Passport to Marrakech, Morocco

Posted August 18, 2016 by Nora Handsher

Morocco may be one of our favorite destinations for architecture and design inspiration. And no trip to our beloved Maroc is complete without a visit to the country’s famous city of Marrakech. Muse to many musicians, artists, and designers, this city offers delights around every corner. The maze-like streets (exaggerated in the souk) are filled with remarkable contrasts – bustling crowds and commerce with hidden, tranquil courtyards; grand and stately architecture surrounded by lemon and olive groves with the Atlas mountains as a backdrop; and a culture of centuries-old Berber customs with an international and modern flair. For all these reasons and more, we’ve fallen for the place.

GO during Spring. From March to May, temperatures should be in the 70s and 80s, ideal for exploration. The spring brings bright blossoms and light to the city, coloring the gardens and surrounding groves in vibrant hues.

STAY at the ultra chic boutique hotel El Fenn. The revamped former private riad now boasts 28 Instagram-worthy guest rooms and suites, tree-filled courtyards, a roof terrance, and a family of tortoises that call the hotel home. Centrally located (a five minute walk from Jemaa el-Fnaa, the city’s main square), El Fenn is the perfect respite. If you’re hiding from the hustle of the medina, lounge by one of the hotel’s marble-lined pools or curl up with a book in one of the interior lush gardens. Perhaps the most talked about hotel is the luxurious Hotel Mamounia. Open since 1923, the glamorous hotel embodies true Moroccan luxury and opulence. If you want to go big and spectacular with a lobby of is-that-person-famous, this is probably your spot. Even if you don’t stay here, make sure to visit their spa and opt for the traditional Moroccan hamam service. You won’t regret it.

EAT at Dar Marjana for a traditional riad restaurant experience. Its name means “rare pearl,” and for good reason. Be sure to try the mahia (fig liqueur) and lamb tagine. For a modern dining experience, head to Nomad for fresh salads and stunning terrace views. Cafe de la Poste will have you transported to the colonial Morocco of the 1920s. The menu is a collaboration between French and Moroccan chefs and serves as the perfect representation of melding cultures within Marrakech’s city walls. Be sure not to pass up a traditional Moroccan tea, whether you are buying rugs, visiting someone’s home, or checking into a hotel. The sweet mint tea may not please every palette, but it is an important piece of Morocco’s hospitable culture (and served in fun, ornate glasses).

PACK conservative clothing. Showing skin is a faux pas and it’s best to respect the more modest culture. Opt for long and flowing dresses like this March11 number we’re eyeing (Dodo Bar Or also offers stunners with a similar vibe). Tote a small crossbody bag to bring only necessities with you (we love this Mansur Gavriel gem available in wide range of colors). Unfortunately, pickpockets do exist in the crowded streets of the medina, so be vigilant. Marrakech is a desert climate, so we’re also packing our sunnies of-the-moment. Don’t forget to leave ample space in your luggage to bring home the treasures you find in the souk!

SEE the Jardin Majorelle. This twelve acre botanical garden was owned by Yves Saint Laurent and served as inspiration for many of his collections. Don’t miss this magic oasis full of cacti, patterned tiles, and cobalt-painted walls. For a tour of the splendors of Moroccan architecture, do not miss the Ben Youssef Madrasa. It was once an Islamic college (built in the 14th century), and every inch of the structure is covered with beautiful tile patterns, stone and wood carvings, and inner patios that will take your breath away. And no trip to Marrakech is complete without a stroll around Jemaa el-Fnaa, the city’s main square, where you can find snake charmers, acrobats, magicians, musicians, and even dentists (although we don’t personally vet any dental procedures that happen there).

SHOP the souk. The labyrinth of walking streets and hallways is filled to the brim with stalls selling fruits, veggies, rugs, lamps, furniture, spices, leather, and various handicrafts. Although it may feel uncomfortable, negotiating is absolutely expected (you can do it!). We can’t get enough of local line Akbar Delights; their souk boutique is a don’t miss. Also, be sure to shop at Mustapha Blanoui’s Tresor des Nomades. The many rooms of this shop are stocked with rugs, furniture, and lamps – all set up in bold vignettes that will have you inspired to recreate your own little riad back at home.

READ The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah. The enthralling novel follows a family on their move from London to Morocco and charts their journey, from the comical to the traumatic.

Ttreq ssalama!

Marrakesh is called The Red City for the red sandstone used to construct its walls

The delicious and colorful fare of Marrakech

Moroccan tea

The inner courtyard of the Ben Youssef Madrasa (once the site of a koranic school)

Every inch of this city is covered in beautiful architectural detail

The enchanting cactus grove in Yves Saint Laurent’s Jardin Majorelle

Entering the souk’s labyrinth of stalls is an unforgettable experience

Dried flowers and botanical remedies at the souk

Shopping for treasures

An artisan weaver at work on his loom

Want to bring a piece of Marrakech home?

Shop the Morocco Collection

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