When you hear Morocco, if you’re like me you immediately think of rugs and textiles. I’ve been fortunate enough to source some of my favorite pieces while here, but this country has so much more to offer. To give you a glimpse into Moroccan life, let’s go on a tour of Marrakech together, a city I spent three days in on my most recent trip. Here are some of my favorite memories and experiences from Marrakech, Morocco.
Favorite Hotel: Royal Monsour Spa
We stayed at Royal Mansour. Originally a public swimming pool, in 2010 the king (Mohammed VI) commissioned the hotel and chose the spot. He’s well-regarded throughout Morocco and is considered a “kind and humble man.”
A traditional Moroccan house or palace is called a riad – which always includes a striking interior courtyard. Mohammed IV wanted to capture a more palatial grandeur with the hotel, so rather than traditional rooms, he chose mini-riads for each room at the hotel. It’s easy to see why it was recently named one of the World’s Best Hotels. The attention to detail in the hand-carved stone, ornate wood finishes and level of service was astonishing.
Favorite Tip: Blending in with the locals
While there’s absolutely bartering in Morocco, it’s not like Turkey or other countries where it’s a staple of every transaction. Don’t take the first price they quote you, but stick with it and you’ll find a middle ground you’re both happy with.
Favorite Meal: La Grande Table Marocaine
We had several incredible meals in Marrakech. With its close proximity to the sea, Europe and the Middle East, Morocco is a melting pot of cuisine. At La Grande Table Marocaine we enjoyed appetizers of dates and olives and line caught fish as the main course.
Quick tip: Pay attention to currency conversion. We had the most expensive meal of our lives because Greg missed a zero (or two) on the wine order – oops!
Also on the food front, there’s no shortage of local tea, coffee and oils to bring home as gifts for your friends and family.
Favorite Find: Rugs, Rugs, and more rugs
It’s easy to get lost in the maze-like alleyways that make up this amazing, historic city. Around seemingly every corner there’s another souke (or marketplace) waiting to be explored. Rugs, jewelry, traditional textiles and pottery fill the shops.
But let’s be honest. It’s really all about the rugs.
In order to navigate the chaos of the markets, we hired an expert broker named Said. He showed us around the markets for hours, introduced me to artisans and merchants. I was blown away by the diversity of wares and the kindness of the shopkeepers. It was thrilling.
As Said carried our bags and bags of samples back to the hotel (we talked everywhere), we had a fascinating cultural exchange. About 100 yards before we were going to say goodbye he said “When we get to your hotel I am going to tell you ‘goodbye,’ but I am not going to shake your hand. I know in your country it is a sign of respect to do that – and I respect you – but for me and my religion that is not a sign of respect.”
I was originally confused by his statement, but as he explained more, we began to talk about the differences in culture between our countries. It was a perfect example of the balance of traditional and western that exists in Morocco – a line they walk every day.
And we both walked away knowing that while we’re different, there is much more in common in our humanity. Rather than putting a cloud over an amazing experience – it put an exclamation point on it.
Something I Didn’t Know: Marrakech is lush with foliage and florals
I had no idea how lush the city would be. I expected an arid, super dry climate, but what I found was a city filled with gardens and gorgeous foliage around every corner.
Favorite Memory: Relaxing at the spa
One memory that will stick with me for a long time will be our visit to the spa at Royal Monsour. It was truly one of the most inspiring spaces I’ve ever been in, with lacy carved marble, natural light and just a feeling of lightness that’s hard to describe. It inspired me in so many ways and I can see it as an influence on many collections to come.
One Last Thing: The architecture
Also known as the “Red City” for its red-hued building stone, Marrakech boasts some of the most diverse, stunning architecture I’ve seen. Every building we entered had some sort of ornate charm. The mix of colors, patterns and the sheer magnitude of some of these buildings was breathtaking.