TRAVEL STORY | July 28, 2023 | Author: Sylvia C. Braga
A Feast for the Senses
Recently we packed our bags for what would be a brief trip to the East Coast. Once there, the trip quickly turned into an impromptu three-month adventure traveling around the world. Our trip began with over a month shopping and eating our way through Portugal, Spain, Belgium, and Italy. This trip to Europe was certainly an unforgettable one, but I’ve always wanted to explore somewhere other than our usual vacation destinations of Europe and Asia; and when we were in Europe, we found $19 one way tickets from Porto, Portugal to Marrakech, Morocco and decided this was our sign to finally explore the mysterious and enchanting Marrakech that we've seen in movies and magazines -- a completely different culture, country, and continent than we've been accustomed vacationing to. The allure of the ancient city, its historic architecture, handwoven textiles, and painted pottery and earthenware, was enough for our design-loving family to book our trip to Marrakech on a whim and board a red-eye to the Red City a couple days later. So then, “ what to wear?” I asked. (read more)
ROMANTIC RUCHED MIDI DRESS
Add a bit of playful flare with this midi dress that packs plenty of style from day to night. The midi length and covered shoulders ensures you remain respectful of the local customs of Marrakech, while keeping you cool enough under the Moroccan sun. The solid earth tone is an homage to the desert landscape and gives this midi the perfect backdrop for eye-catching accessories. Pair it with a printed multi-color purse and espadrilles to capture the playful spirit of summer.
DRAMATIC DRAPED EVENING GOWN
While in the privacy of your riad or resort, you'll be comfortable enough to show a bit more skin. Pull out all the drama with this elegantly draped gown that's perfect for a moonlit dinner show or evening affair. The flirty cutouts accentuates the feminine figure and silhouette. The satin silk glimmers in the candle light and decorative lanterns that are quintessentially Moroccan. Paired with show-stopping accessories, heels, and a clutch purse completes the look.
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I was reminded of the conservative attire that is culturally and traditionally the norm in Marrakech, but that's all I knew before we arrived. I assured myself that it would be okay to wear what I normally wear while traveling and then on the second day observe what other tourists were wearing and shop for the rest of my attire in Morocco.
The flight from Porto, Portugal to Marrakech, Morocco, was a brief and comfortable one-hour flight. When we left Porto, it was a brisk and chilly, rainy evening and our hotel porter was so kind to wait past his shift to prepare our luggage and pack it into a private shuttle and drive us to the airport at 10 PM. When we landed and arrived past midnight in Marrakech, we didn't know what to expect. In the airport, we took a picture in front of the “Welcome to Morocco” sign. Once we stepped foot out of the airport, we were met with the warm desert air and dark night sky. We shed our cozy coats that kept us warm throughout our travels in Europe while we looked for our driver who we hired ahead of time to pick us up. It took us a few minutes to find the sign with our name and pick our driver out from the thick crowd of others waiting for their guests outside the arrivals gate. I was excited to see where my family booked us to stay, knowing their preference for five-star resorts.
The transport to our accommodations was one of the most thrilling and memorable experiences we had on our entire trip. As soon as our driver turned out from the airport and onto the village streets of Marrakech, we felt like characters on the set of an action adventure movie. We began to worry as the bright lights of the airport were replaced with the darkness of night that enveloped us as we drove farther and farther away from the light. Arabic music blasted from the radio of our shuttle van. The paved street of the airport quickly turned into a rocky, sandy gravel non-descript road that made us and our luggage bob up and down in our seats. We saw no sign of modern civilization or tourists along our way, except for sinister, narrow alley ways, motorbikes, old wagons and pushcarts with donkeys, stray cats, unfamiliar four-legged animals, and people covered in all black from head to toe. All street signs and billboards were in Arabic — a language we wished we had at least a basic handle of (at the time) before touching down in this foreign country. When Google Maps couldn’t even find us on their GPS, that’s when we became even more worried.
We then suddenly came upon tall, thick walls that looked like an ancient fortress and an imposing gate that eerily opened upon our arrival. We later learned that the Medina is surrounded by tall, thick solid walls known as the "old city" and our riad was in the center of it. I asked my family, “where in the world are we going? This doesn’t look like the Ritz!” They told me they booked us a traditional Moroccan riad so we could fully immerse ourselves in the authentic, local culture of Marrakech.
After a short ride, the driver stopped in the middle of a dark and desolate narrow alley and placed our luggage on the sandy path. He said the night watchman of our riad would meet us to lead us the rest of the way to our riad. We then saw a skinny figure approach us through the darkness and got even more worried. Was this the man that our driver was talking about or someone else? It was obvious that we were tourists and with no businesses in sight or other foreigners around, we thought anything could happen. We looked around us to see what path we should take in case we needed to make a run for it. But, little did we know then, the Medina is notorious for being a complex maze that not even Google Maps can contend with. We put all faith in God and began to pray.
The figure approaching us turned out to be the night guard who led us down the foreboding, narrow path and to an old, hand-carved wooden door inlayed with gold and silver details. When he opened the door, we were shocked and surprised to see a beautiful, serene, and tranquil courtyard romantically lit by hanging lanterns, sconces, and the midnight stars above (pictured below). The calming ambiance was a complete sensory shift from the ancient Arabic village scene and secluded desert landscape we experienced along the way. For the next few days, our riad served as a peaceful respite and safe haven from the chaos and sensory overload of the Medina and souks. (read more)
INK PRINTED MAXI DRESS
This printed maxi is the perfect piece for a day exploring the souks. Wear it with a carry-all straw bag, matching straw hat, a pair of sandals, and our favorite square frame sunnies to stay chic and comfy all day long.
SMOCKED PRINTED KAFTAN DRESS
This breezy kaftan dress is a stylish addition to your summer wardrobe. Crafted from lightweight fabric, the smocked waist and wrap detail create a flattering silhouette that will flatter any figure. The vibrant hues and print make this smock dress perfect for lounging in style in your riad. Accessorize with jewelry to complete the look.
GOLD LEAF PETAL DROP EARRINGS
These gold-tone drop earrings featuring faux pearls elevates any outfit. Versatile and chic, the gold-tone and iridescent pearls resemble the ornate, handmade nature of Moroccan architectural details. These pair perfectly with this cape dress.
As it turns out, we did a lot of the things you're not supposed to do on our first trip to Marrakech (like visiting the tannery, following a "street guide", and paying with a card in the souks). But, all in all, we learned a lot and look forward to visiting again to explore all the wonders of this enchanting city. For an authentic Moroccan experience, staying in a riad is our number one recommendation. Don't let the chaos of the local culture and confusing maze of the Medina keep you from exploring the captivating architecture and plentiful heritage that the Red City has to offer. It may certainly come as a shock to you at first sight, but once you get past the first impressions and are armed with tips on how to enjoy your first trip to Morocco, you'll want to come back to explore even more. What is important to remember is that while Morocco and Marrakech, in particular, has grown in popularity among foreign tourists, respecting local customs is expected; and though the Moroccan sun can be a scorcher in the summer, your outfits should err on the side of caution and modesty when in public (especially outside the privacy of your riad or hotel). On our next trip, we'll be packing our bags with the outfits in this post.
If you plan on visiting for your first time, it would be wise to travel with a group and/or a trusted, reputable tour guide familiar with all the local customs. For more information and insight on what not to do when visiting Marrakech, we recommend reading this article. There is a lot of conflicting information when it comes to traveling in Marrakech, but we found the info in the linked article to be accurate of the experience we had as first-timers in Morocco. A lot of what's covered in the article is what we experienced first hand and helpful information like that above and from trusted friends with recent experience like us, will help your trip to Marrakech go smoothly. For additional recommendations and travel tips, feel free to contact me! Happy and safe travels!
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