Morocco is sew hawt right now – confirmed by the DailyMail (Bible) being suffocated with ‘razzi pics of celebs chilling in the souks. Twenty Fifteen is the year of Marrakesh – ask Vicky B/David/Millie Mackintosh/The Whitmore et al. Of course I was there pre DVB’s 40th, leading the trend in early 2015.
In need of some winter rays on my sun deprived bod, I chilled with the Alladin’s of the world back in January. Going to Marrakesh is like stepping back in time – overwhelmingly so to begin with. We’re talking snake charmers, ancient ruins, and intoxicatingly bazaars. But once you dry your eyes it’s the most magical city ever.
Obviously it’s guaranteed sunshine – (TIA bru- This is Afrikka) , but it’s so much more than just a sun holiday. It’s a given you’ll hang in the souks and see the local attractions – the Koutoubia Mosque, YSL gardens etc… But the two highlights of my trip were neither the sunshine nor the sightseeing, but (1) a traditional cookery class and (2) hiking the Atlas Mountains.
I’m a major foodie – always the highlight of any travelling is the food glorious food consumed. How and ever, I was not feeling the Moroccan cousine – a tad too rich and sweet for my liking. I recall ordering a traditional Marrakesh dinner – a shredded chicken pie. Delicious… minus the thick layer of icing sugar slathered on the top. Yes, icing sugar. I’ve the biggest sweet tooth known to man but even for me that was a fail.
The staff in our beautiful riad recommended a cookery course in a nearby hotel, as a way of experiencing the North African culture. Always wanting to brush up my wifey skills, I was loving the notion. And so off to ‘Le Maison Arabe’ we trotted.
If only to experience this beautiful riad, the cookery class worth it. It’s a stunning five star hotel dripping with decadence. The workshop is conducted by a dada (traditional Moroccan cook – think large, stern Mama!) and a college professor (random but entertaining) who provides you with constant historical facts about Marrakesh.
I’m decidedly amateur when it comes to whisking up exotic cuisine, and it was honestly such a funny way to pass an afternoon. The classes are intimate, with only six students in total – myself, my boyfriend who can’t boil water, an older, hilarious American husband and wife, and a fiercely competitive snobby couple from Chelsea. A total come dine with me scenario!
We cooked chicken tagine with various traditional sides, and also baked flatbreads from scratch, all of which tasted delicious. I am now also skilled in producing 3D edible roses from tomato skins, which if always handy for the resume. Winning!
The absolute pinnacle of my Moroccan experience though was trekking the Atlas Mountains. And by trek I mean a one day excursion. It is physically quite strenuous though, and I definitely skidded down the rocky terrine on more than one occasion. Que my pervy local guide holding me by my hips chanting ‘Let me be your magic carpet’… A whole new world style. We were obviously there in winter, and so the mountains were still laced with snow and ice. The scenery is just stunning.
It’s an incredible experience, observing the berber people resisting the cosmopolitan ways of Marrakesh and repelling electricity and running water. It’s a land of mud brick huts, where monkeys rome free and I ‘found myself’ at one with nature. ‘Finding myself’ normally happens every time I experience a new land – I’m instantly making plans to move there ASAP etc. It usually wears off after one day though… Two max. I love my makeup too much.
On that note, I found the most incredible moisturiser on my travels. En route to Ourika Valley, we made a pitstop at ‘Arom Mantagne’ – a traditional Moroccan pharmacy, complete with medicinal gardens. It was a bit gimmicky to be honest, definitely not an authentic traditional pharmacy, what with tourist busloads checking in. However, I am OBSESSED with foreign pharmacies, and could spend forever browsing the shelves.
I digress – I was drawn to this beautiful rose face cream – drawn to it as it was abnormally expensive in comparison to the pharmacy’s other stock. (The cost escapes my mind – it was totally affordable by Irish standards, but maybe twenty euro in a shop full of two euro buys.)
Obviously upon my return to Dublin, I completely forgot about said moisturiser, (along with the argon oil and hamsa souvenirs). I rediscovered it a few weeks ago, and have fallen head over heels. It’s the most beautifully scented day cream, and is so light in the tub it’s almost like a souffle. It’s paraben free, super hydrating and melts into the skin in seconds. I’ve been using it daily ever since, and it instantly brightens up my morning skincare ritual – the fragrance can’t help but cheer me up. So if you’re in the area, check ‘Arom Montagne’ out!
On a final note, I stayed in Riad Kheirredine, and can’t sing its praises loudly enough. It’s a very small hotel, with homely guest house vibes, (but a guest house with a rooftop terrace and exotic courtyards.) The staff are insanely helpful – like embarrassingly so, and they have a beautiful spa where you can get an amazing Turkish bath and massage. Bliss!