Lydia shares her experiences from her recent research trip to Morocco.
Fieldwork is an essential part of what we do (and how we do it). Sending our team all around the world, each of our experiences is tried and tested by us, for you – our travelers. This way we form special connections with every one of our guides on the ground – and with every place we visit.
Freshly returned from weaving her way through Marrakech’s labyrinthine medina streets and bustling bazaars, we asked Lydia to share what she loved most about this enticing land. Between sidecar desert adventures and tantalizing street food tastings, we couldn’t wait to hear the stories she’d bring back with her.
Over to you, Lydia.
Amid the hustle and bustle
Colorful market stalls, historic palaces, and the rich scent of spices – exploring Marrakech’s vibrant streets and secret alleyways with a knowledgeable local guide was the ideal way to start off my trip. If a little puzzling at times. But that was all part of this clay-colored city’s charm. Quickly losing myself in this intricate maze, I stumbled upon snake charmers and market merchants. Even tarot-card readers. At every turn there was some hidden alcove – an ancient mosque, a concealed restaurant, a beautiful tranquil garden. Never had being lost felt so good.
Heading deeper into the heart of the centuries-old medina, I went on the hunt for a beautiful Moroccan hideaway – a hotel called Riad Clos des Arts. Once an ancient meeting point for travelling artists and craftsmen, guests would sip mint tea in the courtyard before exchanging views on the roof terrace at sunset. A perfect place to learn the secrets of the arts. And to take a dip in the rooftop pool (which I did, several times).
Here, we were quietly tucked away from it all. Each space was lit by intricate hanging lanterns, dotted with native pot plants, and oozed Moroccan charm. Everything felt so authentic – from the homemade breads and yoghurt at breakfast to the traditional Islamic mosaics that decorated the floors and ceilings. With plenty of relaxing corners to choose from, one of my favorites was the beautiful inner patio. Between the sweet scent of oranges drifting in the air and the sound of gently trickling fountains, sinking into one of their cushions was pure bliss. And behind it all was a group of incredibly welcoming hosts who anticipated our every whim – whether that be a yoga class up on the terrace, a candlelit dinner with flavorsome couscous and slow cooked tagines, or a traditional hammam in their in-house spa. One thing’s for certain, this truly is a peaceful haven. And I’ll be back. In the (hopefully very) near future.
Sampling the flavors of the medina
Having already had a taste of Moroccan cuisine at our hotel, it wasn’t long before we turned our attention to the fragrant souks beyond our riad’s walls. Tempted by the rich (and rather heady) scent of spices, we set off to try some more – and make our own.
Starting with a guided tour round the souks, we went from stall to stall, with our guide helping us uncover – and barter for – the authentic ingredients we’d need for the dishes we were going to make in our souk cuisine cooking class. My favorite dish? The chicken tagine. Braised with garlic, olives, aromatic spices, and preserved lemons, the meat and vegetables were packed with flavor. Put simply, it was delicious. If I do say so myself.
The cooking class itself was run by a group of local women who instantly made us feel at ease, patiently teaching us the historic techniques that had been passed down through generations. At the end, we all sat, chatted, drank wine, and savored our finished masterpieces together. A really interesting (and fun) insight into Moroccan culture. Fancy a taste? Simply ask one of our luxury Travel Experts, and they’ll be sure to make it happen.
Sidecar adventures and desert thrills
The following day, we said goodbye to Marrakech (for the morning, that is) and set off to explore the rocky landscapes of the Agafay Desert. By sidecar. Zipping along, we darted across valleys and dry riverbeds, discovering oases along the way and seeing everything from a uniquely thrilling perspective. This was such a great (and super fun) way to see and learn more about this captivating land.
Our guide – Hussein – was so knowledgeable and carefree and even took us to some remote villages to give us a real sense of day-to-day life as a Moroccan. To top it all off? We finished our tour of the desert with lunch at Le Pause – a luxurious desert camp in the heart of the Agafay dunes. Sat among the olive groves beneath clear blue skies, we enjoyed a delicious Moroccan lunch with striking views of the towering Atlas Mountains and the sunlit sands below. It truly was a breath-taking desert oasis.
Stepping into a world of fragrance
Returning to Marrakech later that afternoon, we went in search of another hidden gem – Musee de Parfum – for a spot of perfume making. Like almost everything in this former imperial city, it was slightly hard to find. Blending in with the style of neighboring riads, it felt more as if we had stepped over the threshold of a beautiful private home rather than a museum. No complaints here.
Making our way through the small rooms dotted around the inner courtyard, each one demonstrated a different stage of the art of perfumery. Between an incense tree complete with golden ornaments and a perfume bar lined with Moroccan fragrances, it was one of the smallest (but most beautiful) museums I’ve ever visited.
Next up, a bespoke perfume making class. After sampling over 30 different kinds of perfume oils (rose and amber were my favorites), we began to concoct our own individual scent. This was a very personal experience led by the expert (and very lovely) perfumier, Amina. And since it is just you with her you learn so much and get to come away with a very unique souvenir. The fragrant, peaceful workshop combined with Amina’s warm welcome, made this the perfect pit stop away from the city buzz of Marrakech. And I loved it.
If you’d like to discover this under-the-radar experience for yourself, our luxury Travel Experts will be sure to arrange a visit to this beautifully hidden atelier. Just say the word. And follow the enticing scents. But don’t worry, we’ll give you thorough directions too.
Morocco is such an enchanting and exciting country, one where you’ll experience something new at every twist and turn. And Marrakech is no exception. A city of contrasts surrounded by sweeping sands and rugged mountains, here Arab, Berber, Jewish, and Western European influences all have a role to play. It’s chaotic and fascinating and you can’t help but get swept up in it all. The locals are lovely and there is always something to do and whilst it is slightly hectic, the riads and desert camps are so peaceful and offer a complete contrast to the vibrancy of the city streets. Travelling here, I couldn’t help but feel I got the best of both worlds.
Curious about Morocco?
Picturesque blue cities or mesmerizing sunsets amid the Moroccan wilderness – beyond Marrakech, we offer a range of bespoke trips to Morocco completely tailored to what you want to see, and what you want to do. Your way, in style.