Saturday, 25 May 2013

Morocco Part 1: Medina Living

Last week I flew out to Marrakech with a big gaggle of friends to attend a 2 day wedding celebration. Not people to do anything by halves, we decided to hire a villa in Essaouira after the main event, which the bride and groom joined us in. Essentially, I've just come back from my first honeymoon (one of many to come I'm sure...). For now, this is where we stayed and how we lived in Marrakech. I absolutely loved everything about our little marradise, where events seemed to pass through a sepia soft-focus lens as we drifted in and out of markets into spas and back into the recluse of refreshingly cool riads. 

We stayed in two separate riads in Marrakech, both in the Medina (the old town). Here's our little alleyway down to the first.

A riad (if you don't know) is the name of the building structure most common in Morocco. It means that the building has an open atrium in the centre to let in a pool of light and air without any of the heat of the sun. The many floors are arrived at by narrow mahogany staircases which lead eventually onto open rooftop.

Riad Rita is owned by the charming Ahmed (details here). He was so helpful and kind, throughout our stay. When I go back I'm guaranteed to head straight to his at £180 for a double room for three nights. The riad was light and spacious, with an external courtyard as well as the signature open top atrium. Our room had no airconditioning, but was the coolest (in temperature), most tranquil space to rest our sore heads after two nights of wedding parties. 

Not to mention, the breakfast setting where we were served steaming mugs of hot coffee to accompany the Moroccan traditional breakfast of oven baked flatbread dripping in honey. Look what a happy bunny I was.

So we arrived the day before the festivities kicked off and went straight to the Henna Cafe (also in the Medina) to get ourselves appropriately decorated as tradition requires. We chose our patterns from a book whilst a little heady from too much Moroccan mint tea (they make theirs with gunpowder green tea, fresh mint and a whole lotta sugar).

The second riad we stayed in belongs to Livvy's aunt, so sadly you can't stay there. It was absolutely beautiful though and a brilliant example of European meets Moroccan interior design. It has been featured in a lot of design magazines in the past for its gorgeous stained glass features and imported portico.

One of the loveliest things about Marrakech is the view over the rooftops that you can get from almost any vantage point in the city. There's something so soothing about looking out at dusk, when you can hear the clatter of saucepans in neighbouring riads, babies crying and cats and dogs in the streets. The call to prayer also happens around this time, so we would go onto the rooftop and wait in anticipation for the haunting sound to fill the streets as the sun faded. 

More on what to do and see in Marrakech to follow.