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Everything glitters in this breathtaking shop: antique Berber silver, amber jewelry, inlaid mother-of-pearl furniture, and ceramic bowls full of gleaming beads and stones. 3 Fhal Chidmi, Rue Mouassine, 212/(0) 24-442-2578. Photo by Nally Bellati. This appeared in the January/February 2013 issue.
At Ben Youssef Medersa, a 16th-century Koranic boarding school turned museum, visitors can see colorful mosaic zellij tiles and intricate stucco carvings inscribed with Muslim invocations. —Jennye Garibaldi Place Ben Youssef, 212/(0) 24-441-893. Photo by Thomas Dressler/Age Fotostock. This appeared in the July/August 2011 issue.
All the labyrinthine streets of the medina lead to Djemaa el Fna. Before sunset, sit on a terrace, sip hot mint tea, and take in the panoramic view of the teeming central square. As the sun lowers in the sky, the ancient mud walls turn pink to orange and smoke wafts as hundreds of cooks start barbecuing. The food stalls are organized in rows; the local fare is sumptuous; and the prices are fixed, which is a nice break after haggling in the souks or square for everything from henna to a photo with a monkey or snake charmer. Seating is picnic table-style so don't be shy, grab a seat and talk with your neighbor. It's a great chance to meet fellow travelers and locals alike. After a feast of tagine, cous cous and olives, wash it down with fresh orange juice. Wander the square and be entranced by fire jugglers, musicians, dancers, fortune-tellers and storytellers. As you walk back to your riad through the medina, listen for the evening call to prayer rising from the Koutoubia Mosque. Marrakech is one of the most magical cities in the world.
The tiny coastal village of Oualidia’s low-key vibe makes it a popular retreat from Marrakech as well as the go-to spot for surfers—novice or otherwise. La Sultana, set against the flamingo-dotted Oualidia lagoon, has 11 rooms and suites that showcase Moroccan craftsmanship with marble floors, terra-cotta tile work, and sandstone ceilings. Last year the hotel added an ornate tree house that overlooks the lagoon. Spend the day lounging on the hotel’s private stretch of beach or at the pool. The lagoon’s famous oysters are a staple on the seafood-centric restaurant menu. From $355. This appeared in the March/April 2014 issue. Photo courtesy of Boutique Souk. La Sultana can be booked through Boutique Souk.
You leave Royal Mansour with an entirely new appreciation for craftsmanship. Local artisans are responsible for the gorgeous zellige ceramic tiles, intricate carved wood, and molded plasterwork found throughout the 8.6-acre property. Commissioned by King Mohammed VI of Morocco, Royal Mansour was designed to feel like a medina within the city’s own medina. Fifty-three private riads, each three stories high, feel like mini-palaces, with on-call butlers and rooms arranged around open-air courtyards. Despite the lavish interiors, I couldn’t pull myself off the private roof terrace, which came with a plunge pool, fireplace, and dining area beneath a Bedouin tent. The price tag is outrageous, but you are truly treated like royalty. From $2,250.
There are many things to love about staying at La Tangerina, but the panoramic views from the roof terrace are at the top of my list. In this photo, the Strait of Gibraltar is visible under a cloudy sky. Standing at this viewpoint, if you turn a little to the right, you'll see the busy Port of Tangier and endless beaches. Turn a bit further to the right, and you'll enjoy a spectacular multilayer vista, with the White City's historic Kasbah in the forefront, followed by an array of more modern buildings, with the Rif Mountains as a distant backdrop. The hotel is perfectly located at the highest point on the Kasbah and has been beautifully restored and decorated. We enjoyed large breakfasts and a quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle of the medina.
It took four years to build this hotel at the base of the Atlas Mountains. French designer Jacques Garcia included black-and-white zellij tile work and other intricate Moorish details. Each of the hotel’s five guest riads (typical Moroccan houses) comes with a private garden and heated pool. At the spa, guests can choose from hydrotherapies and traditional remedies such as a facial mask that uses rhassoul clay from the mountains. The hotel’s stables house 16 Arabian purebreds, which visitors can meet on a stable tour when the steeds aren’t roaming the property. From $392. 212/(0) 52-445-9600. Photo courtesy of Hôtel Selman. This appeared in the January/February 2013 issue.
Located on a quiet side street, in the upscale neighborhood of Guéliz, is a garden called Marjorelle. The garden is named after its creator, Jacques Majorelle, a French born artist who settled in Marrakesh in 1919 to continue his career as a painter. Majorelle died in 1962 and the gardens remained unkept, until 1980, when the French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé bought the property and restored it. Entry to the Garden is through a typical Moroccan wood door and like a riad, you have no idea what’s on the inside until you cross the threshold. When you first enter the garden, you step into a very small, intimate courtyard with a fountain. I felt like I had escaped into a secret garden, leaving behind the hustle and bustle of the city. Beyond the courtyard is a lush garden, filled with an eclectic mix of plants surrounding the occasional pool. The garden that Jacques built lives on as his creative masterpiece. In fact, the special shade of bold cobalt blue, which he used extensively in the garden and its buildings, is named after him - Majorelle Blue. While the centerpiece of the garden is his former residence, a two storey house painted in Marjorelle Blue, I fell in love with all the windows and their intricately carved frames, painted in stark white. Although the relatively modern look and feel of Marjorelle Garden is in stark contrast to the gardens and buildings that you see in the rest of Marrakesh, it’s worth a visit.
Fresh spearmint leaves, dried tea leaves, sugar and boiling water are prepared in a silver pot and ceremoniously poured into delicate, ornate glasses. The pouring is done the traditional way, from a height of twelve or so inches. The tea is fragrant and sweet. In the heart of the Medina, behind the ancient riad walls, tea time is regal and refreshing.
This nearly 1,000-year-old mansion has been furnished with pieces made by local craftspeople. Owner Ina Krug works with a team of experts to arrange everything from a camel safari to a customized shopping trip through the souks. Each room has its own fragrance, such as saffron or pomegranate. The rooftop terrace, with views of the Atlas Mountains and the Koutoubia Mosque, is ideal for watching sunsets. From $200. 212/(0) 613-225- 874. This appeared in the March/April 2013 issue. Photo courtesy of The Great Getaway Medina.
Shelves at 33 Rue are stocked each month with new finds largely from local maâlems (master craftsmen). The owners have an eye for pieces that put a modern twist on tradition, such as these unusual bread baskets from Bladi Design. This appeared in the October 2013 issue. Photo courtesy of 33 Rue Majorelle
The distance between Ouarzazate and Marrakech is only 200km (125 miles) but the drive on the N9 through the High Atlas Mountains can take as long as four hours. The winding road, full of switch backs and featuring such scenery as to make one's jaw drop in disbelief is not recommended for those who suffer chronic motion sickness. Like myself. So, when we woke up, the long drive ahead of us and an eagerness to see my beloved Marrakech again, I medicated and prepared myself mentally for four hours of white-knuckle-torture. By the time we arrived at this vantage point in the Tichka Pass, I was suffering more from a backache and pain in my hands than from nausea. Dramamine is truly a wonder drug! And thank god for it, there isn't a drive I have done anywhere in the world that was as rewarding as the road from Ouarzazate to Marrakech. Car rental is possible and the Lonely Planet forums have great information on doing this yourself but I recommend having a very good, local driver. Be prepared with very warm clothing for getting out and taking pictures at the highest parts of the pass, the temperature drop is astonishing and the winds will knock you over. The view you're rewarded with is, of course, worth it! There are also wonderful small villages scattered all along the N9 - to stop in and eat, shop and rest your body before completing the drive.
Situated not far from Meknes, between Fes and Rabat, the Roman ruins of Volubilis stand as a testament to a culture that changed the world forever. In the fertile area that the ruined city is located, it's difficult to remember you're in Morocco. There's a lushness that's not visible everywhere else in the country. Long blades of green grass sway in the gentle breeze, the sun makes the white stone seem bleached and an olive grove along the road you hike from car park to temple, seems to transport you to faraway Italy. Volubilis is a UNESCO World Heritage site and as such is being reconstructed and preserved for future generations. For good reason. The site has an outstanding collection of mosaic floors that rival any collection I've seen anywhere in the world outside Rome itself and they're still being restored which shows the collection will be even more impressive in future years. The Appian Way also runs through the ruins and it's surreal to walk along the paving stones of a road that was begun in 312 BC. It's worth any extra money you might incur to hire one of the guides that wait near the entrance to the complex. They're worth their weight in gold if history interests you. Visit when the sun is not directly overhead for the best photographs and bring extra layers of clothing because the gentle breeze can quickly turn into a strong wind as the ruins are at a higher elevation that the surrounding land.
At Riad El Cadi on the outskirts of old town Marrakech, five of us spent the afternoon touring the spice markets, learning about traditional foods, and cooking a huge feast. Here's the delicious finished product. I will never forget the experience, or the recipes (the best $60 I ever spent)! Any traveler who loves food and learning new skills would enjoy this class. Their kitchen is brand new and can teach up to 8, so make sure you reserve a place before hand. The entire Riad is gorgeous so plan to stay an hour after lunch to roam around and lounge in their pool! http://www.riyadelcadi.com/
The thing that struck me the most on our travels through the Kasbah were the façades of the old city were all the same, be it new or old, rich or poor. Unlike the American culture of showing their wealth for all to see and to envy, the Moroccan people share there paradise with whom ever enters through their front door. After leaving Marrakech did I really get that although they are slow with technological development they seem more advanced in humanity, courtesy and respect, in contrast to our progressive development and our stifled humanity. I felt as though I had stepped into the 12th century. The people were delightful, curious and kind. Places I loved Jemaa-el-Fna Square at night for dinner, must see and taste. During the day the carpetbaggers come in from all over Africa selling their ostrich eggs, porcupine quills, and amber rocks and laying them out on blankets for sale. My favorite restaurant was Le Salama near Jemaa-el—Fna Square, belly dancers and a horse carriage ride home. We stayed at La Sultana and it really made our trip even more unique and spectacular. If you don’t stay the night, diner in the atrium is very romantic and delicious.
Some travelers are exhausted by the haggling in the souks of Morocco, by the barely-organized chaos of the medinas. In Fes, the stunning mosaic tile creations that are so typical all over the country can be bought directly from the artisans who make them in a showroom just outside the walls of the old Medina -- haggle, and stress, free. See how the pottery and mosaic is made then shop till you drop without needing to haggle. The prices are fixed and they ship internationally with Fed Ex. Buy items as small as cups, as large as garden fountains and dining tables. They even accept dollars and euros!
We set off not long before sunset, from the "new" village across the river. Passing over a modern bridge, I didn't feel at first like this trek in Morocco was much different than any other. Then the terrain changed, I had to pay more attention to where I walked, we began to pass open doorways with lives in progress barely visible far back in the dark spaces. I saw a crude sign with faded, tape-covered photographs advertising that this was the place in which 'Gladiator' and 'Kingdom of Heaven' had been filmed. As we climbed further, passed more houses, took in more of the stamped details in the mud walls -- I finally understood. It's protected by UNESCO and for good reason. There are probably thousands of kasbahs and ksars in the country of Morocco but the devil is in the details at Aït Benhaddou; walls, patterns, faces of the 10 families who remain, the sound of a drum beating faintly from down a passage. Take time to come early enough in the day that you can shop and bargain with the locals who still reside on the hill inside the old ksar. Leave enough time to hike to the very summit, where the watchtower is, to view the sun setting over the entire valley. Old caravan roads snake through the landscape intertwined with the gleam of the river; it's a serene space that feels a bit worshipful. To what I don't know, perhaps to the confluence of nature and man's creation. After all, nature is trying to bury Aït Benhaddou but man will not be driven away.
While in Marrakech we took a four hour cooking class at a beautiful Riad just outside the old town center. The five of us spent the afternoon touring the spice markets, learning about traditional foods, and cooking a huge feast. My favorite part was dessert of course; Moroccan milk pastilla and mint tea! I will never forget the experience, or the recipes (probably the best $60 I ever spent)! http://www.riyadelcadi.com/en.html
There are plenty of wonderful places to eat in Marrakesh, from tagines to saffron-infused rices and more. But one of my favourites is to head to the bustling Djemaa el Fna in the old Medina and sit at the food stall "Stall 32". Located in the middle of the square with a busy grill and U-formation of picnic tables around it, the stall offers harira (a tomato and lentil soup) and perfectly grilled merguez sausage served with bowls of bread. It's cheap, it's delicious and it will afford you a perfect view of the noise and wonder of the Fna.
Star designer Jacques Garcia recently restored La Mamounia’s grandeur, updating rooms with painted wooden doors, hand-carved ceilings, and a blend of art deco and Moorish antiques. In the surrounding park, bougainvillea and roses grow wild in a grove of olive trees. La Mamounia, Avenue Bab Jdid, Marrakech, 212/(0) 524-388-600. From $755. mamounia.com. Image courtesy of La Mamounia. This story appeared in the July/August 2011 issue. Discover other palace hotels:Venice, ItalyRajasthan, IndiaPlaya del Carmen, MexicoCounty Clare, IrelandBejing, China
We spent a day here exploring the ksar and climbing to the top of the village for panoramic views of the region. Words fail me in trying to describe the uniqueness of this site. The fact that people still live here in these ancient clay buildings gives it a vitality and color that would be missing if it had been abandoned. I hope these buildings can withstand the elements for many centuries to come.
At the poolside restaurant Dar Moha, hungry travelers can dine on couscous with foie gras, lamb shank tagine with ras el hanout jus, and chakhchoukha, a caramelized apple tart spiced with saffron. Enjoy your meal at one of the candlelit tables while a musician plays the oud, a stringed instrument similar to a lute. —Jennye Garibaldi Dar Moha, 81 Rue Dar El Bacha, 212/(0) 524- 386-400. Photo courtesy of Dar Moha Restaurant. This appeared in the July/August 2011 issue.
Deep in the maze that is the city of Fes, lies Dar Anebar. It is both a restaurant and a Riad. With a traditional courtyard that has a fountain and multiple dining rooms off the main area, there are plenty of "nooks and crannies" hiding delightful Moroccan details to inspire. The service is impeccable and the food, though very Moroccan, is also quite French (a good thing most certainly). Rooms in the Riad are of superior comfort and high speed WiFi is included, as is breakfast. My only complaint is that the lack of a door between the bathroom and bedroom can make sharing the space slightly awkward if you're staying in the Riad with friends. Still, if you're in Fes and looking for one of the most authentic experiences you can have, that's still luxurious -- this is where you need to stay.
On the water is an old fort where artists bring their wears for sale. Bargaining is the way of the world here. I bought some amazing hand painted dishes my favorite leather belt and don't forget to pick up some argan oil here.
Argan oil is celebrated for its skin-nourishing properties. It’s also hugely expensive when bought outside Morocco, so this cosmetic wonder is pretty much a no-brainer for any Marrakesh shopping list. Inside the medina, argan products are not hard to find, but it can be hard to know which merchants are selling the real, unadulterated deal. My first suggestion, then, would be either to enlist a guide or visit a dealer you know to be legitimately government-approved. Otherwise, if you’re deep in the souk, keep an eye out for Assaisse Ouzeka, which sells legit argan products made by a women’s cooperative in the coastal town of Essaouira. Look for a slightly messy setup by the door with women demonstrating the oil-extraction process. (It’s apparently still done by hand everywhere, which strikes me as amazing.) Inside the tidy, well-lit shop, you’ll find everything from hair and skin oils to lip balm and anti-wrinkle cream. The salesgirl who helped us was very sweet and—a true rarity in the go-go souks, one sometimes feels—not too pushy. I wish I could be more specific about where the shop is, but anyone who's been in the souks knows what a labyrinth they are!
I sampled tagines from a half-dozen places in Marrakesh, including fancy restaurants, and the succulent chicken tagine at Bakshish, an unassuming and bohemian-flavored café in the souk, topped them all. It’s a nice spot to take a break from haggling with spice and leather vendors—and has wi-fi, too. On Rue des Banques.
At first glance, the narrow alley you have to maneuver to get to Café Clock -- does not look advisable. In fact, while walking down the path, I remarked to my friends, "This looks like a place in which we might find weed for sale." Yet the best adventures often begin in such a manner. You will feel glad for the thickness of the Riad walls that house the café, it's a break from the sensory overload that is Fes. The staff is young, fluent in three languages and enthusiastic. Even kind. It's another variation from the world outside. Decor reflects the history of Morocco while also representing those who visit. There's a mannequin keeping watch high up on the wall, dressed in the robe of an Arab princess, and horns hang upside down forming a sort of chandelier between the three levels of the cafe. Food is fresh, made to order, again representing both Morocco and foreign palates. There's a small movie theater that plays local films on Tuesday evenings and western films on Fridays. Make your way up top to the roof terrace and you have the perfect spot to relax for sunset. There are yoga lessons available, henna application and the chance to hire a local guide. Café Clock is nothing like the rest of Fes, and that's not a bad thing! Breakfast is served all day, WiFi is free and jewelry is for sale handmade by the female staff; there's even a cookbook you can take home that compiles classic Moroccan recipes, with a twist. (Perfect souvenir for mom, or your favorite chef!)
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