Marrakech

As the warm rays of the sun gently glimmer through the cracks of the hand-carved walnut shutters, I wake up in the most beautiful peach stucco suite…the desert oasis that is Le Riad Yasmine is my home for the next week, and I can’t be more in heaven. I climb out of bed quietly, as not to wake Rebecca - one of my best friends and travel companion who has been exploring the world with me over the last few years - and I make my way out to the courtyard. Exquisite white latticework and Moorish arches surround the two-story courtyard, wrapping around the turquoise and white tiled pool in the center. The July desert heat consumes the air...I’ve finally made it to Morocco. | July 2016

Marrakech has always been a dream destination of mine, so when Rebecca and I had the opportunity to visit, we did whatever we could to make it happen. An 8-hour layover on an airline we had never heard of landed us in Barcelona, which had it’s perks - we were definitely a sight to see - laying on the beach with sangria in one hand, while pulling bikinis out of our suitcases with the other. 

Upon our arrival at Le Riad Yasmine, we were welcomed with our first cup of Moroccan Mint Tea…the first of many, as we were fast to become addicted. We made sure to search for tea leaves at the spice market (along with argan oil, saffron, & paprika) so that we could make it on our lunch breaks and pretend we were in Morocco when we got back in the states. 

Exploring the never-ending, winding roads of the Souks was the ultimate adventure - Moroccan tapestries hang from tiny shopfronts, while hundreds of hand-woven pillowcases are stacked in piles surrounding the entryways. With Moroccan Wedding Blankets at the top of our shopping list, it was not hard to get lost (both figuratively and literally) in the magical world of textiles. 

Other shops displayed hand-carved metal lanterns, tea pots, hand-woven baskets, wood-work, stones, & incredible jewelry.  The best part about shopping in the Souks is that the shop owners love to make deals with you. To purchase a Moroccan Wedding Blanket in the states, it will typically cost you north of $500… in Morocco, they’ll quote you at $200, land at about $100 - which will include the blanket AND the 2 pillow cases you discovered during the bargain process (that you decided you can’t live without).

It’s safe to say Rebecca & I didn’t leave empty-handed.

Moroccan cafes are common throughout the Souks - typically found in the squares or surrounding the open-air markets. A few of my favorite spots to stop for lunch or a casual dinner are Nomad, Atay Cafe, and Cafe des Espices. Each of these restaurants has a delicious and healthy menu with various vegetarian options, salads, and modern yet traditional Moroccan cuisine - tagine, couscous, and mezze plates. And it doesn’t hurt that they all have the best rooftop patios, complete with desert-chic interior decor.

After a few days of the hustle and bustle of Marrakech, Rebecca and I decided to leave the city and visit the nearby Agafay Desert. Although I would have LOVED to go camping in the Sahara, the Agafay was a great alternative - and 7 hours closer. We started our day with a stop at Palmeraie Village just outside of Marrakech, where we rode camels through the desert. It was an incredible experience, but in mid-July, the sun was HOT.

Our next stop: Le Pause. Literally. My. Dream. There are no words to describe how magical Le Pause is - in the middle of the desert, hidden between rolling hills, lies this secret oasis of pink stucco buildings and Berber tents, complete with a pool for taking a dip after a long day in the heat. For lunch, we sat on hand-woven poufs that surrounded a low table inside one of the tents, and were served ice-cold refreshing mint lemonade - which also became a new favorite. The lunch they served was an array of delicious Moroccan dishes, including a peach and chicken tagine, spiced couscous, and an avocado side salad - easily one of my favorite meals in Morocco.

After lunch, we refilled our mint lemonades and explored the exquisite property, taking in the vast desert landscape that surrounded us, and eventually made our way to the pool before heading back to Marrakech.

*Next time I visit, I would definitely plan to stay at Le Pause for a night or two. I also learned while I was there that they have camel rides that leave from the property which would be a great place to ride.

There is nothing quite like Le Jardin Majorelle. The 12-acre botanical garden is an incredible sight to see...it's hard to believe that something so lush and peaceful could lie in the center of a desert city. The cobalt blue building contrasts so nicely against the vibrant green garden, creating the most beautiful landscape as you wander through the paths lined with cacti and palm trees. And not to mention, this was once Yves Saint-Laurent's home, and now houses the Islamic Art Museum of Marrakech. The museum displays a collection of Moroccan textiles, jewelry, and artifacts that once belonged to Yves. I was in heaven.

Since this was at the top of my list to see in Marrakech, Rebecca and I spent some time really exploring the garden, and stayed to have lunch at the cafe on site. I would definitely recommend doing the same, or at least staying for a mint lemonade, or pot of Moroccan Mint Tea.

I could go on for days and tell you everything there is to know about my time in Marrakech, but I think you should see for yourself. I've included a list below of my favorite spots and recommendations - I hope they inspire you.

...en route to my next destination. x

MY PLACES LIST

StayLe Riad Yasmine, Riad El Fenn

Taste: Nomad, Atay Cafe, Cafe des Espices, Cafe at Jardin Majorelle, La Mamounia

Explore: Le Jardin Majorelle, Le Pause, The Souks, Ben Youssef Madrasa, Museé de Marrakech, Bahia Palace

Relax: Mythic Oriental Spa *try a traditional Moroccan Hammam

SHOP MY LOOKS

Teal Bikini by Hot-As-Hell

Pink Maxi Dress by For Love & Lemons

Yellow Lace Dress by Hot-As-Hell

Tan Sandals by Sam Edelman

Yellow Sneaks by Converse