Marrakech: The City Of Endless Enchantment
When you fall in love with a city, you find a way to go back. Our last trip to Marrakech was a short sojourn: only two whirlwind days during which we managed to skim the top layer of the souk (markets) and head out to Le Jardin Majorelle (Yves St Laurent’s private garden).
This time, we were in Marrakech for five days, and had been invited to stay at Dar Jaguar, a divine (and divinely intimate) riad in the heart of the souk. Dar Jaguar is owned by Lucia Silver, a couture fashion designer from Notting Hill, and the very definition of a British eccentric. As soon as we met, I knew we were kindred spirits, and this was proven to me over and over again as the week wore on.
Here’s a little preview of what we got up to…
One of the most common comments we got while we were there (on Instagram etc.) was, “I’d love to go to Marrakech, but I don’t know what to wear!” A lot of women are really intimidated by how to dress in Morocco, and understandably so. On our last trip, we were concerned about that too, and wore t-shirts and maxi-skirts pretty much the whole time. On this trip, we were a little more relaxed about it, especially once we saw what Lucia wore. She lives in Marrakech for half the year, happily swans about in sundresses, and doesn’t seem at all worried about it. I’d definitely avoid showing cleavage or wearing short skirts, but that being said, we saw so many tourists in tank tops and short-shorts, and really, no one seemed to care.
Morocco truly is the land of magic carpets. I fell in love with so many rugs this time around: there are oodles of hot pink and neon geometric carpets that will take your breath away. I (somehow?!) managed to resist buying several, but next time, I swear, it’s going DOWN.
Just three weirdos in Morocco. Nothing to see here!
How much star jewellery is TOO much star jewellery? I didn’t buy this cuff but I should have!
After browsing the shops, our next stop was Le Jardin Secret. It’s an intoxicatingly beautiful oasis in the middle of the medina, and we were instantly smitten. It would be a sublime place to sit and read a book, or go wild and throw a party. The DRAH-MUH of it all! CAN YOU IMAGINE?! Swoon.
Their gift shop features a delicious beaded curtain that I popped in and out of multiple times. (It’s also what inspired me to buy a crystal beaded curtain for my own living room.) By the way, outfit details: my turban is from Missoni, sunglasses by Moschino, and skirt is from Mara Hoffman. The necklace is from Forever 21 and the tank top is from Zara.
Tiles and colours and loveliness as far as the eye can see.
This is the entrance of Le Jardin Secret. The wall I’m leaning against might look like wallpaper, but it’s not: it is stone and it has been HAND-CARVED. And it’s enormous. What?!
After lunch in the Spice Market, we headed back to our riad for a quick outfit change. This is the view when you look upwards from the courtyard of Dar Jaguar. So pretty.
Why did we change clothes? Because it was time to RIDE CAMELS, baby! Hahah! I decided a rainbow maxi skirt (from Nasty Gal), turban, and bedazzled 1950’s style sunglasses (Kate Spade) was the way to go.
Why not, right?!
We went for a stroll around the Palmeraie (Palm Groves) and this little baby followed us the whole way. I think he was thirsty!
Turns out, camels are hard to photograph.
I’m way too entertained by the whole thing. It was sweltering hot (at least 45℃/113°F), we were in ridiculous outfits, and we were riding camels in North Africa… I mean, what a world. How can you not be delighted?!
As the sun started to set, we journeyed back to Dar Jaguar once more (Jaguar by name, Jaguar by nature) for dinner and candlelit massages. Does life get better than this?!
Yet another reason we loved staying at Dar Jaguar? We had the whole place to ourselves. Spoiled rotten.
Scented massage oils in the courtyard, next to the fountain which was full of roses and floating tealight candles.
We ended up having our massages in our rooms, which made it exceptionally easy to pour ourselves straight into bed afterwards… And we drifted off in a rose-scented slumber.
We woke up bright and early the next morning to sit on Dar Jaguar’s gorgeous rooftop and eat breakfast. We filled up on crepes with strawberry jam, chocolate croissants, fresh fruit and yoghurt, before jumping into a van and driving out to Ourika, far away in the mountains.
In Ourika, we visited Aitma Sens, a charity where women who are unmarried, widowed, or otherwise unable to take care of themselves, are employed in the manufacturing of argan oil. We watched as they took nuts, used a wedge of stone to bash off the outer shell, then crushed what was left. Of course, we had a go too… And almost smashed our fingers beyond recognition!
This little girl was the daughter of one of the women working at the charity, and she was very interested in the photos and videos on my phone. She knew how to use it better than I did!
After we watched the demonstration, we were able to sample some of the argan oil products they made. Scented with rose, lavender, lemon, and eucalyptus, they were unreal.
Loaded down with scented argan oil, we drove on to the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains. We had been told that we were going to see a waterfall, so we started off on foot. Now, I don’t know exactly what we thought we were in for. My vision was that we’d park near a field, walk through a meadow of sorts, and then see a waterfall. However, as we began to scale a mountain, it became clear that this wasn’t going to be some ordinary stroll.
We followed a rushing river up… And up… And up. The stairs were uneven and never-ending. There were little restaurants set up along the way, and more rickety bridges than you could poke a stick at. It was bizarre.
We kept climbing. As we met other people on the path — clad in HIKING GEAR — we started to realise that perhaps we were inappropriately dressed. If I had known I would be scaling boulders, I probably wouldn’t have selected the silk Diane Von Furstenberg maxi, holographic sandals, and Kate Spade handbag, you know?! LORDT have mercy!
It was so harrowing that Shell barely even took any pictures. I don’t blame her: this was a hike that required full attention at all times! We had to jump across things like this, and when you’re mid-leap, hoping not to fall to your death, there’s not much time to line up the perfect shot!
The Costa Sisters were wearing WEDGES! (Troopers!) Kat was slipping and sliding all over the place in a pair of flip-flops. I am not exaggerating when I say there was no path. We were literally climbing rocks — and occasionally clambering up ladders — for an hour. It was a trial, that’s for sure. But eventually — after about an hour of huffing and puffing, sweating and scrabbling on rocks, we reached it: the waterfall!
It was gorgeous. It was also freezing cold but I decided, temperatures be damned! I climbed all the way up here, and I am going to paddle about in it, damn you!
And paddle I did.
The view on the way down was unreal: like being on a movie set. Look how small those houses are in the middle of the photo! I am not exaggerating when I say we climbed REALLY, REALLY HIGH.
I fell asleep in the van on the way home, and before I knew it, we were back at the riad.
But wait, there’s more! Our day wasn’t even close to being done. The next item on our agenda was a belly-dancing lesson! I was SO STOKED for this, because this year has been all about testing the perceived limits of my body. (“Physical challenge!“)
Our teacher didn’t speak English, so we communicated a little bit in (broken — on our part) French, but mostly, we watched what she did with her body and tried to emulate it. It was not easy, but it was SO much fun!
Our belly-dancing lesson was absolutely one of the highlights of the trip for me. I really enjoyed trying something unfamiliar and getting out of my own way (aka witnessing my perfectionism and self-consciousness and deciding to feel the fear and do it anyway).
Then it was time to head upstairs to the wonderful rooftop for our 1001 nights banquet: the pièce de résistance of our trip. Who wouldn’t want to spend an evening on this roof, watching the sunset?
We each received (glitter!) henna from lovely women who worked at The Henna Cafe. (Uh, don’t worry, I would never walk around outside of the hotel dressed like this.)
And we drank delicious, refreshing cocktails… (These are the Costa Sisters. Aren’t they gorgeous?)
And listened to the sounds of Gnaoua musicians and drummers (who swung the tassels on their hats with plenty of panache)…
And hung out with snakes…
And danced while our badass new friend, Sean Vivide (aka Kaleche) played a killer mix. I almost felt sorry for our neighbours.
On our last morning, the fabulous Sarah Corbett — Morocco’s leading expert on Moroccan jewellery — brought a pile of treasures and talked to us about goddess symbology in jewellery. It was so fascinating! I adore Sarah. And we all went a little bit crazy buying the pieces she brought with her.
Every kind of hamsa you could imagine.
This ring! Heart-eyes emoji! Can you see that it is a representation of the goddess? Very cool. It wasn’t for sale, though…
Finally, we had a little bit of time to float around Dar Jaguar and take some pictures before we broke up the band and everyone flew home…
This is the room that Kat and I stayed in (it’s called The State Of Grace) and comes complete with a four-poster bed, intricately carved walls, and its very own golden bathtub!
See? I am all about it. I also really loved doing my make-up in this bathroom every morning, listening to birdsong, facing out into the courtyard as I sat on a little pillow. An incredible way to start the day.
Pretty girls and the plunge pool, aka our saviour on hot days!
I was determined to exercise throughout our entire trip (Amalfi, Milan, and Marrakech) — which I managed! — but it was trickiest here. Since air-conditioning is such a rare thing, I would submerge myself in this pool for 5 minutes, get out and do 30 squats, jump back in the pool for 30 seconds, then get out and do another 30 squats, and repeat until I’d done 100 in total. It was a trial, but where there’s a will, there’s a way! I was not gonna waste all the hard work I’d done in NYC just because I wasn’t near a gym!
I bought this kaftan last year, and was immediately taken with its Elizabeth Taylor vibes. Of course, it hasn’t gotten a lot of wear in New York City… Maybe one day when I’m a nutty old woman living near the ocean, I’ll swan around in things like this?!
I love this shot of Shauna on the balcony facing our bedroom!
The whole gang! What a great crew to explore Marrakech with. So much fun.
I have to say an ENORMOUS thank you to Dar Jaguar and Lucia for organising such a stellar trip, and I recommend her beautiful riad with my whole heart. I cannot think of a more wonderful place to host a hen weekend or bachelorette party, to have a Marrakech honeymoon, or just escape on a romantic getaway with your beloved… Lucia is a sweetheart with wonderful attention to detail, and you will feel like you are staying in your very own home. (Just check out their TripAdvisor reviews for proof!)
And if you’d like to book your own getaway, be sure to follow Dar Jaguar on Facebook so you’re the first to hear about news and discounts!
Love and oud,
Photos by Shell De Mar.