A Design-Lover’s Guide to Finding Inspiration (and Shopping) in Marrakech
Original story featured on Vogue.com. Read it here.
Amanda Shine, of the chic New York–based ceramics line and branding agency, The Setting, recently headed to Marrakech with business partner and pal Billur Kazaz. It was a celebratory trip to commemorate their first year in business together and to gather inspiration for the launch of their next project: a hotel debuting this summer. Morocco ranked as their number one destination to gather homeware and hospitality insight, but the trip soon turned into an educational journey in culture, cuisine, and color—plus launched a serious love affair with Moroccan coffee. “One of the reasons I was most excited to travel to Marrakech was to touch and see Moroccan ceramics,“ explains Shine, adding that “Marrakech has a modern and inclusive energy full of people from all aspects of life and that was an especially enlightening and unique element of the trip.”
Between the swoon-worthy mosaic-clad interiors, lush gardens, and delectable sweets, Shine’s design-focused guide to Morocco is bound to inspire your own trip. Below, Shine shares a photo diary from her trip as well as some of her top picks on where to stay, dine, and explore in the Moroccan city.
Where to Stay:
Be prepared for a greeting of fresh almond milk and the finest dates when you enter this amazing set of riads (a riad is a traditional Moroccan-style house with interior courtyard) close to the city center with exceptional service, decor, food, and amenities. The hotel is in bloom with fountains of rose petals, a viewing rooftop, full-service hammam, a serene restaurant by the pool, and roomy, authentically decadent rooms. Immediately outside of the hotel is a mini version of the souk where you can explore without having to make the full commitment of traveling into the main city center.
A beautiful country house–styled property outside the city center was the perfect ending to our Marrakech trip. Some rooms have a small balcony for enjoying the gardens or a sitting of Moroccan mint tea; our room had fireplaces that the staff would light to ensure we had a warm and cozy night. Every detail of this amazing boutique hotel is one of a kind including freshly made breakfast, lunch, and dinner at your desired hour with your specific dietary needs. Lounge, indulge, and take in what the countryside of Morocco has to offer.
Where to Eat:
This is the romantic dinner destination in Marrakech. Upon being dropped off to a specific cross street by a taxi or carriage, a guide will meet and lead you down a winding path with a lantern in hand. Once you get to the secret door, you will be greeted by the owner of the establishment that welcomes you into an intimate environment lit by candlelight, covered with roses, and filled with the sound of tantric yet mellow live music. Enjoy a traditional Moroccan tasting menu and never forget this special experience.
For a more contemporary dining experience with traditional dishes and French-inspired desserts, Le Foundouk is a Marrakech must. Try a fish or chicken tagine and don’t shy away from indulging in almond-milk ice cream at the end of the meal.
What to See:
This roughly 2.5-acre botanical garden offers inspiration for every nature- and decor-lover and is perfect for a half-day adventure. Wander the endless cacti, tropical plants, and cobalt blue exteriors that were once owned by Yves Saint Laurent and where his ashes are spread.
Get lost in this endless web of shops offering handcrafted silver, spices, leather goods, rugs, garments, and food. Take a guided tour to see the full span of the souk on your first day to help you get an understanding of specific districts that house woodworking, leather, or other specialties. You can always venture out yourself; chances are you will be back for multiple shopping trips during your stay. (Pro tip: Always have cash (dollars are a good backup for large purchases like rugs) and an extra duffel to stash your goodies.)
Located in the Medina quarter, this lively square has been a main destination for locals and tourists since the early foundations of Marrakech. Games, snake charmers, cactus fruit, street food, and henna, along with an array of locals and tourists make up the famous square and is surely not to miss. But a word to the wise: If you’re taking photos of any act you will be expected to tip!
What to Buy:
Made from local argan nuts that are ground on site inside the small natural remedy shops, it’s a staple in Moroccan cuisine and beauty, and truly a must for argan oil devotees.
Orange Blossom Oil
If you’re wondering what the amazing aroma is in your hotel and around Morocco, it’s orange blossom oil. You can use it on your hands and skin as an essence, in baking recipes, or put some drops in your diffuser and make your whole house smell wonderful. We both purchased this and brought it home; definitely a favorite!
Small candlesticks, letterboxes, trays or teapots are all authentic to Morocco and make for incredibly valuable and special gifts for others or for your own home.
The most special pieces with incredible amounts of inlay and labor. Get yourself a small jewelry box or chess set.