We’ve been exploring the secret side of Marrakech, with a buying trip that took us to the heart of the Medina, into beautiful private homes and to a few wonderful places to eat and drink too. When we’re searching for unique homewares we find that insider knowledge is essential to finding the sort of one-off items that we love the best, so for this trip we worked with Marc and Veronique, two Belgian photographers who moved to Marrakech three years ago.
For the first two years they lived inside the Medina, so their insight into where to go was second to none. Although the main market held little for us, we did discover a tiny corner where traditional pieces like stools, palm-leaf baskets and lemon tree spoons are not only sold but still made. Traditional items being crafted by hand is always such a privilege, and we were reminded of the local superstition that anything truly perfect is bad luck. The belief that there is value and humanity in slight imperfections chimes perfectly with our own philosophy about what makes objects special.
Our hosts also offered us the opportunity to visit an unrenovated riad owned by friends, which was once home to three families. This visit again seemed to encapsulate some of the mysterious magic that infuses Marrakech, a place where, amid the hubub, an ancient door can lead you into another world of peace and beauty. The most incredible thing about the riad houses is that as soon as you enter you are cocooned in calming silence. We were also struck by the sensitivity towards colour and design that you find at every turn in Marrakech. The whole city felt as though it was swathed in rose pink – imperfectly painted of course.
At a tiny antique shop we met a man who advised us that our search would be better conducted in the countryside than in the bustling city. We picked up a few pieces from him, but vowed to take his advice. We are already planning a return to this multi-faceted, enchanting country, and hope our knowledge of it deepens with every subsequent trip.
Where we stayed
La Villa des Orangers 6, Rue Sidi Mimoun, Place Ben Tachfine, 40000 Marrakech
A 1930s riad house that has been restored by skilled local craftsmen, the décor and atmosphere of this hotel was a restful tonic after a hard day on the buying trail. The rooms sit around a tranquil central garden, linked by a network of fountained patios and carved archways. Perfect for exploring, the hotel sits at the foot of the Koutoubia mosque and halfway between the Royal Palace and buzzing Jemaâ El Fna Square.
Where we ate
Nomad 1 Derb Aarjan. Marrakech Medina
Deliciously unpretentious, this restaurant serving local and European cuisine with a Moroccan twist was a great place to recharge and escape the souks for an hour or so. Decorated in a chic 1950s style, the two terraces offer views over the Spice Square, the Kotoubia and the Atlas Mountains.
Le Jardin 32 Souk Sidi Abdelaziz. Marrakech Medina
A perfect example of calm awaiting behind a heavy door, this 16th century building is an oasis within the Medina’s busy labyrinth of streets. The setting is a lush garden where you can enjoy cocktails and a mix of European and Moroccan cuisine. Our tip is to go at night, when the lamp-lit terraces are perfect for lounging.
La Famille 42, Riad Zitoun Jdid, Marrakech
A lunchtime-only venue, this restaurant offers tranquillity in the form of a Mediterranean-style garden, serving fresh local food that is all vegetarian. Shady outside seating makes this an ideal stop-off mid-shop – and there is also a small shop on-site selling elegantly simple local craft and homewares.
Photography Credit: Véronique Schotte Photography