With both health and beauty benefits, it’s an experience not to miss when travelling to Morocco as it’s sure to leave you feeling like you’ve uncovered a new skin, and deeply relaxed.
With a variety of options, travelers are sure to find an option depending on their comfort level.
Do as the locals do!
Wind your way through the tiny streets of any medina throughout Morocco, and you’re bound to see women carrying buckets filled with the finest beauty products and the essentials en route to their local hammam beldi (traditional).
With separate areas for men and women, a trip to the local hammam can be a unique experience. Just don’t expect anything fancy here. Children run free while adults socialize. It’s the local hang out. And before entering, you’ll need to stop by the local hanoot (corner store) to pick up your black soap and a kessa (glove) for the body scrub.
Typically comprised of three rooms of varying temperatures, locally employed staff is on hand to apply the black soap and provide a full-body scrub, along with a bit of guidance. The cleanse will take approximately 45 minutes for a complete body scrub, hair wash, and perhaps even a short massage.
Entrance to the local hammams is approximately 10 – 12 Dirhams (about $1.50) and you can expect to pay the staff member around 50 Dirhams for the treatment.
While each community has its local hammam, the hammam located on Rue Riad Zitoun Jdid is one of the nicest and easiest to access in the medina. The hammam is open to men in the morning and women in the afternoon/evening.
Make yourself at home
For the ultimate relaxation treatment, opt to stay in a riad with a private in-house hammam. An afternoon in the souks followed by a late-afternoon hammam treatment will leave you feeling relaxed and ready for an evening in. This option is ideal for couples wanting to experience the hammam treatment together.
Book a stay at Riad Farnatchi not only for a luxurious stay, but a divine hammam treatment.
Step inside the intimate hammam hidden on the main level at Riad Tzarra to experience a hammam typical of a local residence.
Black soap made from olive oil to soften the skin and rhassoul (ghassoul as the locals say), mineral-rich detoxifying clay, is blended with rose water to cleanse and detoxify the skin, followed by a heavenly grommage. Then wrap up in a cozy hammam towel before generously applying argan oil to hydrate the skin. And perhaps a relaxing massage to complete the experience.
In Marrakech, head to Les Bains de Marrakech inside the Kasbah district. Or for a purely luxurious experience, reserve an appointment at La Mamounia, winner of Best Hotel Spa in the World 2011 by Conde Nast Traveller Readers’ Best Spa Awards.
To truly escape the hustle and bustle of Marrakech, plan an afternoon at to the Beldi Country Club. Lunch by the pool, followed by a hammam and massage treatment is quite simply divine.
SHOP our favorite spa products…
I received my first Moroccan pouf from dear friends in 2002. It was butter-soft ivory leather with lime green stitching. It has sat prominently in all my living rooms since. A reminder that age-old design never tires.
These friends had moved to Marrakech. They were both artists and had heads for business. They scoured their way down every alley of the souks searching for the very best sources. They understood that all are not equal. Years later they would launch Zid Zid Kids.
The pouf is generally made by hand-stitching eight pieces of leather together to create a round ottoman-like structure. We recognize the traditional natural brown hides and neutral decorative embroidered tops. That has all changed! Today they come in every bright color you can dream of with contrasting colorful stitches.
All poufs are not equal. You want a thick goat hide that has been expertly tanned to be durable, yet flexible and soft. Most importantly, you want the dye to be fast, to not run or fade. The makers of the best poufs use thick hides and heavy-duty threads on thick needles and have strong arms from expertly embroidering thousands of stitches. Theirs are the poufs that will someday be called vintage!
Classic pouf – this is truly a stunning pouf made from hand-cut, hand-woven leather fabric! A pouf in a class of luxury of it’s own!
Our tough and colorful vinyl versions for kids!
And see Nihal’s exquist square poufs made from hand woven leather fabric – a truly remarkable evolution from the traditional design.”
See the pouf here:
Not sure what Pinterest is? Click here.
One pouf winner will be contacted via private message on Facebook or Twitter 09/10/12 and their board will be shared on our Facebook, Twitter and with our Mailing List.
A 15% off discount code will be mailed to you via private message on Facebook or Twitter on 09/10/12. Discount valid on your next A Curated World Purchase until 01/01/2013.
Winning Pouf is available in Silver, Midnight Blue, Silver, Powder Pink, Fuschia, Purple.
1. CONTEST DESCRIPTION AND PERIOD: The A Curated World ‘Win a Pouf’ Pinterest Contest (the “Contest”) starts 8/20/12 at 12:00 AM Eastern Time (ET) and ends 9/9/12 at 11:59 AM ET (the “Contest Period”). The ‘Win a Pouf’ Contest is a contest where participants pin at least 10 Moroccan Inspired images to their Pinterest page on a board titled “A Curated World – My Moroccan Home”. Participants must first ‘like’ A Curated World on Facebook. Participants will use the hashtags #acuratedworld and #marrakesh in the description of their pins as a way to identify they have pinned items specifically for the contest. In order to be eligible to win this contest, the participants must also pin this image to their board. Kay McGowan will choose 1 winner who will be announced on Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook on 09/10/12. He or She will be contacted via Pinterest, Facebook and/or Twitter and asked for delivery information. We will also share their winning board with our Mailing List. No purchase necessary and no entry fee, payment or proof-of-purchase is necessary to participate.
2. PRIZES: All potential winners will receive 15% off their next A Curated World purchase. They will be contacted via a private message on Facebook or Twitter on 09/10/12 with the discount code. The discount code is valid until 01/01/2013.
3. ELIGIBILITY: Contest is open to legal residents of the 50 United States or district of Columbia.
4. QUESTIONS: For Pinterest help, visit http://pinterest.com/about/help/ OR for questions regarding A Curated World, please contact us.
6. LIMIT ONE (1) ENTRY PER PERSON: Any individual who attempts to enter, or in the sole discretion of Sponsor is suspected of entering more than once or submits entries in excess of the disclosed maximum, by any means, including but not limited to establishing multiple Pinterest accounts, will be disqualified from participation in this Contest.
This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed, or administered by, or in association with, Facebook.]]>
This summer’s IT is a flowing tie-dyed pink and yellow cover up brought to us by Aya’s of Marrakech.
I discovered this item while traveling last December. We were underdressed for the cold Marrakech winter nights, bundled up on an Essaouira coastal roof deck, and definitely not thinking of the beach or a hot summer’s night.
Nawal, owner and designer behind the venerable Aya’s clothing boutique in Marrakech, expertly directed our attention to this seemingly simple garment. She schooled us on the many ways to wear her Poncho. Stef of Kif Kif graciously modeled on your behalf. I particularly love the belted look. Notice how the belt snakes under the garment in the back!
The Poncho is 100% cotton and hand dyed with natural pigments by the women of a cooperative south of the city. Remember that no two are alike. We will labor over the selection on your behalf. You may specify Vibrant or Earthy color tones and wait to be surprised!
Nawal was born and raised in Marrakech. Her commitment to culture, quality, and community make her a perfect Curated World designer.]]>
For those who aren’t lucky enough to talk technique with a local chef or join one of the many excellent cooking classes, there are three new cookbooks that provide not only authentic recipes, but also photographs, stories, and the history of the food and culture of Morocco.
Mourad: New Moroccan by Mourad Lahlou is a beautifully photographed full-color cookbook with personal stories from the chef’s childhood in Doukkala, notes from Lahlou about his essentials of Moroccan cooking, as well as classic and updated recipes – all written in the chef’s distinctive voice. I loved this book for the personal connection Chef Lahlou makes between his upbringing and the food he cooks, as well as the lessons he provides on the essential ingredients and the cultural significance of Moroccan cooking. The recipes he shares range from easy preserved lemons to a spice-rubbed eight-pound rib roast that could feed a family. This cookbook is required reading for any fan of Chef Lahlou’s award-winning San Fransisco restaurant, Aziza, which was the first Moroccan restaurant to receive a Michelin Star, but it is also worthy of coffee table status thanks to the gorgeous photography, courtesy of Deborah Jones, whose sparse styling and saturated color perfectly capture the magic of the culture.
Paula Wolfert’s The Food of Morocco is another beautiful full-color cookbook with stunning photography. Paging through the sections – separated, roughly, by course – images that recall a walk through the spice market or a drive along the fields of argan trees are accompanied by recipes offering variations on the salads, tagines, and soups, among other classic Moroccan dishes. Where Mourad is part personal narrative, part cooking lesson and part cookbook, Chef Wolfert keeps us focused more firmly upon the recipes of this country, whose cuisine she clearly adores and reveres. The images are equally reverential, thanks to Quentin Bacon’s ability to capture the essence of a place – and a dish – so exquisitely.
Le Riad Monceau: A Palace of Moroccan Gastronomy, also combines full-color photography with culture and recipes. With text in both French and English, Le Riad Monceau takes the reader on a virtual tour of the history and architecture of the riad, tells the story of its renown restaurant, offers recipes from their highly regarded chef and provides an exclusive guide to Moroccan wine. Owned by the French artist Isabelle Aubrey and her husband Ludovic Antoine, who also took the photographs for the book, Le Riad Monceau is a tribute to its namesake, a temple of classic Moroccan hospitality.]]>
Jump ahead to 2011. I am trying to find a ‘fixer’ in Marrakech, a person who can facilitate meeting all the needs of A Curated World. A woman named Stef was recommended several times. She “owns a shop called Kif Kif.” I put two and two together and knew I had found our ‘fixer’.
Stef was born in 1972 in France and she has lived in Marrakech for the past eight years. Her husband, Philippe, oversees their classic courtyard hotel known as a riad, Riad Magellan. Guidebooks consistently site Riad Magellan for its “relaxed swagger” and peaceful ethnic-elegant surroundings.
It was Stef’s decorating ventures, and then seeing how much the hotel guests delighted in her use of unusual materials and bright colors, that set the Kif Kif collection in motion!
Stef opened her first boutique in the Medina of Marrakech at Bab Laksour, my most favorite district within the old walled city. Stef embraced the cultural exchange that came with creating the line of jewelry, handbags, vintage finds and home accessories.
Stef developed her ‘voice’ behind the brand and formed bonds and reliance on the local artisans. She acquired a better understanding of Moroccan crafts and she brought to the artisans an awareness of aesthetics and Western demands, her own heritage. This is a collaboration and partnership we explored through interviews with many designers.
Stef has an ability to create whimsical designs while avoiding a clique or kitsch style. This is not an easy line to walk. The collection sold through A Curated World highlights Stef’s immense talent.
Both Stef and Philippe walk the cobblestone and dirt alleyways of the medina quickly and with expert navigation, nodding a quiet hello, a glance back and a wave, a handshake and quick catch-up. For expats, they seem in harmonious step with their adopted city.
SHOP KIFKIF – Find KifKif accessories here (necklaces and bags)! For KifKif home goods (pillows and poufs and storage) click here. Lovely and traditional tea glasses and plates click here.]]>
The square was dotted with groups of mostly men – sitting around a carpet chatting with one another, playing drums or charming snakes with a wooden clarinet-like instrument called a pungi. While I had assumed that these shows were mainly for the tourists, few were there that early, and yet the men continued on, weaving a tapestry of sound as I zig-zagged across the square, taking it all in, not pausing long enough at any of the shows to be asked for money as payment. It appeared as if this Marrakech was quietly going about its business, and despite my obvious outsider status – a woman alone, in jeans, wild curls and a pink scarf – I was free to observe or take part as I wished.
I had experienced a different Marrakech in the very same place, however, the previous evening as one of three women who had decided to visit the food stalls for dinner. Every night in Jemaa el Fnaa dedicated teams erect and disassemble dozens of tented stalls offering nearly every aspect of Moroccan food, from snails to goat brains, all cooked on the spot for just a few dirham. The calm of the square in the morning was a stark contrast to when the three of us were standing behind the filled stools at stall fourteen, jockeying for position. They had the best fried seafood and silken cumin-spiced eggplant we were told, and were worth the wait. The three of us were in jeans or long skirts, hair uncovered and clutching our purses to our chest, while men pushed us from behind and the sides, all aiming for the next open stool. After ten minutes, a twenty-something student from Fez offered up his seat and struck up a conversation in excellent English – it was clear we were westerners in a roiling sea of Muslim men. Soon, with help from our new friend, we had three adjacent stools and had placed three orders of mixed seafood.
Stall fourteen was, as reported, delicious. The fish was sweet and fresh and crispy, the smooth spice of the eggplant and traditional fresh tomato and green pepper salad a worthy complement. But the three of us agreed: we would not be getting our dinner at the food stalls every night. This most talked about of experiences in Marrakech represents one version of Morocco that a western visitor can experience. There is the frenetic energy – as we walked through in search of our stall we were accosted by workers who would aggressively block our path or tug our arms to bully us into giving them business. It was exciting, yes, but also frightening at times, in the ways that Moroccans’ perception of personal space differed from our western one. It was not unlike the trip from the airport to the riad at which I was staying – my mini-van taxi shared the road at sometimes dizzying speeds with extended families on motorbikes, the occasional mule-drawn wagon and plenty of small hatchbacks all vying to merge around one of the city’s many roundabouts.
But that morning, the food stalls were just a memory, and I circled back and turned down a narrow pedestrian street at the far corner of Jemaa el Fna, heading to a cooking class, passing women stirring soup pots in the open window of a narrow shop – likely harira, a tomato and lentil soup – to be offered in a few hours for lunch for the shopkeepers. Again, I was ignored as Moroccans went about their day.
A few hundred yards away from the square down a shadowed walkway, I pushed open the heavy wooden door of Le Riad Monceau, and experienced yet another Marrakech – the one that caters to foreign travelers with beautifully appointed rooms, excellent food and wine, and stress-free activities to help while away the day between shopping and eating. I spent the rest of my pleasant morning chopping vegetables and then enjoyed a leisurely lunch in the December sun in the riad’s rooftop dining area. Once inside the beautiful riad, I spent most of my time chatting with Europeans – in English – with the Moroccan staff offering their services whenever they sensed a lull.
In my time in the city, I experienced this same high-end European luxury while sipping expensive cocktails overlooking world-renown gardens at La Mamounia or shopping for handbags and jewelry in Lalla’s second floor shop in Geulitz, a hip, upscale neighborhood just outside of the walled medina. This is the Marrakech that continues to bring countless vacationers from Europe, eager to soak up the desert sun and indulge in the generous hospitality of the Moroccan people, coupled with luxurious, but exotic amenities.
But perhaps my favorite version of Marrakech was the one apparent in the everyday interactions. Like the hour spent chatting with a shopkeeper who I met the following day while shopping for jewelry deep in the medina. Within a minute of meeting, he had volunteered his belief that the politics that often kept our parts of the world at odds were not necessarily his beliefs. Perhaps this was at first a sales pitch, but then while I browsed his beautiful selection of antique Berber necklaces and Taureg rings, he asked a local boy to bring us mint tea and cookies. And he told me how he believed that both Americans and Moroccans were at their cores generous, open-minded people. He sought to forge a bond, even after it became clear that I wouldn’t be purchasing anything that day.
After meeting the shopkeeper I ended up back in Jemaa el Fna, which I tended to walk through at least three times a day, sometimes just to get my bearings among the winding alleys of the souk. It was late afternoon and the stalls were being erected for the evening among the crowds that populated the square; I could feel the energy changing from the daytime meandering of tourists and locals to the nightly hustle for customers among the stalls. I purchased a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice from one of the vendors who I had seen there no matter the time of day. And instead of turning back towards my riad, I took in that moment near sundown where Jemaa el Fna reflected the many versions of Marrakech that I experienced in my time there – full of both tourists and locals, people both passing through and there to work or play, men and women from around the world and around the corner who all helped define the city as a crossroads of culture, with something for everyone.]]>
For a luxurious stay overlooking stunning gardens and with some of the best western-style accommodations in Marrakech, book your stay at La Mamounia. Pamper yourself with a traditional hammam experience at the on-site hammam, winner of the 2011 Conde Nast Best Hotel Spa in the World award. And the selection of international and Moroccan wines is the perfect complement to your meal at one of the three on-site restaurants, with the Moroccan restaurant receiving rave reviews.
If you want a cozy, but chic riad in the medina, stay at Dar Hanane. Located in one of the oldest neighbourhoods of the Marrakech medina, guests are constantly amazed by the traditional way of life surrounding the riad – women walking to the local bread oven where the daily bread is baked, donkeys transporting cartload of goods through the medina, and children running freely through the derb. With one of the highest terraces in the medina, the views (day or night) of the magical Marrakech medina are absolutely spectacular.
If you want luxury combined with unbeatable views, stay at Dar Les Cigognes. Head up to the rooftop terrace and watch the storks fly overhead, and admire the ramparts of the Royal Palace. The luxurious rooms, authentically decorated with the finest examples of Moroccan craftsmanship, are complete with the comforts guests expect from a boutique hotel.
If supporting ethical tourism is important, stay at Riad Magellan, a riad dedicated to assisting the needs of children in a local hospital. Tastefully decorated rooms blended with warm hospitality provide an oasis in the Marrakech medina.
If you enjoy eclectic decor, a home filled with objects acquired from trips around the world, creating a chic museum-like atmosphere, Riad Camilia is the ideal riad. Hidden behind the main entrance, guests step into a riad filled with secret corners, courtyards and private galleries, adding to the enchanting ambiance throughout. The decor is authentic and extends from the rooms to the common areas and the wonderful on-site dining room.
For a stay in a riad steeped in history in the former Jewish quarter known as Mellah, Riad Azoulay is the place to be. Formerly the home of a wealthy landlord, this riad is now an elegant guesthouse respecting traditional architectural styles. For a majestic stay, book a stay in the Sultane suite.
For the active and cultured traveller, book your stay Riad El Fenn. A regular host of cultural events including the Marrakech Biennele and TedX Marrakesh, El Fenn is filled with artwork at every turn. For the more active guests, head up to the rooftop terrace where a one-hole golf course faces the landmark Koutoubia mosque. Or enjoy a dip in one of the plunge pools. Then when it’s time to relax, the bohemian-chic rooms are the perfect retreat from the souks as are the cozy nooks throughout the riad.
For honeymooners or couples looking a chic and stylish romantic getaway, book your stay at Riad Adore. Whether up on the terrace, in the gallery overlooking the central courtyard or relaxing by the plunge pool in the central courtyard, a feeling of romance is all around. Dinner on the rooftop terrace, next to the fireplace, as the call to prayer sounds out is just one of the comforts provided to guest. Yet step out the door, and you’re just minutes from some of the finest antique shops in Marrakech.]]>
Start at ‘Le Comptoir Darna Marrakech’ in Hivernage area for a great dinner and drinks. One of the first restaurant-lounges in Marrakech, this place offers both European and Moroccan dishes in a hip and trendy atmosphere, complete with great music and exotic dancers – it’s where night time means party time!
From there, walk five minutes to the ‘Casino de Marrakech’ at Hotel Es Saadi where you can try your luck on the roulette, blackjack, or poker tables while enjoying a drink. Located in one of the best luxury hotels in the city, Hotel Es Saadi is situated on eighty acres with gardens, a full spa, restaurants, night spots and more – enough to keep you busy during the day and through the night.
Next, move right next door to Marrakech’s top night spot Theatro night club where you can boogie and party with Marrakech’s “beautiful people.” Theatro features top DJs and themed parties every week.
By now, it’s 3am. So go to the main square of Jemaa El Fna for a freshly squeezed orange juice accompanied by a snake charmer and fortune teller!]]>
Essaouira is a small village on the western coast of Morocco. It is known for its breezy, laid back atmosphere with an artsy vibe where you can stop just breath a bit deeper for a moment. As a weekend overnight trip on A Curated World’s launch trip to Morocco, the Essaouira portion was a small break from artisan hunting, and more a moment to seek out some fabulous accommodations, eat at well renowned restaurants and markets, and taste a bit of the nightlife and seaside activity. While in Marrakech, we were constantly navigating its endless medina and jumping in and out of vehicles while being led by locals to out-of-the-way designer destinations. In Essaouira we were left to explore on our own, at our own pace.
Upon our arrival we checked in at Villa Maroc, nestled into the old city. Villa Maroc was one of the first riads to open here and has a well established and reputable presence in the town. With several levels [floors...either way they don't seem like straightforward floors in my memory....] moving seamlessly from courtyard, to indoors, to the rooftop terrace all in blue and white and classic Moroccan tile, it is a delight just finding your room. We stayed in a suite with two adjoining bedrooms and comfortable sitting area in between. Once there we dropped our belongings and headed straight out for what we were told was the best lunch in town, at the fish market.
The fish market is located deep within the medina of Essaouira and along our leisurely way to find it we made several stops to purchase things like clementines (peak of the season in December) and olives, and haggle over some fabric that we would return for. We walked along the main drag of the walled city knowing at some point we needed to turn left to get deeper in, where we’d find the fish. Taking in the scenery and not paying too close attention, we took a few wrong turns ending up down streets with nothing but us, a few open doors, and scraggly looking cats. Nothing wrong with that, but soon hunger got the best of us and we focused on where we needed to go.
It was obvious we had approached the fish market when the chaos and noise escalated a bit, as often happens at a mercantile center in an ancient town. There were several vendors all selling a variety of species of mostly whole fish, presumably caught a few hours before just off the shores. Behind the vendors we founds what seemed to be a make-shift restaurant with a couple of large grills frying up nothing but fish. We sat down in some plastic chairs and flicked away the scraps of desiccated fish bones left on the table for the market cats to nibble on. I don’t quite remember what we ordered, if we ordered, or how we made that decision, but soon enough plate after plate of fried fish appeared on our table. Sardines, calamari, larger whole white fish, and…. french fries. We dove right in, eating with our hands and creating slightly more of a mess on the floor and the table than was already there. The fish was beautifully salty and fried, just enough to cut the entirely fishy sensation. Some of the whole fish took a little work to get through and required a fine tuned technique of boning and slicing to get at the good stuff. As we finished a group of lively musician-looking men came barreling into the market in song and dance. They had the look of rock stars about them, and we assumed them to be Moroccan celebrities but later found out they were locals, in fact musicians, just enjoying the weekend vibe of their town.
Another slow walk through the medina with stops to look at jewelry, crafts, and mostly more food led us back to Villa Maroc. In early December the sun was setting early, so I meandered to the rooftop terrace to watch it go down behind the North African horizon, a first for me. Showered, massaged (full spa services) and caught up on some work (free wifi), A Curated World was ready for their night on the town in Essaouira. We gathered in the room adjoining the bar at the riad for a glass of wine and some olives by the fireplace, sitting on chairs made of beautiful Moroccan kilims. Dinner reservations had been made at Taros, one of Essaouira’s most notable upscale restaurants. We entered and climbed a set of stairs, passed an art gallery, and were seating in the main dining room at large corner table. The walls were colored deep red and halfway down were covered in a mosaic of yellow and blue tiles which reflected the candlelight coming from the table. We ordered a bottle of local wine bottled specifically for the restaurant and settled into sampling classic Moroccan pastilla, lamb tagine and yes, some more sardines. In the end I was a bit underwhelmed by the food but it was made up for in the service and the restaurant’s magician who spent quality time at our table leaving us bewildered. Somehow he managed to take a $10 bill from my wallet, wave it around in his hand, then make it appear INSIDE a whole lemon. Seriously, this guy was amazing.
Although it was getting on in winter, Taro’s rooftop terrace was open and still going strong even though the band had stopped for the evening. We decided to stay for another drink and look out of the Pacific. It wasn’t exactly warm but the staff came around and gave us all blankets to wrap ourselves in. A little Moroccan amaro, a brilliant view, great friends, and we were quite alright. As I find often happens when traveling with other American woman, the local men quickly flocked to our table and had us on the dance floor convincing us to stay for another round. My friends departed for bed but I took the invitation of our lovely waiter to go dancing at another spot, wanting a sense of where the locals hang out. He took me to a club with two levels and a live band, lots of smoke and dancing. The band seemed to alternate between covers of rock tunes and traditional African music. No matter what the song, the locals were into it and I got the sense again that this town knows how to party. The Jimi Hendrix thing was starting to make sense.
Sunday morning was another brilliantly sunny North African day, and I spent it wandering by the port and through the myriad of fishing activity along the harbor. I watched old men mend fishing line, fishermen bring in their catch, and children scramble in and out of boats as the mellow morning took hold on this town. An older man stopped to chat with me as I stood by the sea wall looking out over the view. He spoke some English and was proud to tell me about his worldly travels and how he eventually settled back in Essaouira happier than ever because “What more would you need than this?” As he said this, he motioned across the ocean, the town square, and the medina behind. “All you need to do is breathe.”]]>