Known as the ‘Gateway to Africa’ Morocco is an explosion of colour, architecture, mosaics, heat, hidden gardens and both delicious and questionable smells. It’s a mere one-hour ferry ride from Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar or a few hours on plane to one of the major cities like Casablanca. The blend of Islamic, European and African influences make for cosmopolitan cities such as Marrakesh, Casablanca and Fes, rugged countryside like the Atlas Mountains and desert oasis’ such as Ait-Ben-Haddou at the edge of the Sahara.
The first stop on our week-long adventure across the country was Marrakech. One of the first things I noticed was striking salmon coloured buildings. They’re everywhere within the Medina walls, giving the place it’s second name – the Rose City. Here, Medina simply means ‘Old City’. Within the walls lie a spider web of narrow alleyways housing authentic Moroccan markets, spice-scented lanes and riads – an oasis from the outside chaos and heat.
Riads are centuries-old, traditional Moroccan mansions with gardens and water features inside. They’re hidden from the street view, originating from the Islamic value of privacy. Now, they’ve been transformed into boutique lodgings for tourists that look like something straight out of Architectural Digest. You’ll be enchanted by the intricate mosaics, high ceilings and islamic decoration.
We stayed at La Maison Arabe in Marrakech. When it opened in 1998 it was the city’s best (and only) riad, now there’s more than 900 hidden by towering concrete walls. It’s tranquil, romantic and beautiful. Be prepared to be just as dazzled and enchanted inside these walls as you will be outside.
Whether you’re a photograph, history buff, architecture lover or traveler this place will leave you spell-bound, amazed, exhausted and at times overwhelmed. There’s hidden gardens to discover, souks to get lost in, food to eat and squares to watch the sunset from. Oh, and you can’t leave without a carpet (or in our case three) – they’re incredible!
Enough from me, here’s some snaps.