The Marrakech International Film Festival is now in its 14th year. In 2014, it will run from 5-13 December. Although not as high-profile as some of the European film festivals such as Cannes or the Berlinale, Marrakech offers a great opportunity to catch new international and art house films as well as retrospectives and back catalogues. This year, expect to see L’Orchestre des Aveugles, a Moroccan feature, in the competition. Also showing are the drama about Stephen Hawking, The Theory of Everything and A Most Violent Year, J.C. Chandor’s film about crime and corruption in New York City. The open air screen on Place Jmaa el Fna will show the latest Shah Rukh Khan Bollywood epic, Happy New Year and there will also be homages to Japanese cinema, Moroccan producers, Jeremy Irons and Viggo Mortensen. The jury is presided this year by French actress, Isabelle Huppert. Entry to the films is free with a public pass available in advance via the festival website. Read my preview of the 2014 festival here.
So, there is no shortage of big screen entertainment. But what about between films? Where are the best places for chilling out, posting your snaps of stars on social media, reading reviews and grabbing a coffee on the go? Fortunately, the Palais de Congrès is right in the middle of a hub of café culture in Marrakech’s Hivernage district.
Best for star-spotting
Marrakchis don their winter woollies to hang out on the opening night at C House opposite the Palais de Congrès on Avenue Mohammed VI. The coffee sells at Hollywood prices, but from here, you can watch the limos roll up and the stars step on to the red carpet as the flash bulbs pop. All along the avenue there are glass radio booths where the stars are interviewed and stands explaining the festival programme. In the sunny winter days, you can gaze straight up the avenue to the snow-peaked High Atlas Mountains. C House website.
Best for a literary diversion
Head up Avenue Mohammed VI towards the station and after a small park of carved wooden sculptures on the left, you will find Café Karma on the corner of the Amani Hotel. Sit outside on a sunny afternoon or snuggle up inside with a book. The menu isn’t very extensive, but there is plenty of intellectual stimulation to go along with your caffeine! Café Karma website.
Best for ice cream to a Buena Vista soundtrack
In the Hivernage neighbourhood behind Café Karma is Azyr (which means rosemary in Arabic). Spot it by the bright funky covered terrace with plant pots suspended on a wall of wooden planks. As well as ice creams and great Cuban music, you can re-fuel on a wide range of salads, pastas, pizzas and main courses every day from breakfast until midnight. Azyr website.
Best for an al fresco coffee and cake
Somewhat out of keeping with the over-opulent Moroccan decor of the reception of the Lawrence d’Arabie Hotel next door, the News Cafe (part of the hotel) is a modern, funky space with a garden space perfect for enjoying the winter sun over a coffee and French patisserie. It is also in the Hivernage, a stone’s throw from Azyr and Karma.The News Cafe website is inaccurate and confusing, but it is here.