The clenched fist that is Marrakesh, Morocco—a city of a million people in just three square miles, whose crowded cobblestone streets still have the whiff of musk and materials from centuries gone by, where souks, rug merchants and traffickers of all kinds can be found in the medina’s maze of alleys—is opening itself, finger by finger, to the more modern world and holding out its hand to the wealthy.

The city wants to change its image as a place of congested traffic where troops of tourists visit on travel junkets and gawkers and hawkers barter over knickknacks, and instead become a more upscale leisure mecca featuring art and golf. And the city’s new offerings afford visitors a totally different experience from the dimly lit souks and souvenir shops in the old city.

The new town area boasts high-end designer boutiques and galleries. The Wall Street Journal this spring noted in a section on golf getaways that “Europeans are increasingly flocking to the lush links and luxury villas” in the city. There are more than a dozen golf clubs on the outskirts of town. A three-bedroom golf villa can be had for a half-million dollars, and those prices can even rise to an eye-popping $25 million.

Marrakesh’s developers are hoping the city’s pleasant weather year-round and its stable political climate will appeal to high-net-worth buyers and investors.

An Art Mecca Too

And where there is money, there is sure to be fine art.

The new Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden exhibits different kinds of art than might be expected, housing myriad programs catering to foreigners and locals alike. The premise, however, is the same: to do away with the concept that African art has to be the traditional works of tribal masks, wood carvings and crude workings by natives. Here, modern African art is simply modern art.

“They are just artists, and it’s contemporary art. They just happen to be from Africa,” says Janine Gaëlle Dieudji, the museum’s exhibitions director.

However you want to describe it, the museum has received rave reviews the world over. The New York Times has said that, with the new museum, the city has “joined the art world map.” Scott Reyburn, who wrote the Times piece, quoted museum president Othman Lazraq, who said that the museum is challenging perceptions. “If you come to Marrakesh,” Lazraq said in the article, “you don’t come to see contemporary art. You come to see camels and dancing ladies.”

First « 1 2 3 » Next