Once upon a time, I travelled to Morocco to attend the wedding of a dear old friend and decided to make an adventure out of it… Whilst traveling through this versatile country I felt truly inspired by the colours, patterns and shapes of Moroccan design.
My methods of travel were somewhat unconventional and included ‘Chauffeur’ driven cars, buses and camels. Although I did not quite make it to Tombouctou, I travelled from Casablanca to Rabat, across the Atlas mountains, through the Sahara desert and eventually to Marrakech.
The impressions I gathered during that trip were nothing short of phenomenal – the variety of landscapes, architecture, colours, scents and tastes were simply spectacular and the hospitality of the people delightful. The three-day wedding celebration alone was a fairytale and not only so, because we got invited to the Prince’s Palace, who threw us a party… (honestly!)
Most importantly though, I fell head over heals – no, it’s not what you’re thinking (though I had at least 5 marriage proposals during my trip) – with Moroccan design! There is something magical about it and I particularly fell in love with the Riads and Dars. Ryad is the word for garden in Arabic and it refers to a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an enclosed garden, divided into four sectors often around a central fountain or swimming pool. Dar literally translates into house or circle and is somewhat smaller with an open-air patio within. Both are archaic buildings, reminding us of a circular nomadic camp. The thick outer walls and the shade of the trees in the interior garden, allow you to escape the heat and noise from the streets. Typically, Riads are found inside of the Medina (the old town), which is a maze of narrow, serpentine streets, an adventure in itself for someone without any sense of directions like myself! More often than not, the entrance to a Riad is very discreet, a plain door, which is easily overlooked. However, once you enter through that door, it feels as if you have crossed into another world – a world full of magic!
Walking into the courtyard is a feast for the senses – arcades with intricate architectural details, colourful mosaics, the scent of orange blossoms and the soft purling from the water fountain. Moroccan design at its best!
Wherever you look in Morocco you see colours and patterns and when it comes to arts & crafts, it seems as if every single person in Morocco is an artist. There is such a great variety of talent and a seemingly endless amount of beautiful decorative items, which makes you wish you had brought a bigger suitcase! The mandatory visit to the souq (local market) is yet another exhilirating experience for all your senses. I thoroughly enjoyed smelling the spices, tasting traditional delicacies, trying on a pair of balgha (moroccan slippers), admiring the lanterns and other decorative items and above all marvelling and touching the wonderful fabrics!
Even though a complete Moroccan scheme may not be suitable in a Western environment, I think that the addition of one piece of furniture, a mirror or lantern or maybe some cushions covered in beautiful Moroccan fabric, will not only personalise your space, but also add some of that 1001 nights’ magic to it.
To finish my Moroccan tale, I would like to tell you a little anecdote… As I was walking about the small town of Zagora, the starting point of my 3 nights tour through the desert, I stepped into a carpet shop. Like most people, I had heard of the infamous carpet sellers in Morocco, but figured it was worth the cultural experience. The moment I walked in I felt as if I had entered the womb of some large creature. All sounds were absorbed by the vast number of carpets on the floor, the walls and stacked up in piles. With a big grin on his face, the shop owner rushed towards me and quickly offered me a cup of the customary Moroccan mint tea. Even though I had no intention of purchasing any kind of carpet, after all I was travelling with a bagpack, I decided to go with the flow. I was led into the ancient world of carpet making, told the family history of this particular carpet maker and served lots and lots of tea. I completely lost track of time and honestly, cannot remember how long I was in that shop. What I do remember though is that only, when I was about to hand over my credit card to purchase 2 large sized carpets, that a voice in my head went off: ‘Hey, what on earth are you doing?’ Mumbling some excuse, I literally made a run for the door, wondering whether I had been drugged, was on a sugar rush (Moroccan tea is served very sweet) or I simply (nearly) fell prey to one of those infamous carpet sellers in Morocco…
I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventures and the magic of Moroccan design and feel inspired to re-decorate your home, head over to Morocco or both!
BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS (USA)*
If you enjoyed reading about the Riads and would like to learn more about Moroccan architecture and design, I can highly recommend Villas and Courtyard Houses of Morocco, if you simply want to get some inspiration, check out this little book Morocco Style and for those who would like to venture into the culinary world of Moroccan spices and flavours take a look at Morocco: A Culinary Journey with Recipes from the Spice-Scented Markets of Marrakech to the Date-Filled Oasis of Zagora
BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS (UK)*
If you enjoyed reading about the Riads and would like to learn more about Moroccan architecture and design, I can highly recommend Villas and Courtyard Houses of Morocco, if you simply want to get some inspiration, check out this little book Morocco Style and for those who would like to venture into the culinary world of Moroccan spices and flavours take a look at Morocco: A Culinary Journey with Recipes from the Spice-scented Markets of Marrakech to the Date-filled Oasis of Zagora
P.S. Have you seen Pharell Williams’ Happy (we are from Marrakech) yet?
*The above are personal recommendations with affiliate links