"The Orient-Express, a journey to find peace"
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Nicknamed “the girl of the seventies” by Yves Saint Laurent, Marisa Berenson was the first of modern fashion’s muses. Born in New York, she modeled in her youth before becoming an actress where she forever left her mark in Bob Fosse’s Cabaret and Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon. She’s also the author of several books including Moments intimes and Elsa Schiaparelli’s Private Album. After traveling the world, Marisa Berenson fell in love with Marrakesh eight years ago, and has just dedicated a book to her favorite city titled Marrakesh Flair, published by Assouline.
Photographers: Adam Scott Peters, Peter Horree, Lisa Butterworth, Alex Azaba and Reto Guntli
High-Life: Why Marrakesh more than any other capital?
Marisa Berenson: Marrakech is a city like no other. It’s a city where, for centuries, intellectuals, artists and all sorts of creative people have come to seek authenticity, peace and beauty. There is an inexplicable magic, a light like nowhere else, a feeling of eternity.
HL: What are you up to in Marrakesh during this time of confinement?
Marisa Berenson: In addition to the joy of having been able to recharge my batteries here for the past eight years, I have written a book on the beauty and richness of Marrakesh. It begins by looking back on its extraordinary history, that of a woman, Zaynab Nefzaouia, aka “Queen Malika,” who, according to legend, was behind the founding of the city. Marrakesh Flairreturns to the creation of this unique place and all of its cultural, artistic and spiritual dimensions, the places here that are the stuff of dreams and the incredible people I have met along the way…
HL: What kind of people do you find in Marrakesh?
Marisa Berenson: The whole world comes to Marrakesh today. In addition to the legacy left by Yves Saint Laurent and the architectural imprint of Bill Willis, the city is also a platform where so many generations of artists come to express themselves such as Hassan Hajjaj, the Andy Warhol of Morocco, or the painter Mahi Binebine. Marrakesh is perpetually bubbling over with creativity.
HL: Where do you find peace in the city?
Marisa Berenson: A spiritual and holistic wave has been emerging for a few years now, and I find myself perfectly at ease with it. Aside from the opportunity to live in a house in La Palmeraie, you can live here in perfect harmony with nature, practice yoga and eat organic food. Some even come here for spiritual retreats.
HL: Has our new world changed your perception of travel?
Marisa Berenson: I no longer want to travel simply for the sake of traveling. My home is here in Marrakesh. If I have to leave, my secret is to transform myself into a ninja, giving me the strength and courage to travel the world in this complicated context. With the exception of the train, transportation bores me terribly.
HL: So, you’re more train than plane?
Marisa Berenson: I adore train travel. I loved taking the Orient-Express traveling from Paris to Venice. There’s nothing more wonderful, more romantic than getting lost in the moment to look at the view or to read. The Orient-Express provides that feeling of peace. I have also often traveled in sleeping cars. Spending nights on the railways, being lulled to sleep as if in a dream – I love it!
HL: Are your favorite trips taken alone or with other people?
Marisa Berenson: I don’t like to travel alone, but I have to. For me, the best trips are the ones you share with a lover.
HL: What do you never forget to take with you when you travel?
Marisa Berenson: I have an obsession: my magic potions! A few vitamins and a few bottles – I won’t tell you what they contain, but they take care of my skin and my figure. A travel bag is usually not enough, I pack a heavy suitcase. I hate traveling light.
HL: What was your longest trip ever?
Marisan Berenson: September 11th, 2001. Just after the crashes at the World Trade Center towers where, as I learned later, was from the plane my sister Berry was on. My Paris-New-York flight was rerouted to an island in Newfoundland, Canada. After being stranded on the plane for 15 hours, 2000 people and I landed on an island where tents and emergency accommodations had been set up in the rush. I stayed there for a week, with nothing but my phone. I realized that what seemed important to me until then was suddenly much less important, and my survival instincts kicked in to help me to adapt to the situation.
HL: What do you do when you arrive in a city you don’t know?
Marisa Berenson: If I am surrounded by nature, I like to go for a walk. If I am near a church, I go to pray and light a candle. If I am in the middle of the city, then I prefer to rest in my hotel room. I am not a great adventurer and generally prefer moments of cocooning.
HL: If you could travel back in time, what era would you choose?
Marisa Berenson: Each era has its own imperfections and trials and tribulations. From a strictly aesthetic point of view, the beginning of the 20th century, the 20s, 30s and 40s, fascinate me. The 70s remain the golden age of my life, a time of freedom, artistic expression, fabulous fashion, extraordinary encounters, and I am so grateful to have lived through that time. But I am happy today too.
HL: What will the world of tomorrow look like?
Marisa Berenson: It will be under the sign of Aquarius! We entered a new era on December 21st. The Age of Aquarius and the new alignment of the planets suggest a radical change and the advent of a new cycle, the Golden Age. I want to stay positive, not to mope around. We will never live like we did before, but that sums up the history of the world.
HL: Where will your next trip take you?
Marisa Berenson : France, Paris and Reunion Island, where I’m expected for several shoots. For the rest, I don’t want to get too ahead of myself, I’m taking myself one step at a time. I want to live in the present. And say thank you for the chance to be alive, every day.
Marrakech Flair, by Marisa Berenson, Assouline editions, 304 pages.