentive.  It’s no wonder it’s so popular!

42 rue Tarik Ibn Ziyad
Gueliz, Marrakech
+212 524 433 731

Ah September

Whereas I used to dread September (I was a public employee in a university), I now love it.

Cooler temperatures are on the way.  The months of +45’C temperatures are coming to an end.  And that means that it’s once again possible to  walk and be productive rather than a sloth in front of the air-conditioner.  Though sadly the end of afternoons by the pool, beers on the patio, lounging by the ocean or lake (depending on whether I was in Canada or Morocco) are coming to an end.

Because with the cooler temperatures, comes the return of tourists.  And that means back to reality. You see, September and the autumn months are ideal for visiting Marrakech and Morocco in general.  With comfortable evening and daytime temperatures, it’s the perfect time to explore the sites and sounds of Marrakech.  And head out in to the surrounding countryside for some spectacular views.  And it’s still warm enough to enjoy to the coast plus the surfing is great.  Or even a night in the desert.

But it also means the return of expats.  And that means a return to awesome events.  Like TEDx Marrakesh, organized this year on 21 September.  One of my favourite events in Marrakech, year after year the event organizers bring together an amazing lineup of speakers including architects, film makers, artists and social activists.  Find out more at: http://www.tedxmarrakesh.net.

However, after an incredibly awesome summer  (I’ve been referring to it as Summer of Awesome), I can’t help but think that heading back to a routine is going to be hard.  Wish me luck!