The finest hotels in Marrakesh

British travellers have found solace in Marrakesh for many years. In early February, I visited the city and happened to be on the first flight out of the UK to Morocco after travel restrictions were lifted. The plane was full of all sorts of characters – old hippy types desperate to feel the thrill of the city once more, stylish couples dressed in matching head-to-toe black, younger families keen for some not-too-faraway winter sun. The city has many hotels and riads tucked away within its walls. Here are a few of my favourites. The Royal Mansour The Royal Mansour is the jewel in the crown of Marrakesh’s hotel scene, in

Are the Abraham Accords working?

Two years ago, UAE citizens were barred from entering Israel. No longer. The inaugural Emirates flight touched down in Tel Aviv last week, a Boeing 777 carrying 335 passengers. For much of the 20th century, the only thing that the Middle East could agree on was the destruction of the Jewish state. But attitudes are changing. The purported reason is the so-called Abraham Accords, signed in 2020 after Donald Trump decided to solve the seemingly intractable problem of the Middle East. If Don the Dealmaker couldn’t do it, who could? Seven decades of antagonism had failed, the White House argued, and the Palestinian cause seemed as troubled as ever, so

Consigned to a living tomb: Aziz BineBine endures 18 years in a subterranean prison

Imagine being on indefinite lockdown, imprisoned in a dark, underground, 6’ x 12’ cell, freezing in winter, boiling in summer and infested with cockroaches and scorpions. The bed is a narrow concrete ledge, where you can only sleep on your side. The toilet has no U-bend, and your cell, No. 13, at the end of a run of cells, receives all the waste and floodwater from the others. There are no windows. Aziz BineBine spent his young adult life there, 18 years from 1973 to 1991. His crime was to have participated unwittingly as a young cadet officer in an abortive 1971 coup against Hassan II of Morocco. He escaped,

Tales from behind the veil: Moroccan women talk about lies and sex

The Moroccan-born Leïla Slimani has made her name writing novels of propulsive intensity. Lullaby, the story of a nanny who kills the two children in her care, was the first to be published in English (it was also the most read book in France in 2016). Adèle, about a sex addict who takes little pleasure from increasingly violent and self-destructive sexual encounters, came next. It was while on a book tour of Morocco discussing Adèle that Slimani hit on the idea for Sex and Lies. Many young women approached her at readings, wanting to tell her about their own sexual experiences, and it is these stories — that ‘shook me,