From time to time, we meet people that stand out and make us want to know more about Marrakech top 10, our city of adoption. You can be sure that every single person who has moved here has quite a story to tell. One of them we appreciate in particular : Valérie Barkowski, she has been living in Marrakech for the past twenty years or so. With stories and anecdotes, she tells us about her Marrakech, a funny and surprising city …
What is your istory with Marrakech and its Medina?
I discovered Marrakech’s Medina in 1991, by night. I was off to have dinner at Dar Yacout and I had never set foot in Morocco. As soon as I entered the restaurant, I was taken to the rooftop and was blown away by the beauty of this spectacular view. The Medina hadn’t been damaged by all those illegal constructions ad one could see the patios with their “MOSAIQUE” and dim lights, all of this under a full moon, it was pure magic! The following days, I walked around the souks, fascinated by the craftsmen… This was my first trip and I promised myself I would live in Marrakech one day. This became a reality five years later in 1996.
What is the history of Dar Kawa?
Dar Kawa is the Riad I opened for rent, it is an ancient zaouïa from the beginning of the 17th century. I purchased it by default. I visited over 300 houses, I was looking for something bigger, I thought Dar Kawa was too small but found its architecture very interesting. The house was a ruin. The plan was to rebuild it and find a bigger house… But it’s still there and I love it. I know if off by heart and keep bringing small changes to it over time. Owning a riad is like owning an old wooden yacht: it’s constant maintenance.
You have launched your own brand, can you tell us about it?
My brand was born shortly after I moved to Marrakech. I first started a Foundation and was in need for funds, this is how my brand was born. I started off with fashion accessories under the brand Mia Zia which I sold ten years after creating it in 1997. I have kept my “LINGE DE MAISON” brand V.Barkowski. I work with embroidery and can say I was the first one in Marrakech. Twenty years ago, there was nothing, women purchased printed goods, which were embroiled with a sewing machine. It took a lot of time and patience to have a first good collection, three years to be precise. I worked with several hundred women, shops in various places around the world but I realized this was getting in the way of the life I wanted to have and that I didn’t want to run a big company, especially in a country which had a culture very different from mine. So, I stopped for ten years. I got quite a few inquiries from old clients to resume production which changed my mind once again. My collections come out every year again, focusing on the out of time items I have created and which are still popular. The concept is to work on out of time collections with an ancestral know how. V.Barkowski s “LINGE DE MAIN” and a few fashion accessories.
And your blog? Is this a passion for you?
www.valeriebarkowski.com is like a diary or my archives. I put my work up there. The blog on www.darkawa.net is our way to share our daily life at Dar Kawa. For the people who have been here before and who like to stay in touch but also for the people who don’t know us yet.
Your best Medina story in your neighbourhood?
What I really appreciate with my neighbourhood is that it has stayed very authentic. There’s still an oven, a Hammam. The small « hanouts », the barber shop, I love local life.
One day, I had an appointment with a craftsman, we had said “Wednesday 10 o’clock”. I arrived on time and waited for a long time but he never came. Two months later, he showed up at Dar Kawa and I reminded him we had a meeting where he never showed up, He answered that we had indeed agreed on meeting on Wednesday at 10 o’clock but that we had never said which Wednesday. He had shown up a Wednesday at 10 o’clock two months later. This is why I love this country; Tahir Shah sums it up very well in his book “Le Café Mabrouk”.
And finally, can you tell us your story with sidecars?
I lived in Russia in another life and while looking for furniture for a Datcha I was renting. I walked in a big store where they were selling everything: frying pans, toys, cameras, boots, tractors, sidecars… It was quite unreal. This was 1993. The Dnepr sidecar looked quite like yours, with this retro look they were gorgeous. They were new and were sold between 200 USD to 300 USD. I couldn’t resist and purchased two.
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