Our November Morocco trip, as always, was full of long days trekking through the souks, digging through dusty warehouses, and haggling over piles of goods for the container. With these few travel tips in mind, you can easily survive the pace of Marrakech. The respite from the chaos of working in Marrakech is staying in an elegant riad. These traditional Moroccan homes are built around a central courtyard, often with a burbling fountain and flowering plants.
We were lucky enough to stay in a beautiful, truly old riad called Dar el Qadi. Way back in 1996, on my mother's and my very first Moroccan buying trip we stayed here, and loved it, but for various reasons booked different places on subsequent trips, and lost track of the name. It was pre-internet - and somehow it just slipped through the cracks.
Thanks to the help of a dear friend of ours that used to run a beautiful hotel in the city, we were able to track it down once again. Walking through the modest front door to the sight of the same rose petal filled fountain, tile lined halls, and three story tall astronomer's tower, it felt like I'd reached home once again.
Painstakingly restored, Dar el Qadi was originally the home of an astronomer judge. According to legend, a special allowance was made to the respected owner, who was allowed to build his star gazing tower nearly as tall as the minarets from the nearby mosques - something forbidden to any other structures in the medina. Built over 300 years ago, it has incredibly detailed jeps plasterwork and zouaq painted ceilings and doors throughout. The detail in the antichamber leading up to the apex of the tower is especially fine. It is a perfect place to hide out with a cup of tea and peer out at the beautiful rooftop terrace.
Detail of zellij tilework and hand carved jeps plasterwork in the tower
Rooftop terraces are a wonderful feature of traditional riads, and offer a sunny spot for beautiful Moroccan breakfasts of homemade bread and freshly squeezed orange juice.
Leading up to the rooftop terrace at Dar el Qadi
Zouaq doors to one of the bedrooms at Dar el Qadi
Central courtyard at Dar el Qadi
Another lovely way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city streets is to take a trip to the nearby Atlas Mountains for the day. To celebrate our beloved store manager Jules' first trip to Morocco we took a real day off (pretty unusual on our week long sprints to fill a whole container in Marrakech) and took a drive out into the countryside to visit an opulent favorite of ours, Kasbah Tamadot.
It is an easy drive through the picturesque foothills of the Atlas Mountains, and the perfect spot to enjoy a relaxing lunch on the grounds of this luxurious estate. Built as a home for the antique dealer Luciano Tempo, Kasbah Tamadot is a stunning showplace of this consummate collector's worldly collection of art and antiques from India, Indonesia, and North Africa. Purchased by Richard Branson in the 1990s, the property has been transformed into a luxurious boutique hotel. Fortunately for us, Branson's team has retained all of Luciano's fantastical furnishings, and it makes for a very entertaining TDL experience of walking about and exclaiming over the origins and styles of all the far-flung finds.
While staying at the hotel is beyond our reach, looking around is encouraged, and we had a gorgeous lunch poolside, and loved talking with the knowledgable staff about the collection and the countryside.
Fantastically enough Luciano was even a TDL customer decades ago, and my mother remembers him fondly - I wish I had had a chance to meet him. What an eye he had!
The inner courtyard pool, always strewn with roses
Our Store Manager Jules and our good friend Kim who came along from Handcrafted Tile - our favorite tile source in the Valley!
Poolside lounging with carved Indian sofas - we have one similar at TDL right now! - Thai tapestries, Indian chest and peacock mirror, and stunning zellij floors
Cutest resident camel at Kasbah Tamadot!
These zellij stairs with those striped curtains! Swoon!
Link to Dar el Qadi - elegant yet simple riad with daily breakfast and unobtrusive, kind staff with limited English -
Link to luxurious Kasbah Tamadot outside of Marrakech -