I haven’t been to Morocco (yet). My Morocco is based on images from magazines and film, and visual interpretations from novels. The black-and-white, moody drama captured in 1942’s “Casablanca” was my first introduction, which I saw as a teenager in the 1980’s. And films in full blown color including The Man Who Knew Too Much, The English Patient and Sex and the City 2, added to it’s allure. In books, Morocco has been brought to life for me in tales such as The Time in Between (now a great Netflix series). In magazines, I read about Yves Saint Laurent (who famously said “Morocco taught me color”) and looked at photographs of him lounging in his restored palace and the Majorelle Garden, which he purchased in 1980. Regardless of the medium, story angle or the characters, center stage in all of them has been the beauty, the mystery, the intrigue of Morocco.
Recently I was hiking in Griffith Park with my friend Judi, and she was recounting her trip to Morocco this past fall. Today I’m sharing the highlights of my conversation with Judi about her Moroccan adventure. And, the photos are Judi’s (except, of course, the photos she’s featured in.)
But first, a bit about Judi… she’s a vivacious girl-about-town living here in LA. Judi has an infectious wit and smile, beautiful skin, and thick red hair to die for (or dye for – but she’s a natural Ginger!). Judi is a fashion business maven and has her own awesome casual wear line called Jude. (This is one of my recent favorites.)
Judi, why did you choose Morocco for your most recent adventure?
My friend Linda’s daughter works for the Four Seasons, and the Four Seasons had an amazing Friends and Family offer. Linda’s daughter had recently travelled to Marrakech and loved it, so Linda was inspired to experience it for herself. When she asked me if I wanted to join her, I said “hell yeah!” – I am always up for any type of travel adventure.
How long was your trip and what was your itinerary?
We were in Morocco for ten fabulous days. Our first four nights in Marrakech were spent at the Four Seasons: what an amazing place! The Moorish gardens were beautiful, and the scent of jasmine and roses enhanced the whole experience. The Friends and Family offer made this dream stay a reality! (Note to self: befriend more people in the hotel industry to tap into the F&F discounts.) Our room was beautiful, the restaurant was delicious, and we also loved the on-site boutiques. The resort was also centrally located, so we could easily explore Marrakech.
Next, we set off for the Sahara Desert. This was my favorite part of our trip, a memory that will stay with me always! The tour was through Maroc Excursions, based in Marrakech. The drive to the Sahara desert was 10 hours – along the way we passed through Agdz and Zagora villages, and the Ait Benhaddon Kasbah (a UNESCO world heritage site). The desert – wow – I was taken by how pristine and quiet it was, and the golden sand dunes were breathtaking. As soon as we arrived, our guide Mohammed showed us how to mount (there’s no other way to put it) the camels, pointed us far into the desert distance, and said “you are going there”. We headed off for an hour-long camel trek, and as cliche as this sounds, across the dunes and into the sunset. Later, we had dinner by the campfire near our tents.
Interestingly, we were in middle of the desert when we heard that Trump won the election. I asked people to text me the results because I didn’t have access to news. But nobody was texting me! Finally I heard from my friend Janelle (in the middle of the night, LA time) who sent me a brief text: “looks like Trump”. I was so shocked “What do you mean? How can that be?” – I responded back to Janelle. Later that day we walked up the sand dunes and prayed for America, as the sun went down.
Our guide, Mohammed, was with us throughout the desert trip excursion. How do I say this…in our 3 short days together, Mohammed decided he wanted to marry me. He already had a wife and 2 kids. Linda asked him “how many wives can you have?” he said “4.” I would be number 2, (“but number 1 in his heart” lol. Well, that’s something!) He wore a traditional hooded robe, which transformed him into something like our very own Lawrence of Arabia (or more like our Mohammed of Morocco).
Once we arrived back in Marrakech, we stayed at the Riad Kheirredine, which was absolutely beautiful. Tripadvisor ranks it one of the top 10 riads in Marrakech. A riad is basically a town house built around a central courtyard with plants and a fountain. Riad Kheirredine is near the Medina and is owned by a lovely Italian woman; she made sure that our stay was wonderful. They also provided us with an escort to walk us wherever we wanted to go, because no cars are allowed in the Medina. It was very inexpensive – our room was only $150 a night. We also had breakfast on the rooftop every morning!
What were some of your favorite experiences in Marrakech? Wandering the Medina, and the labyrinth of souks (alley upon alley of small retail cubicles) that surrounded it. There were many colorful shops selling textiles, spices, leather goods, etc.! The prices were negotiable and it was interesting to haggle with the vendors.
And, we loved the Majorelle Garden (Jardin Majorelle) – such vibrant colors throughout – mediterranean blue, yellow, red, with many succulents throughout the garden. And the museum was such a testament to Yves Saint Laurent, his art and designs, and his thoughtful restoration of the palace and garden. We could sense the pride and respect the Moroccan people had for this talented and acclaimed frenchman, who clearly loved Morocco immensely. He created a home here, and chose it to be his final resting place.
We also visited La Mamounia which is just outside Marrakech. The gardens there are absolutely gorgeous, and we had tea at the poolside restaurant.
Another highlight was visiting the Badi Palace built by Sultan Mansour in the 1600’s. Today it is a ruin, but it was interesting to visit it and imagine the grandeur of the palace in it’s heyday.
Did you bring a favorite trinket back? Where did you find it?
I bought a few things – jewelry, fabric totes, etc. I bought a really beautiful pillow that’s in my living room… I found it in a little shop while we were wandering the streets of Marrakech. The shop was full of beautiful textiles – I wanted to bring them all home!
Would you go back? Absolutely! But there are many other places I haven’t seen, which I want to visit before returning to Morocco.
What would you do differently next time? I would want to stay at Richard Branson’s hotel in the Atlas Mountains – Kasbah Tamadot (about 45 minutes outside of Marrakech). It is colorful, serene, with amazing views and flower petals scattered throughout. We spent an afternoon there and it was exquisite.
Where are you off to next, Judi? I’m going to Ibiza with Jaime and Rafael in a few months – it’s going to be fabulous!
Other Musts in Marrakech
Shopping (beyond the souks)
Atika (no website – 34 Rue de La Liberte)