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The £5 Million Art Collection In The Walls Of A Traditional Moroccan Riad

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By Isobel Coombs on 12th January 2024

Step into IZZA, the 'House of Friends,' a new boutique hotel in the heart of Marrakech’s medina. Beyond its traditional design details and rich heritage lies a vast collection of NFTs, AI artworks and Moroccan photography.

Appropriately named the ‘House of Friends’, IZZA opened its doors this summer and welcomed tourists back to Morocco after the country’s devastating earthquake. For Morocco to recover, tourism must continue to thrive and with hotels like IZZA, drawing a cosmopolitan crowd, there is no doubt that it will. Nestled in the heart of Marrakech's bustling medina, this Riad invites you to experience authentic Moroccan hospitality coupled with unique creativity and design. Inside the walls of the medina, the streets are buzzing with beautiful shops, questionable driving, and the iconic donkeys. IZZA provides a very welcomed oasis just a stone's throw away from the action.

About The Hotel

IZZA boasts fourteen rooms, each a homage to a famous freedom seeker of Marrakech. As a ‘House of Friends’, the hotel is inclusive in its range of rooms; whether you’re looking for an affordable-yet-luxurious room, or a grand and spacious suite , IZZA has it all. Totally individual in style and design, the bedrooms are adorned with artefacts, artwork, and fabrics, a visual representation of the figure they are dedicated to. One of the most notable rooms is Yves (named after Yves Saint Laurent) who fell in love with the colours of Morocco, and who’s books and letters you will find around the Riad. The interiors of the hotel stand as an ode to the late Bill Willis, one of the most renowned interior designers of his time, and an old neighbour to IZZA’s Riad. An archetypal hedonist, Willis was compelled towards Marrakech and left his life in America to be enveloped by the Moroccan art that he loved so much, socialise with the stars of his time, and work alongside the likes of Yves Saint Laurent himself. It’s no surprise that IZZA has been self-proclaimed the ‘museum of the medina’ as its walls burst with its Sixties Heritage.

Amenities: A place to unwind

Despite its boutique size, IZZA has a traditional hammam tucked behind one of its doors, just off the poolside. Spend an afternoon experiencing a traditional hammam treatment in the marble nook dedicated to  this ritual. If being scrubbed isn’t what you have in mind for your relaxing treatment, the hotel also has a massage room and a fully-equipped fitness centre. For the days where you put your tourist map down and put your feet up, the hotel also has a sun lounging area on its stunning rooftop terrace.

The Hotel's Art: Where AI and Morocco’s heritage collide

Something that is so striking about IZZA is the rich aesthetic of Willis’ design work and Morocco’s traditional design tropes, intertwined with some of the world’s most innovative artworks. Owned by tech and art entrepreneur, Neil Hutchinson, yet crafted by local artisans, IZZA boasts an impressive £5 million art collection, eclectic in its form and subject matter.  Arguably the most memorable is Leila Alaoui’s photograph series, 'Les Marocains', that’s cast upon the walls of the reception lobby. In Alaoui’s high-contrastand striking style, she photographs those who caught her eye as she travelled Morocco,  a chicken farmer and a psychic among them.

IZZA is also home to one of the world’s largest physical collection of NFTs, including 24 framed pictures from Sebastião Salgado’s ‘Amazonia’ collection released at Sotheby’s, the auction house’s first collection of NFTs.

The museum in the medina also displays artwork on loan from the Museum of Modern Art. As you ascend the stairs of the Riad, step onto the rooftop and see the mesmerising swirls of Refik Anadol’s ‘Machine Hallucinations - Space | Chapter II: Mars’' against the backdrop of the Red City. The AI data ‘painting’, glowing from a two-metre screen, seems incongruous next to the rooftop sun loungers. A somewhat of a brave choice of Hutchinson’ss, ut but there is no question that it works, and unbelievably well. The combination of artisanal Moroccan craftsmanship and Hutchinson’s’s eye for modern art is daring yet successful, just as Bill Willis was in his day. 

The Restaurant: A Shared Experience 

Chefs Paul Weaver and Ahmad El Hardoum join forces to create dishes that fuse  locally-sourced produce, with Moroccan influences and modern twists. IZZA’s  social dining concept is reflected in the beautiful menu of small sharing plates. From charred octopus, to a slow cooked leg of lamb, each dish reflected Morocco's rich culinary heritage, blended with European influence and perfected by Weaver’s’s outstanding flair. Paired with delicious Moroccan wines and an all-too-delicious cocktail menu, a dinner at IZZA is incredibly indulgent, and the prescription for an amazing night’s sleep. By morning, the previous night’s banquet is a wonderful memory, as the rooftop is filled with baskets piled high with fresh buttery pastries, which, even with a full stomach, are impossible to resist!

The intimate restaurant and rooftop bar — open to both guests and visitors — draws upon Willis’ indulgent days dining with his compatriots. The wonderful and devoted team at IZZA, accompanying the stay and daily meals greeted us with warmth and kindness, making for a  continuous air of community and warmth within the Riad.

IZZA is more than a place to rest your head after a day of exploring; it’s a collage of heritage, craftsmanship and modern art. The sharing concept is clear from the moment you are greeted at reception with a warm smile, or when you all dive in for a spoonful of tagine , as you explore the renowned collection of artwork, or marvel at  the traditional Moroccan interiors. ‘House of Friends’ is the perfect name for IZZA, and the only way to experience Marrakech. 

Fact box:

  • IZZA.com

  • 14 rooms ranging from approximately £140-£695 per night including breakfast, airport transfer, and a 45-minute massage

  • 46, Driba Laarida, Sidi Ahmed, Soussi, Medina 40000 Marrakech, Morocco

  • T: +212 (0)6 61 95 62 46

  • E: reception@izza.com 


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