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Where To Explore, Eat + Unwind In Vibrant Marrakesh

Travel

Earlier this year we featured Tigmi Trading’s beautiful Byron Bay store, filled with unique homewares and hand-loomed rugs. Learning the business’ backstory from founder Danielle McEwan (who was inspired by her first trip to Morrocco 15-years ago, and hasn’t stopped going back since!) got us dreaming of a trip.

A quick Google, however, revealed that planning an itinerary for this vibrant destination can be a little tricky, and très time-consuming. Never fear – Danielle has kindly offered up her must-sees of Marrakesh to get us started!

From tranquil riads to bustling cafés, here is Danielle’s guide to the Ochre City, at the foothills of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains…

18th June, 2019

A scene from the Marrakesh Medina from a trip earlier in 2019. Photo – Alicia Taylor.

Woven wares on display in the souq. Photo – Alicia Taylor.

Hand-loomed rugs airing in the Medina. Photo – Alicia Taylor.

The Tigmi Trading story began with a trip to Morocco with my partner 15 years ago. We fell in love with the nomadic rugs from the High Atlas Mountains. I was particularly drawn to their history, their abstract nature and the way they brought so much soul and character to contemporary spaces.

Tigmi means ‘my home’ in the Berber dialect, and so it’s fitting that under this name we source and curate timeless, artisan made rugs, textiles, objects, lighting and art from Morocco to the Black Sea, and far flung places in between.

As our business has grown, I have been able to indulge in various other passions, including working with artisans who share the same ethos, and whose pieces blur the line between art, beauty and function. I also believe strongly in the continuation of the ‘story’, and preserving traditional methods of production from generation to generation.

We regularly return to Morocco to work with artisans and source wares, and I have come to find there are a few places and spaces that I always revisit. I hope you enjoy this little collection of highlights to inspire your own adventure!

Yves Saint Laurent Museum. Photo – Alicia Taylor.

Gardens at the Beldi Country Club. Photo – courtesy of Beldi Country Club

Danielle at the Yves Saint Laurent Museum. Photo – Alicia Taylor.

The Jemaa El Fna town square.

Jardin Majorelle. Photo – courtesy of Jardin Majorelle.

Discover

YSL Museum 

Home to a library and exhibition space, the architecture alone of the YSL Musée is worth paying a visit for. Designed by French design team Studio KO, The auditorium holds a ciné club of Yves Saint Laurent’s favourite films, opera, and ballets, along with housing a unique collection of some of his most creative work.

Explore Jemaa El Fna

Head into the heart of the Medina (the old city) and you will find the old Morocco. Commit to losing yourself within the maze, and you will discover myriad stalls where you can shop for almost anything. Venture deeper still into the backstreets and alleys and you will see the artisans at work crafting their wares, just as they have done for centuries.

By day, the square of Jemaa El Fna is an open space where you’ll stumble on a few snake charmers, medicine men, and even teeth-pullers to assist those with a toothache! Of an evening, the square is alive with storytellers, acrobats, musicians, and entertainers. There are also café’s up above if you need to take some respite from the crowd.

Jardin Majorelle

It took 40 years for French painter Jacques Majorelle to create the enchanting Jardin Majorelle in the heart of Ochre City. Covering nearly two-and-a-half acres, its path weaves you through colourful Moroccan architecture in ‘Majorelle blue,’ past palm fringed gardens, waterlily pools, fountains, boutiques, galleries, and the Berber museum. However, it is the incredible garden oasis to which people typically flock.

This garden is a living and ever-evolving work of art, made up of exotic plants and rare species that Jacques Majorelle collected from around the world. In 1980,  Jardin Majorelle was saved from the fate of developers by Pierre Berge and Yves Saint Laurent, who acquired it and brought it back to life.

La Mamounia hammam. Photo – courtesy of La Mamounia.

La Mamounia hammam. Photo – courtesy of La Mamounia.

Scarebo Camp in the desert. Photo – courtesy of  The Scarebo.

A feast served at Scarebo Camp. Photo – courtesy of  The Scarebo.

At the Beldi Country Club. Photo – courtesy of Beldi Country Club

Collecting flowers from the gardens at the Beldi Country Club. Photo – courtesy of Beldi Country Club.

Sunset by the shore in Essaouira.

Take Time Out At A Traditional Hammam

Full of ornately-tiled spas and classic Moroccan archways, there are quite a few hammams to detox and recharge in throughout Morocco. I recommend going for a black soap scrub and hammam at the Farnatchi Spa, or a dip in the award-winning La Mamounia’s pool – a space fit for a Moroccan Queen!

Head Out To A Desert Camp

If you feel like channeling Lawrence of Arabia for a couple of days, then heading out to a desert camp should do the trick. The Scarebo stone desert hotel is a collective of 15 white cotton tents contrasting against the red desert. Each accommodation is appointed with a Moroccan lounge, writing desk, and a private terrace. You can spend the time playing lawn bowls, riding camelback like Lawrence did, or stargazing with their in-house astrology professor.

La Pause is another nomadic stay in the desert. A magical oasis of mudbrick buildings at the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, here you can switch off from technology and immerse yourself in… the art of drinking mint tea!

Journey To Neighbouring Towns

Trip out of town to the picturesque Beldi Country Club and see Beldi glassblowers making the traditional glassware that is the staple in Moroccan cafés and households. The factory is one of the oldest in the world, and here the artisans make colourful recycled glassware just as they have done for over 100 years.

Alternatively, you might like to set off to the coast, to the seaside town of Essaouira for a fresh-seafood lunch!

The El Fenn Rooftop. Photo – Kasia Gatkowska.

Enjoying a meal at El Fenn Rooftop. Photo – Kasia Gatkowska.

Spices for sale in the Medina and The view of Cafe Des Espices from the square. Photo – Courtesy of Tigmi Trading.

Inside the contemporary +61 restaurant. Photo – courtesy of +61.

Nomad’s rooftop surrounded by lanterns. Photo – courtesy of Nomad.

EAT

El Fenn Rooftop

Whether you can afford to stay or not, a drink or dinner on the vibrant rooftop of El Fenn is a must. Set in one of the oldest Riad’s in the heart of the Medina El Fenn is a visual feast of colour and the very best of traditional Moroccan design with a contemporary edge.

Overlooking the Atlas Mountains, their seasonal menu runs from breakfast through to dinner and features a mix of traditional and contemporary Moroccan cuisine.

Cafe De Espices

Set up high under cane umbrellas and overlooking the bustling Medina, Café De Espices takes its name from the Spice Market in which it is located. It is a landmark cafe and the ideal fuel-stop for a Moroccan nous-nous coffee or sweet Moroccan tea and a perfect place to begin your day or take respite in after shopping in the heat.

You can spot the white cursive sign from the street painted across its earthen-red building. They serve food all day, like shakshuka in the morning and authentic tagines at night.

+61

This Australian-owned and run restaurant in the new part of the city Guilez. +61 brings a bit of Bondi to the heart of industrial Marrakesh with its inspiring fresh fusion of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisine. Chef Andrew Cibej (Vini, Berta, 121BC and Bacco) makes everything from scratch onsite including the bread, cheese, pasta, and even the yoghurt.

Designed by owner Australian Cassandra Karinsky (Kulchi) and Sebastian de Gzell, (Nomad), with many of its elements handmade by local artisans, it is a calm and serene spot in which to enjoy a casual meal!

Nomad 

The ideal time to visit Nomad has to be for a drink at dusk, when the pink building blends with the orange sunset. The rooftop of this contemporary styled space overlooks the colourful Medina and is surrounded by lanterns.

Serving up a contemporary spin on traditional Moroccan cuisine, expect dishes like a refreshing lentil salad with roast beetroot and local goats cheese for lunch, or a lamb tagine with ginger and orange on the evening menu.

Cafe Le Studio, YSL Museum

Cafe Le Studio which sits within the stunning YSL Museum and was designed to reflect the simple and subdued atmosphere of Yves Saint Laurent’s workspace. Serving a menu of traditional and inventive French dishes, it provides a wonderful cool oasis and café to relax in after browsing the institution’s corridors.

The beautifully designed courtyard is decked out with pale coloured wood, pops of yellow, and a panoramic drawing of Yves St Lauren’s Paris studio – it’s perfect place to hang with a book and a coffee.

Riad Dar-K’s central courtyard. Photo – Alicia Taylor.

Riad Dar-K is the perfect fusion of traditional and contemporary. Photo – Alicia Taylor.

Shaded daybeds at Riad Dar-K. Photo – Alicia Taylor.

El Fenn Boutique. Photo – Kasia Gatkowska.

El Fenn’s outdoor dining/lounging area and the courtyard. Photo – David Loftus.

Inside an El Fenn suite. Photo – Kasia Gatkowska.

The El Fenn roof-terrace view. Photo – Saad Alami.

stay

In order to have a fully-immersive experience in Marrakesh, I recommend staying in one of the hundreds of riads which honour the traditional style of house in Morocco. Characterised by an inner-courtyard or garden, each riad is unique in its style, offering, and range in price – here are two of my favourites at both ends of the spectrum:

Riad Dar-K

Boasting a combination of modern and traditional Moroccan architecture, the quaint Riad Dar-K guesthouse is a little oasis, situated in one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the Medina near the Museum of Marrakesh. Its interiors feature carved wooden totem four-post beds and ornate white archways. Outside, you’ll find a dreamy cream-hued rooftop of shaded daybeds and spots to sit down with a Moroccan mint tea.

It is founded by Australian Lisa Bedden, who purchased the riad sight-unseen and moved her family for a sabbatical a year ago. Lisa and her wonderful team greet every guest; its a wonderfully personal place to stay right in the heart of the bustling Medina.

Ell Fenn

As opulent as it is authentic, Ell Fenn is just 10 minutes from Marrakesh Minera airport within the famous Marrakesh Medina. The colourful interior spaces range from palettes of deep turquoise walls in the suites, to bright yellow day beds in the rustic courtyards.

It is dotted with breathtaking paintings, sculptures and wall hangings by artists from Vanessa Branson’s extensive collection. You can spot them in the corridors, by the pool, or decorating the hammam (while enjoying a black soap treatment or ghassoul clay mask!).

Follow Danielle McEwan’s future adventures to Morocco on Instagram @tigmitrading. To see her curated edit of timeless, artisan made rugs, textiles, objects, lighting, and art from Morocco, and across the globe, visit Tigmitrading.com.

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