A great way to discover the Moroccan city of Marrakech is through a Guided walking tour of its Art Deco Architecture in the new city of Gueliz. You can spend an afternoon gallery hopping, shopping at designer boutiques and eat your way through Marrakech’s, trendsetting new town. As one of the most sought-after Colonial cities in Morocco, Gueliz is all the rave.
Morocco’s Colonial history and the beginning of Art Deco Gueliz dates back to 1912 when an agreement was signed with France, called “Protectorat.” A French army general and colonial administrator named Louis Hubert Gonzalve Lyautey had the vision to modernize Morocco with the preservation of its cultural traditions and local customs.
Lyautey created the Ville Nouvelle (new town) Gueliz, originating from the French word Église, which means church. Gueliz was the first town to be built outside the Marrakech medina with views of the Atlas Mountains and a referendum requiring no building to stand beyond 3 stories high or the equivalent of a palm tree.
First built as a military camp, Gueliz was small and occupied primarily by the French. This French quarter grew rapidly and architects embraced Parisian Art Deco by creating large avenues, bustling cafes and theatres, along with charming villas and a central market.
Gueliz was designed by French architect, Henri Prost. Its original main tree-lined avenue was called Avenue de France. Today Avenue de France has been renamed Boulevard Mohammed VI and is filled with modern office buildings, banks, boutiques that are surrounded by magnificent Art Deco facades that remain from the city’s colonial past. Travelers and locals frequent Boulevard Mohammed VI for evening walks and picnics, sipping Moroccan tea at its sprawling cafes on sunlit terraces and to shop at luxury boutiques as they take in the glorious flora and fauna in full bloom year round.
One of the Art Deco highlights of Gueliz is the Church of Holy Saints-Martyrs, built in 1928 and inaugurated in December 1931. It was also designed by the architect and urban planner French Henri Prost and commission Marshal Lyautey,
What to See: Art Deco Facades, Sites & Gardens Gueliz
Church of Holy Saints-Martyrs – Built in 1928, designed by the architect and urban planner French Henri Prost this was the only church in Gueliz at the time.
Cine-Palace – Built in 1926, this cinema is a replica of Cinema Eden in La Ciota France. Dilapidated it’s charming facade and open air theatre, in ruin, is a memory of an Art Deco past.
The Villa Bel Air – Located on the Avenue Hassan II, is one of the few villas in Gueliz that has not been affected by new construction.
Comptoir des Mines Galerie – Founded by Art Holding Morocco, this new gallery is a contemporary art space located in an Art Deco building that was once a mining company. Recently renovated into an Art Gallery, Comptoir de Mines features Contemporary Moroccan Art.
Comptoir des Mines Galerie – Founded by Art Holding Morocco, this new, chic gallerie is a contemporary art space located in an Art Deco building that was once a mining company. Recently renovated into an Art Gallery, Comptoir de Mines features Contemporary Moroccan Art.
Jardin Majorelle – This is the former Art Deco home, with Moorish charm, of Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge. It houses a fashion designer’s collection of decorative arts and artworks by Jack Majorelle with rotating exhibitions. The Majorelle Gardens has burbling streams and pools filled with water lilies and lotus flowers and is painted with vibrant primary colors, with an intense blue the Jacque Majorelle saw in the Atlas Mountains.
The Renaissance Hotel – Located in Gueliz The Renaissance is a Marrakech institution. This historic hotel was built by the French architect, Henri Prost. The hotel has preserved its façade which was built in 1952.
La Mamounia Hotel & Gardens– Perfect for afternoon tea, sunset cocktails or pool lunch, this Art Deco historic hotel is where Alfred Hitchcock wrote the movie The Birds. It is situated on the edge of the walls of the old city of Marrakech and is named for its 200-year-old gardens, which were given as an 18th Century wedding gift to Prince Moulay Mamoun by his father.
Jnane El Harti (Harti Gardens) – A creation of the urban garden Jnane El Harti dates back to the end of the 1930s. Translated as “janân al-harthî”, which means, “Gardens of my plowed earth” this garden was originally created to produce food. The current Jnane El Harti occupies six hectares is decorated with wooden benches and maintains a sprawling cactus garden, a restaurant with views of the garden and a sports hall. Perfectly representative of East and West, the Harti Gardens is a mixed space of Mediterranean vegetation with olive, citrus and ficus surrounded by European lawns, shrubs, palms and cactus.
Where to Shop in Gueliz: Designer Boutiques & Concept Stores
33 Majorelle - With two levels of design, fashion and accessories created by Moroccan and international designers, as well as the traditional Moroccan goodies like the green pottery from southern Morocco and a selection of funky babouche, this is the shop for trendy souvenirs and gifts. Like a high-end department store, new designers are exposed with a collection hanging regularly, giving this concept store the leading edge on the latest trends. A small gallery is attached and features a changing art exhibit. The location is perfect – across from Majorelle Gardens. Address: 33 Rue Yves Saint Laurent
Majorelle Gardens Boutique - Easy to find and with a friendly owner Toufik, this is one of the best up-market boutiques for fine Moroccan fashion with a Western twist. Using the finest silks, Toufik creates a stunning collection of kaftans, velvet vests, and cotton tunics are part of the collection that changes regularly. But if you don’t see exactly what you are looking for, custom orders are possible and take up to two weeks. Address: 9-11 Soukiat Laksour
MOOR – Owned by fashion designer Yann Dobry of Akbar Delights in the medina, Moor features a selection of upscale Moroccan couture. Using the finest artisans and materials, Moor is known for its embroidered silk, cotton and linen tunics. The cool and calm colors throughout the shop create a relaxed shopping experience. Look up or even just on the walls – the décor, a selection of Moroccan home wares sourced from around the Kingdom, is also available! Address: 7 Rue des Vieux Marrakchis , Guéliz
Yahya Creation - If the patterns created by Moroccan lampshades and lanterns peak your interest in taking a fine lantern or lampshade home with you, be sure to stop by Yahya Rouach’s showroom. Clients including Harrods and Neiman Marcus have been known to stop by to commission orders. Yahya’s pieces are unique and one-of-a-kind. His pieces light up various areas of the Royal Mansour hotel and other boutique raids in Marrakech. Address: 49 passage Ghandouri, Rue de Yougoslavie, Guéliz
Where to Eat in Gueliz: Trend-Setting Restaurants & Classic Art Deco Cafe’s
Grand Cafe La Poste – Gueliz’s chic Brasserie which has kept the charm of the time Liautey is part of the history of Marrakech. La Poste has a 1930’s ambiance with a grand staircase and cozy upstairs large nook with a fireplace along with chic dark spaces reminiscent of the days at Parisian literary cafes. This traditional Brasserie’s menu makes it perfect place for brunch, cocktails or an evening meal. Address: Avenue Imam Malik, Gueliz
Le Petit Cornichon – A one-of-a-kind bistronomique culinary experience in the heart of Gueliz with an excellent wine list. The menu is lovingly created by resident manager, Erwann Lance. Lance has several Michelin restaurants in Paris and New York. He also the former head of dining at the Royal Mansour, in Marrakech. Le Petit Cornichon is one of the hottest tables in town and serves up some of Marrakech’s most delightful French cuisine with a twist. Each dish is full of local flavor and stylishly presented on plate. The weekend’s three-course tasting menu including fois gras is a must. The wine list offers local Moroccan wine traditionally not found in other restaurants along with a large selection of exceptional international wines. Address: 27, Rue Moulay Ali, Gueliz
Baromètre Marrakech – A new chic address in Gueliz, Baromètre is a type of underground culinary lab where Mediterranean fusion tapas and contemporary fare are served alongside exotic cocktails. The food is beyond delicious therefore make sure to leave space for more the one dish. Be prepared for a speakeasy, mysterious atmosphere that is perfect for the food enthusiast. Address: Rue Moulay Ali Gueliz | Résidence Al houda, Gueliz
Cafe Les Negociant – A landmark cafe in the center of Gueliz. Built in 1919, this is one of the city’s historic “man cafe’s” and a meeting place for a morning traditional Moroccan nous-nous or mint tea. Cafe Les Negociant has been refurbished in keeping with it’s Art Deco architecture. Address: 110 Mohammed V, Gueliz
Pâtisserie Amandine – Perfect for a late afternoon hot chocolate or cappuccino. Amandine offers wide range of French pastries, Moroccan cookies and one of the best mille-feuille in town. It’s macarons in rainbow colors, zesty lemon tarts and delightful, raspberry panna cotta pots should be on every foodie’s bucketlist. Address: 177 Rue Mohammed Al Béqal, Gueiz