In February of 2017 my husband and I took a trip to Morocco. We met up with my cousin and her husband who both work for the State Department and were based in Africa at the time. Morocco has been calling to me for a while and boy did it exceed my expectations. I came away from the trip so inspired by the colors, textiles, patterns, and craftsmanship on display in every direction. It's like walking around in a real-life Pinterest board with all of the most incredible products and design right up in your face. As overwhelming as the sensory overload can be, Morocco is an extremely welcoming place and I found it very easy to be a tourist there. I'll go back as soon as I can justify it!
From the airport in Casablanca we took the train to Fez for a few nights. It's the perfect first stop in Morocco - an ancient, maze-like city steeped in tradition and yet small enough that it's (relatively) easy to navigate. We stayed at Riad Rcif which is like the inside of jewel box - every surface is covered in mosaics. While dizzying, the patterns are small scale so the overall effect is calming, which could also be thanks to the fountain in the central courtyard.
Because my cousin had stayed at Riad Rcif on a previous trip with her mom, they really treated us like family, though Moroccan hospitality is always very warm. Our first day, the Riad set us up with a guide for a walking tour which was a great choice for an introduction to the city while coping with jetlag. We followed our guide through the narrow winding streets and saw some examples of traditional craftsmanship - rug weaving and leather tanning.
We also visited Poterie de Fes, a ceramics studio and gallery a little outside of the city. While it's definitely a place catering mainly to tourists, getting to see the artisans hand painting ceramics and assembling mosaics is well worth it. Their skill is truly exceptional.
I love this collection of mosaic shapes and colors. Every perfect little piece is chipped by hand.
To make a big mosaic table top, they first lay out the intricate patterns by hand, face down. This means that if you put the wrong color in the wrong spot you won't know until the table is finished, but apparently it's easy to fix. Next they lay a metal frame over the design and pour in concrete to hold the pieces in place. I can't imagine how much work it takes to make a large, complicated design and yet mosaics are everywhere in Morocco. So much patience and attention to detail!
From Fez we took a taxi to Chefchouen, an insanely photogenic town in the mountains. The walls of the city are painted shades of periwinkle, either to deter mosquitos or to welcome Jews fleeing Hitler, depending on whom you ask. We stayed at Casa Perleta, another excellent choice by my cousin. It's impossible to take a photo of Chefchaouen that captures all the magic, but it's also impossible to take a bad photo so you're good either way.
A popular souvenir from Chefchaouen is dried pigment - vibrant bags of it are all over the place.
Like every city in Morocco, shaggy rugs with patterns as bananas-awesome as this one are waiting for you around every corner. Also, baskets covered in colorful pom poms definitely started in this country. I haven't done the research, but I feel fairly certain pom poms and tassels started In Morocco in general.
The colors on these little woven basket containers are nuts and I could not commit to just one, so I didn't get any. After returning to New York I saw some of these for sale in Bergdorf Goodman for a very different kind of price. I learned that if you see something you love in Morocco, buy it and figure out the suitcase situation afterwards, because it's way more expensive everywhere else.
This is the city in Morocco that did it for me. A seaside town with a glamorous past, a hop and skip away from Europe yet with a medina packed with treasures - it totally blew me away. Not least because we stayed in the most jaw-droppingly stunning home, Dar Tus, with an incredible host who took me on the shopping trip of a lifetime. Dar Tus fulfills all my wildest dreams about what a home can look like and every corner has some clever touch that only a french woman living in Tangier could have thought up.
The rugs - the tiles - the furniture - the rooftop terrace - the built in storage! It all made me blurry with heart-eyes. I want to move back this instant, learn french, and leach every ounce of style from Marie-Laure, our host, who not only designed this home but, naturally, always looked impeccable (she's a designer whose line, Au Fil de Tangier, is available at the cute concept store Las Chicas). And she took me on a whirlwind stylist's tour of Tangier, showing me corners and goods I never would have discovered on my own.
The place where I did the most damage on Marie-Laure's tour is the weaver's market - Fondouk Chejra. The building, somewhat difficult to stumble upon, has an interior courtyard lined with weaver's stalls. They make blankets, shawls, table linens, robes, bathmats, etc. The patterns (stripes! pom poms! pom pom stripes!) and colors are crazy good and unlike anything I've ever seen before. It's all made by hand on creaky wooden looms, running nonstop as you browse the wares. I definitely needed my suitcase expansion.
Some more treasure from Marie-Laure's home - this adorable tea handle cover and this incredible corkscrew. And those rugs!
Another place in Tangier oozing with style is the Hotel Nord-Pinus. We had dinner here and went back for a drink on their amazing terrace the next day. I'm still quite obsessed with this gridded pom pom throw over a trunk in the bar:
Tangier does not disappoint in the eye candy category. Wandering around the old medina there are plenty of charming doorways and facades, and some Chefchaouen-esque blues. If I could only revisit one city in Morocco again, Tangier would be the one.
Our final stop in Morocco was Marrakech. By far the most sprawling, dynamic of the places we visited, Marrakech requires just a little bit of perseverance to get around without getting run over by a motorcycle and discover what's hiding behind the unassuming exteriors. But it does reward the diligent!
An easy win for vibrant colors and spectacular succulents is Yves San Laurent's Jardin Majorelle. His former home in Marrakech is a relaxing oasis from the dusty, busy streets. There's now a museum devoted to him which was just about to open when we visited - for sure will be a must see for the next trip.
Outside of Marrakech are a number of rug cooperatives where you can acquire the beni ourain (shaggy wool with squiggly lines) or boucherouite (colorful rags in fun patterns) of all your dreams, but there are plenty of vendors in the city center as well. I also love browsing the options available online at the Anou.
Another oasis worth visiting is Le Jardin Secret, a gorgeous botanical garden right in the midst of all the chaos.
My favorite spot for a bite in Marrakech is La Famille, a vegetarian cafe and design shop. I love their logo of many hands and the cozy courtyard setting. It's also conveniently located near the Badii Palace, an awesomely ruined palace worth exploring. When we went the iconic storks of Marrakech were nesting all over it. They're incredibly elegant birds.
I would say at least a quarter of my photos from the trip are of stunning tile work. The hand painted ones always called out to me, as well the incredible mosaic patterns.
Morocco completely seduced me. All of the images, smells, and sounds are burned in my brain. Two weeks is certainly not enough time and I hope I'm lucky enough to spend more of mine there.