Until recently Le Jardin Secret, one-time home to some of Morocco’s most prolific political figures, was off-limits to travelers. An exquisite example of Islamic architecture and art, this grand riad laid dormant for half a century, its former glory fading amongst the bustle of the medina. In 2016, after a lengthy restoration program, it finally opened its doors to the public. It’s an apt way to begin our Marrakech tour, providing a sound introduction to the Moroccan way of life (albeit on a grander scale than most local homes!). There are two gardens to explore, the ‘exotic’ garden which is home to plant species from all over the world and the more typical ‘Islamic’ garden whose purpose was to provide an oasis of peace and respite from the blazing African sun. The beautifully maintained grounds were inspired by a Koranic verse: “He will reward them for what they endured with a garden [in Paradise].” There’s a tower here too (one of the last of its kind in the city) that boasts spell-binding views of the bustling medina below and of the iconic minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque. After our introduction to Moroccan life at Le Jardin Secret, we will stop at the Al Nour Association to find out more about the inspirational project they run that provides local women, all of whom live with a disability, with the skills they need to take care of themselves and their families.
We’ll chat to some local vendors here and learn a little about the mystifying products they sell.
His photographs are available alongside antique, vintage and upcycled items that dazzle with color. All your preconceived notions about Moroccan restaurants with their Arabian Nights fantasy of candlelit lanterns and belly dancers are turned on their head with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor that sets this place apart from the rest. Mint tea is practically compulsory for all Moroccan tour itineraries, so we will enjoy a refreshing glass in the cafe. Feeling suitably refreshed, our shopping spree continues at Chabi Chic, where the pottery, jewelry and clothing all have a hippie vibe. The store opened several years ago with the creation of a line of dishes that featured long-established Moroccan patterns and stripes, handmade by Moroccan craftsmen. Since then, the store has expanded its collection to include unusual and beautiful re-purposed kitchen items such as water carafes that have been transformed into vases and ceramic trays that have morphed into soap holders. If you’re on the hunt for the perfect kaftan, Topolina, a store owned by a French designer with an “exquisite eye for color” (according to Vogue) features chic designs, plus shoes and other luxurious apparel for men and women. There will be time to make purchases in all the stores that we visit, should you wish to do so. After a busy morning of sightseeing and shopping, we will satisfy our appetite with a traditional lunch. This won’t be just any lunch mind you; rather than taking you to a restaurant, we want you to experience true Moroccan hospitality and home cooking, so we will take you to a riad in the center of town to enjoy a freshly prepared feast with a local family.
Aside from the main dish, which could be tagine, cous cous or lamb with prunes and almonds, most home cooking in Morocco includes a delightful abundance of interesting side dishes and, of course, the ubiquitous mint tea, prepared in an elaborate ceremony. As we eat, we’ll get to know the family and learn more about their life in Marrakesh. New York Times Reading List: T City Guides: Marrakesh Morocco’s D.I.Y. Dance Crews How Much Do You Know About Morocco? In Morocco, Exploring the Remnants of Jewish History At the YSL Museum in Morocco, Clothes Aren’t the Only Highlight Queen Elizabeth I’s Islam (book review)