Destination Inspiration – Marrakech, Morocco.
Ever since I was a little girl I have been drawn to the magical stories of Arabian nights. Hidden treasures, princesses and mysterious characters moving through market places, cloaked in clothes made from hand woven silks, dyed in brilliant colours. Pretty sure Disney is to blame for my far away exotic destination obsessions.. because when it really comes down to it, all I want to be is Princess Jasmine. She has amazing hair and a tiger as her bestie – #lifeinspo!
A few years ago I decided it was time to lose myself in the maze-like souks and sleep like a local (possibly a little more comfortably than..) in a Riad and truly experience what Marrakech has to offer.
Hot off the plane from London it wasn’t long until I felt completely out of my comfort zone. The airport seems to be miles from the city, plonked in the middle of the desert, and with Arabic and French being the spoken languages I was pulling on my high school memories of French classes to get me to my Riad. When I did eventually arrive, I was greeted by Fatima and Abdul who run P’tite Habibi. I was welcomed with Moroccan tea and desserts (a delightfully sweet mint tea that I have never been able to re create at home!) and given a seat on a day bed looking out to the open air courtyard whilst I waited for my room to be heated. The day bed was surrounded by tall standing vases filled with the most vibrant coloured peacock feathers. All things pretty seem to easily catch my eye, I whipped out my camera and started snapping away. Without a sound Fatima appeared and whispered in broken English, “for good luck..” . It was at that moment I knew that there was magic in the real life version of my disney princess adventure.
With only a few days to explore, I hit the ground running. I met a girlfriend on the first night for a taste (literally) of Marrakech. There are a lot of touristy places surrounding the main square – Medina – in town, so it’s hard to pick something authentic. Adbul recommended we try Dar Zellij which is located on the Southern end of the Medina. The food was unreal and the atmosphere was almost overwhelming. Belly dancers moved to beats bellowing from giant drums, sitting around candle lit tables we ordered flat breads, tajines and local wine, and rolled out sometime after midnight.
The next morning started early with call to prayer waking me long before I wanted to. Fatima serves breakfast on the rooftop and once I arrived I knew the early start would be worth it! Mini tajines were filled with pomegranate seeds, fresh fruits and cream cheese and nutella. There was flat bread, fresh coffee and another amazing day bed for me to curl into and enjoy the sunshine.
I find its always best to dress according to local customs, so I always fully cover up in these types of countries. Locals say that you should always keep an eye on the bell tower which is located towards the northern end of the Medina, that way if you get lost (which is inevitable..) you can always find your way out by walking towards it. Easier said than done. I spent the next 8 hours wandering in and around the amazing stalls that make up the Medina. They sell everything from leather bags, shoes and clothes to metal star shapes lanterns and hand crafted tea sets. Spices are a must try and most cosmetic houses are keen to offer you samples of all their wonder creams and oils, with the hopes it will make a sale! I bought about a years worth of Argan Oil, that conveniently exploded in my checked in bag on the way home. Typical.
I met a young man by a cafe who had bright blue hands, he invited me through the souk out to where they dye the materials. We spoke in broken French, English and elaborate charades and somehow ended up understanding each other. I managed to capture some amazing images of the workshop he ran and the materials hanging from the beams drying. Deep blues, soulful purples and piercing reds. I left with a scarf in each colour.
My time in Marrakech opened my eyes to a wonderful world full of beautiful people. It was also the inspiration place for two of the images used in Island State’s current Global Collective range.
The Peacock bikini and the Marrakech twist bandeau were both created from images of my brief visit here. Check them out in the initial collection released for Island State Swim at www.island-state.com
Where I stayed : P’tite Habibi is a Mr & Mrs Smith recommended hotel. Located at 59 bis touala Sidi Ghanem, Zaouia sidi bellabes Bab Lakhmis, Marrakech, 40030, Booking through Mr & Mrs Smith will see you receive free airport transfers.
I stayed in The White Room; it was stunning but the whole Riad is beautiful. Decorated in an eclectic mix of Arabian traditional pieces with a Western spin. The Wangarata Room is playfully decorated with a mix of Americana pinball mirrors, Sixties Moroccan photographs and even a Swedish moose. Peruche has a bird motif in warm shades of pink and aubergine; it also has the largest vaulted bathroom. The Riad has a small pool to be enjoyed in the summertime and the rooftop is perfect for sunset drinks.