Food-loving Italian aristocrat Fabrizio Ruspoli, owner of the renowned La Maison Arabe, in Marrakech, paid a visit to Australia this month to spread the word about the cuisine from his adopted home country Morocco.
A first-time visitor to our country Prince Ruspoli has been on a two-week working tour from Sydney to Brisbane and onto Melbourne, the aim – to share his knowledge of his hotel and famous cooking schools with Australian travel agents.
With the strengthening of the Australian dollar in recent years Morocco is very much on the travelling menu.
Fabrizio asked Australian-born Carol Prior, owner of the small luxury travel company Morocco by Prior Arrangement, to organise joint promotions in the three cities.
In Sydney, executive chef of Patisse, Vincent Gadan and Out of Africa chef and owner Hassan M’Souli rolled up their sleeves for a unique sweet flavour of Morocco demonstration.
The exciting new Brisbane store Hamimi, specialising in the sourcing and importation of authentic Moroccan homewares co-hosted guests at a special “Taste of Life in the Marrakech Souks”.
The tour heads onto Melbourne where “A Taste of Morocco” is scheduled for Luscious Affair Cooking School in Toorak, on Monday, April 2, where Hassan M’Souli will put on a cooking demonstration to showcase the famous recipes of La Maison Arabe Cooking School in Marrakech.
“We are so excited to have Fabrizio visit Australia to promote his beautiful property, its cooking school and Morocco as a very exciting and exotic holiday destination,” said Carol Prior, whose company can arrange a myriad of customised luxury experiences to Morocco.
“It’s the first time Fabrizio has visited Australia, and judging by our urge to learn more about Morocco’s cuisine, it won’t be his last. Food and travel, of course, complement each other very well.”
The family background of Fabrizio Ruspoli is as fascinating as the hotel the family owns in Morocco – La Maison Arabe. His parents were Prince Mario Ruspoli di Poggio Suasa, an Italian aristocrat and important filmmaker in the 1950s-60s, and Claude Delmas, from a prominent French shipping family.
In the late 1950s, Fabrizio fell in love with Morocco when he and his brother began spending their summer holidays at their archaeologist grandmother’s home in Tangier, Morocco.
After graduating from La Sorbonne, and before becoming a hotelier in Morocco, Fabrizio had his own headhunting firm, and was later an antiques dealer in Paris, specialising in 18th century French furniture. He moved to Morocco in 1992, and three years later bought La Maison Arabe, which had been a famous restaurant in the medina of Marrakech, started by two enterprising French women in the 1940s.
After two years of renovation work, he re-opened La Maison Arabe in January 1998 as the first boutique hotel in town.
In 2001, Fabrizio launched the first cooking school in the Kingdom of Morocco. A half-day cooking workshop at La Maison Arabe has become a “must do” activity for visitors to Marrakech. Fabrizio has a passion for music, and is actively involved in organising important classical music and piano recitals in Marrakech.
The story of La Maison Arabe began in the early 1930s, when two enterprising French women, Hélène Sébillon-Larochette, and her daughter, settled in Marrakech.
In 1946, the pasha of Marrakech granted them the right to open the first restaurant to foreigners in the medina, and provided a servant from his nearby palace to teach them the intricacies of Moroccan cuisine. Winston Churchill, who came often to Marrakech in his later years, would dine regularly at La Maison Arabe.
In 1995, the property and an adjoining riad were purchased by a descendant of a noble Roman family, prince Fabrizio Ruspoli.
After three years of renovation, during which time he was responsible for every detail of the craftsmanship and decoration, Fabrizio reopened La Maison Arabe in early 1998 as the first riad-hotel in Marrakech. The hotel has grown over the years, and in 2008 doubled in size by adding an adjoining property that had been the stables of the pasha’s palace.
Since 2000, guests can take advantage of the hotel’s Private Casbah Gardens, 15 minutes outside the city by complimentary shuttle, and reserved exclusively for guests of La Maison Arabe.
Today, La Maison Arabe has grown to boast 26 guest rooms and suites, two restaurants, two swimming pools (either on-site in the medina or at the Private Casbah Gardens), a new spa/hammam, and a world-renowned cooking school.
Despite a rapidly changing hotel landscape in Marrakech, La Maison Arabe remains among the most prestigious and sought-after hotel and restaurant addresses. Both the hotel and its cooking school have been praised in the international travel, design, and food & wine press.
In 2009, it was included by the prestigious L’Officiel Voyage magazine among “The 110 Most Beautiful Hotels in the World”, and is described by Frommer’s as “the epitome of Moroccan elegance”.