Between 1935–59, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill visited Marrakech no less than six times. “It is,” he reportedly said, “the most lovely spot in the world.” Usually at the Mamounia Hotel (see pp28–9), his mornings were spent penning his memoirs and afternoons were devoted to painting, his favourite hobby.
The famous author of Animal Farm and 1984 was in Marrakech in 1939 on the advice of his doctor (Orwell suffered from tuberculosis). While recuperating, he wrote Coming Up for Air and an essay, “Marrakech”
The Rolling Stones
Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones visited Marrakech in 1966 and brought the rest of the band on the next trip. Put up at the Hotel Es Saadi in Hivernage, they bumped into Cecil Beaton, who photographed Mick Jagger and Keith Richards by the pool.
The French couturier first visited the Red City in 1962 when memories of his childhood in Oran, Algeria were reignited. He returned a few years later and bought a house in the medina. The city found its way into his work as well, with the colours and patterns of southern Morocco influencing his collections. He spends part of the year here in a villa adjacent to the Majorelle Gardens.
Southern Morocco has long been favoured by Hollywood as an exotic, versatile and, most importantly, cheap spot for filming. Consequently, Marrakech has become a favourite place for actors to unwind; while shooting for Alexander, actor Colin Farrell reputedly ran up a $ 64,000 hotel bill at Le Méridien N’Fis.
In 2002, rap artist P. Diddy flew nearly 300 guests into Marrakech on chartered jets from New York and Paris to celebrate his 33rd birthday in opulent Moroccan style. The king, apparently a rap fan, also contributed to the party and lent him the use of the Bahia Palace for the high profile celebrations.
John Paul Getty Jr.
In the 1960s, American oil heir John Paul Getty Jr. and his wife Talitha owned a place in the medina. They were famously photographed by Patrick Lichfield clad in kaftans on their mansion’s roof terrace with a backdrop of the Atlas Mountains.
The author of The Sheltering Sky was an occasional visitor to Marrakech. There’s a famous photograph of him from 1961 taken while he was sitting on the roof terrace of the Café Glacier.
General Charles de Gaulle
After the Casablanca Conference in January 1943, a meeting of leaders of the Allied forces, General Charles de Gaulle travelled to Marrakech, staying at the Mamounia Hotel. The hotel’s director had to create a bed for him in order to accommodate his considerable frame.
Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page first visited Marrakech in 1975. Twenty years later, they recorded some video footage on Jemaa El Fna to accompany the release of their album, “No Quarter”.