Morocco’s Famous Friends
From politicians to authors to actors, Morocco has been a favourite haunt of the rich and famous for many years. Celebrities seem particularly drawn to the magical mystique of Marrakech; whether they come to relax in the spa at La Mamounia or to shop in the souks at Jemma el Fna, the illustrious have always been particularly fond of Morocco.
Marrakech has not always been the popular tourist destination it is today. However, there was one man who spotted its potential many years ago. Winston Churchill was a regular visitor to the La Mamounia Hotel in Marrakech, often referring to it as ‘the loveliest spot in the world.’ He even brought Franklin Roosevelt along to stay on one occasion.
It is said that Churchill spent his days in Marrakech painting the Atlas Mountains, moving his easel further along the balconies each day to begin the next section of his work of art. But Churchill wasn’t the only politician to frequent La Mamounia.
Both Nelson Mandela and Charles de Gaulle were also known to stay at the prestigious Mamounia Hotel on occasion. On de Gaulle’s visit, a special bed was even commissioned in order for the 6ft 9in French president to sleep more comfortably.
Marrakech inspires masters of all arts, but other areas in Morocco seem to be equally stimulating. Writers, in particular, seem to have travelled far and wide in search of their muse. Samuel Pepys, London’s most famous diary keeper, reportedly found nothing to write about during his stay in Tangier, Morocco. However, more recent writers such as William Borroughs, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg are all examples of authors who liked to pick up a pen during their visit. Tennessee Williams even mapped out the entire plan for one of his most famous plays ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ one afternoon in Morocco.
However it is not just the intellectuals that feel the appeal of Morocco, but actors and film gurus alike. American film director Orson Welles started filming Othello in Essaouira in 1949, and finished in 1951, claiming that the seaside town had exactly the atmospheric and dramatic surroundings that he needed for his film.
Ait Benhaddou, located not far from Marrakech, has been the setting of many successful films, including Lawrence of Arabia and the Mummy, and the cast often like to base themselves in Marrakech during filming. However, it is not just those filming nearby that take time out to explore the city; whilst working in the city of Salé not far from Rabat, Leonardo DiCaprio spent an afternoon shopping in Marrakech. Local shopkeepers are always excited to have celebrities in their shops, and the appearance of Leo and his entourage investigating the antique stores in the area will have been the talk of the town for many weeks afterwards.
Who knows who you will see on your holiday to Morocco; you might get to rub shoulders with the stars at La Mamounia spa, or spot them as they come off the set at Ait Benhaddou. Whether you are prone to getting star struck or not, the celebrity endorsement achieved by Morocco is certainly impressive.