In a week I will be heading back to one of my favorite places in the world, Marrakech. So much has been said of the labyrinth lanes of the medina, the fragrant evening smoke drifting up from the foodstalls of the Jemaa el F'na, the intricate tile work of the palaces and madrasas, the chic rooftops of the thousands of stylish riads, and it's all amazingly true. We have been coming yearly since 1996, and are still as enchanted with the Red City as we were on our first disorienting trip.
The Koutoubia at sunset
I will never forget being led through the souks for the first time, a donkey cart piled with our luggage behind us. The twists and turns of each lane a riot of color and confusion, the cacophony of shopkeepers, touts, bicycles, and throngs of people were overwhelming. The last alleyway, quiet and dim, tucked in a residential area away from the chaos of tourism, was so low we ducked to reach the simple, unmarked door to our first riad. Remember, this was before the internet - we had seen only photocopied images of our room from the British basket wholesaler that had helped us book the trip - we had no idea what to expect. That humble wooden door opened to an elegant courtyard straight out of 1001 Nights - a zellij fountain scattered with rose petals, Moorish arches around towering painted zouaq doors, the sky bright blue far above, framed out by the rooftop's green glazed tiles. We toured it in a dream - amazed at the polished takelakt floors, the carved jeps plasterwork, the glittering lanterns and the Berber tent on the roof.
Wool hanging after the dying process in the medina
This trip I will be taking our wonderful store manager, Jules for the very first time. I can't wait to share this incredible place with her - and see the magic of it all wash over her! Through the help of a friend of ours who lived in Marrakech for many years, but who now resides in one of our other favorite places, Bali, we have been reconnected with the owners of the riad where we first stayed back in the 90's - and will be staying there for the first time in over 20 years!
Shopping at one of our vintage rug dealers
I can't wait to see it again and to take some photos! I wish I had saved more of the film pictures I took way back then - but all I seem to have are product shots and a few grainy pics of me and Linda - alas! Of course now each buying trip I come back with literally hundreds, if not thousands of images - how times have changed! I will certainly share what we see on this new trip right here - can't wait!
One of our zouaq wooden ceilings being hand painted
Here are a few shots of riads where we have been lucky enough to stay on recent trips. Staying at a riad is one of the highlights of any Morocco trip - seeing what the owners have done with these elegant old homes is so inspiring. I always get ideas for new products each time we stay, and find the bed and breakfast format a wonderful way to talk with locals that run the riads, and to guests from all over the world that stay in them.
Above: The courtyard of Riad Camilia, one of our favorites over the years - and one of it's luxe living rooms below
Above: My reading chair in our room at Riad Camilia
Above: Rooftop at Dar Les Cigognes - a beautiful riad with a view of the old city walls - and often of nesting cranes
Above: The rooftop doorway at Dar Les Cigognes
Above: The second floor of Riad Jardin Secret - and it's gorgeous rooftop below
Above and below: Riad Kniza's rooftop lounge and a lovely zellij fountain
Links to the riads mentioned here - all of which we have stayed at over the last few years:
Riad Camilia - We have stayed here many many times over the last decade. The riad is amazingly gorgeous, private, and well appointed. It did change ownership early in 2019.
Dar Les Cigognes - This is a large riad on the outskirts of the medina which makes it easy to reach by car. The real star of the show here is the rooftop with views of the city ramparts and the huge cranes that nest on top.
Riad Jardin Secret - Hardly a secret any longer, this riad has become a hipster haven of sorts thanks to its well connected French owners. While it has beautiful bones with delicate plasterwork and lovely zellij, it is run in a boho-chic kind of way and has an Instagram-crafty clientele.
Riad Snan 13 - Riad Snan 13 is chic and serene. It's six rooms are simple but luxurious, and it is well situated off a main lane in the medina. Well run by a charming team, it is a quiet haven from the hustle of the souks. Think all-white decor with bursts of bright bouganvillea at day, and the dance of lantern shadows at night.
Riad Kniza - While we have only stayed here once so far, we would certainly visit again. Beautiful courtyards and finely worked details.