COP22 in Marrakech – the lowdown

COP22 in Marrakech


COP22 in Marrakech starts on Tuesday! In a previous life, I was a climate change negotiator; I represented the EU at the regular UN climate change meetings under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The 22nd UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP) will take place in Marrakech from 7-18 November 2016. I remember my work at COPs 12 (Nairobi), 13 (Bali) and 14 (Poznan) fondly. COPs are hard work. Negotiations frequently go on all night and they feel like a battle of attrition. Agreements are made by consensus, so all Parties need to be won round before progress can be made. As much work is done in side meetings and at side events as in the formal meetings and plenary and negotiators frequently have to be in several places at once. All of this means the camaraderie between colleagues from across the world is incredible. And all that stress means there ain’t no party like a Conference of the Parties. So, this post is dedicated to all my friend and colleagues in the UNFCCC process. They have made some incredible progress, seemingly against the odds. Here is COP22 in Marrakech – the lowdown for negotiators.

UN climate change negotiators know how to work hard. And they don’t get much free time. But when they do, they use it to relax, sleep and party. It can be a work hard-play hard lifestyle. The first bit of local lingo (after Salaam and choukran, of course) that a climate change negotiator needs is fawaj. Here are some suggestions:

The hang out

Cafe Clock MarrakechCafe Clock is a cross-cultural cafe in the Kasbah district close to the Bab Ighli COP site. Run by Mike Richardson, former Maitre D’ at the Ivy, London, it is a great place for live music, storytelling, rooftop chilling, contemporary art, camel burgers, homemade ice cream and a whole lot more. They are hosting a climate change culinary contest on Tuesday 8 November. Chefs and aspiring chefs of all ages and levels are invited to a brainstorming session to quantify climate change data using food.  

storks at Badi Palais The nearest (non-hotel) bar

It’s not cheap, but it’s got a great views up towards the medina and Place Jmaa el Fna and of the resident storks and their crazy ramshackle nests on the Palais Badi. Check out Kozybar if you are sick of the hotel bar and fancy a cool beer in the sunshine.

The piano bar

It simply wouldn’t be a climate change negotiation without a piano bar and Marrakech is happy to oblige. Catch a taxi up to Place Jmaa el Fna and once you’ve seen the street food and performance spectacle that is Marrakech’s main square, head over to the Jardins de la Koutoubia hotel. Take a drink in the piano bar itself or at the poolside. Ask for Nouaman, he’ll see you right!

The break from tajine

When you get sick of tajine and overpriced hotel sandwiches, head up to Gueliz, Marrakech’s French-built Ville Nouvelle and check out Catanzaro for pizzas from a wood-fired oven just as they should be. 

majorelle blue buildingsThe chill out zone

Ditch the COP Green Zone and head out to the real green zone at the Jardins Majorelle. The Menara Gardens are closer to Bab Ighli, but there really is no comparison.

TCIF – Thank couscous it’s Friday!

If you can get away on a Friday lunchtime, experience the Moroccan custom of Friday couscous at the Amal Centre, a social enterprise training women in catering and hospitality to improve their job prospects. Make sure you book – it’s popular!

Friday couscousRelaxation – Moroccan style

Sure, the hotel spa is convenient, but it’s nothing like the real thing. Find the local neighbourhood hammam and get clean like you’ve never been.  It can be a bit intimidating – getting stripped off to your pants (British English) in a room full of strangers you probably don’t share a language with and then being scrubbed to within an inch of your life, but there’s nothing quite like it. The usual run of events is to first sit in a very hot and steamy room for some time to open the pores, then rub yourself all over with a gloopy olive resin soap. Then the person you made a deal with in the changing room scrubs you with a rough mitt known as a kiis, and generally throws you around a bit. (Men often get some pummelling and stretching added into the bargain). Be prepared to fresk out as the dead skin rolls off you in strings known colloquially as “spaghetti”. Yuk! Then you are washed down with buckets and buckets of water before having your hair shampoo’d – either with your normal commercial variety or and you might even get a mud shampoo known as ghassoul. Afterwards, in a more upmarket place you might get an argan oil massage, which is great for replenishing all the scrubbed-out moisture to the skin.

The side event

The High Atlas Foundation does great work with rural Moroccan communities to help them make the transition from subsistence farming to organic fruit and nut cash crops. HAF side events include a carbon auction on 17 November, from 1:00 to 2:30 pm in the COP22 Green Zone- Salle 3. Proceeds will go to build plant and tree build nurseries with schools and communities.

Essaouira medina from the portThe excursion

If you have time at the end of your trip or over the middle weekend, take a bus or taxi down to the coast. Essaouira is a breath of fresh air (quite literally – it’s known as Windy City Afrika) after Marrakech. It’s a UNESCO-rated, understated, boho hang-out for hippies, stylists, surfers and artists seeking a chill-out in film-set location at the seaside.

Here’s wishing all Parties fruitful negotiations – we’re counting on you!

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