Category Archives: Morocco

Ben Youssef Madrasa Marrakech

The Ben Youssef Madrasa was the largest Islamic theological college in Morocco.  It was founded in the 14th century by the Marinid Sultan Abu al-Hassan and further developed by Sultan Abdallah al-Ghalib in the 16th century in order to rival the madrasas of Fez.

It’s a wonderful example of Moorish architecture, with its carved Atlas cedar windows and wooden lattice screen balconies, five colour zellij tiling, stucco designs on the walls and a marble mihrab, which indicated the direction of Mecca.

The main courtyard (below) is breathtakingly ornate and features a large filled basin of shallow water in the centre.  The college is no longer in use but there were once students residing in the 132 dorm rooms arranged around the courtyard.  In stark contrast to the inscriptions and patterned stucco and colourful tiling on the exterior walls the dorm rooms are small and spartan (final photograph).

Ben Youssef Madrasa

Ben Youssef Madrasa
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Plasterwork-Ben-Youssef-Maud-interiors

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Ben Youssef Madrasa

My advice is to visit the Ben Youssef Madrasa when it opens at 8am before it gets too busy and before the sun becomes too bright to take photos of the courtyard.  Click here for directions.

If you visit the Madrasa I also recommend that you visit the Maison de la Photographie and see the wonderful collection of old photos of Morocco as it is nearby.  Click here for directions.

For other suggestions on what to see and do in Marrakech click on Morocco on the right hand side of this blog.

Moroccan Wedding Blankets

Vintage Moroccan wedding blankets, also known as handira or tamizart, have been popular with interior designers and stylists for some time.  The neutral colour palette of the blankets makes them an extremely versatile addition to a bedroom or sitting room.  They add elegance, texture, pattern, glamour and sparkle and can be used in a variety of ways: as a coverlet or footer on a bed, over the back of a sofa or a chair, as a stylish headboard, a casual throw or as a wall hanging.  Have a look at the Pinterest board below for some ideas on how you can use wedding blankets in your home.  Scroll down the Pinterest board with your mouse to see all the images.

Hand Woven By The Mother Of The Bride For Her Wedding Day

There are different types wedding blanket in Morocco.  The cream and white variety comes from the mid Atlas mountains where they are hand-woven by the mother of the bride and her female relatives in preparation for her wedding day. They are woven from local wool and cotton in a natural palette of cream and white and can take several weeks or months to complete.  Each piece is unique and reflects the skill and creativity of the weaver.  Many blankets feature bands of kilim weaving, sometimes concealed by cotton fringing on the front but visible on the back.  These coloured kilim bands often contain talismanic symbols conveying the hopes of the bride’s mother for her future prosperity, fertility and happiness.

 

Each sequin is sewn on by hand.  The sequins form small clusters or rows or both and are said to ward off the evil eye.  It’s also possible that their similarity to small coins is intended to symbolise future wealth.  They also reflect the light whether it’s the light of the fire in the evening or daylight sun.

 

The blankets are worn like capes either over the head or around the shoulders and tied at the neck.  They are traditionally worn by the bride on her journey to her husband’s home.  After the marriage they are used as bed or wall coverings to decorate the marital home.

Our stock of vintage Moroccan wedding blankets is constantly changing but you can see a selection below.

Moroccan wedding blankets

Photos: Kristy Noble and Dave Bullivant

You can see our full range of vintage Moroccan wedding blankets here and our range of cushions from vintage Moroccan wedding blankets here.  We think that as well as adding glamour to your home they would make a wonderful wedding present.

Le Jardin Secret Marrakech

Marrakech’s Secret Garden

Tucked away behind 30 foot walls on Rue Mouassine in the Medina is Le Jardin Secret, Marrakech’s Secret Garden.  It’s a place to escape the hustle and bustle of the medina and take refuge in the tranquil courtyard gardens of one of Marrakech’s largest and oldest riads.

Le Jardin Secret

The Story Behind Le Jardin Secret

There is evidence of a palace on the site of Le Jardin Secret dating back to the reign of Sultan Moulay ‘Abd-Allah al-Galib in the sixteenth century, however what you can see today is the reconstruction of a riad, which was built at the beginning of the nineteenth century by the leader of the Haha tribe, Kaid al-Hajj Ab-Allah U-Bihi.  The kaid subsequently fell out of favour with the Sultan and was poisoned by him.  The last inhabitant of the riad was watchmaker and Chamberlain to the Sultan, Mohammed Loukrissi.  Loukrissi lived in the palatial compound with his three wives and children until his death in 1934.  After his death ownership of the riad was divided up amongst his descendants and it fell into disrepair.

The riad was rediscovered by Lauro Milan, the owner of Cafe Arabe, which stands opposite Le Jardin Secret, and his business partner, Sante Giovanni Albonetti.  They were curious about what lay behind the imposing walls and discovered a shanty town of dwellings on the site of a nineteenth century palace.  After lengthy negotiations with the 130 plus inheritors they purchased the site initially intending to build a hotel but once the shacks were removed and it became clear that this was a site of historical interest the decision was made to restore the riad and the gardens and create a visitor attraction.

The Riad Gardens

Award winning gardener, Tom Stuart Smith, was responsible for the garden design and the planting in the two courtyard gardens.  Both gardens adhere to the original nineteenth century layout but are very different from each other.  The larger of the two, with its strict geometric structure and planting, remains faithful to the Islamic original whilst the smaller, Exotic garden, is a visual mix of sculptural and textural planting and bold bursts of colour using  drought resistant plants which would not have been available in Morocco in the nineteenth century.

The Islamic Garden

The layout of the Islamic garden follows a pattern called the Chahar bagh, meaning fourfold garden.  The earliest example of this style of garden dates back to 500BC in Pasargadae in Iran where the four quarters of the garden were divided by irrigation channels.  Initially this layout was developed to facilitate irrigation however with the rise of Islam in the 7th century this division of the garden into four sections came symbolically to represent the description of paradise in the Koran.

There are four essential elements to an Islamic garden: water for irrigation, which is viewed as a blessing from heaven, shade, the chahar bagh and enclosure; a space separated from the outside, a private paradise.

Le Jardin Secret

Staying true to the traditional design, the most important paths are tiled with terracotta bejmat tiles in a greenish turquoise glaze.  The herringbone pattern and variations of green in the tiles create the illusion of running water.

le jardin secret

In an Islamic garden the planting as well as the garden layout follows a strict format.  The most important trees are the fig, the olive, the date palm and the pomegranate, all of which have religious significance. Tom Stuart Smith has added sweet orange, lemon and argan trees to the mix and planted rosemary, grasses, lavender,  jasmine, tuberose, damask rose, musk rose, Turkish tea sage and grape-vine beneath the trees to create a meadow effect.

Le Jardin Secret

The pavilions surrounding the Islamic garden have been reconstructed using 19th century techniques.  The larger of the two pavilions the Oud el Ward(above), named after one of Loukrissis’ wives features a room with a dome or qubba, which was designed for Loukrissi to receive guests and a 17m tower.  The tower, which is the height of many of the mosque minarets, and the qubba both indicate Loukrissi’s status as does the private hammam which is to the side of the garden.  If you visit make sure to visit the tower as the views from it extend over the city to the Atlas mountains.

Le Jardin Secret

The restored riads feature hand sculpted plasterwork, traditional tadelakt walls and ornate painted wooden ceilings and doors.

Le Jardin Secret

Originally water for the gardens would have come from the Atlas mountains to Marrakech via an underground system of tunnels known as khettaras developed by the Almoravids in the eleventh century.  The water flowed from the mountains to huge tanks in the Agdal and Menara gardens and from there via gravity to the mosques, public water fountains and hammams in the city.  The khettara system hasn’t been in use since the 1950s so an existing well was redug in one corner of the garden and supplies the water for both gardens. The rills and paths and irrigation channels are set above the planted level of the garden so that water can spill over and irrigate the gardens.

Le Jardin Secret

Decorative benches are placed by the fountains so that you can sit, listen to the trickle of water and the birdsong and enjoy the serenity and calm of this elegant garden.

The Exotic Garden

Walk into the Le Jardin Secret from Rue Mouassine and your senses are immediately awakened by the trickle of water along irrigation channels and overspilling from fountains, the modern Moroccan architecture, the birdsong and the splashes of colour, and textural and sculptural designs of the planting in the Exotic garden.  The Exotic garden is the smaller of the two gardens and contains plants from Mexico, South Africa, Brazil, Bolivia, Madagascar, the Canary Islands,  Australia and Mediterranean countries.  The plants are all from semi-arid climates like Morocco and are drought resistant to minimize the need for water.

Le Jardin Secret

Le Jardin Secret

The new pavilion was built on the foundations of an earlier structure but there was no evidence of the riad so the design is modern.  This pavilion provides the concealed entrance to the Islamic garden so you walk from a modern garden with dramatic shapes, texture and pops of colour through to an elegant, structured garden in calming shades of green accompanied by the calming sound of running water.

Le Jardin Secret

A spiky Ceiba tree from South America stands out against the slate grey backdrop of the modern reception building.

Le Jardin Secret

Le Jardin Secret

Le Jardin Secret provides insight into the design, beauty and symbolism of an Islamic garden, the lives of the wealthy in Marrakech in the nineteenth century and the development of Marrakech as a city. It delights with its contrasting courtyard gardens, juxtaposing traditional and modern planting schemes and old and new architecture. If you are planning to visit my advice is to get there early in the day so that you can appreciate the sights before the crowds arrive.

 

How To Find Le Jardin Secret

It can be difficult to navigate the labyrinth of alleys in the medina however, Le Jardin Secret is situated in Rue Mouassine, which is one of the larger thoroughfares.  It is not far from the Mouassine mosque and is opposite the Cafe Arabe so if you ask in the medina for either of those two landmarks you should find it.  I recommend visiting early in the morning and taking a guided tour.   If you are interested in gardens and gardening I also recommend Tom Stuart-Smith’s fascinating guide, which I have referred to for this post.

Maud’s Travels – Marrakech Part 1

 Marrakech Part 1 – Day 1 The Souks

 

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Marrakech is one of my favourite cities. I am drawn to its souks bursting with crafts, the creativity of the artisans, the architecture, the fragrant tagines and sweet, sticky, pastries and its welcoming people.  It’s only a short flight from the UK so it’s the perfect destination for a long weekend and paradise for interior lovers.  This post was originally intended to be my suggestions for a long weekend in Marrakech but there is too much information to share so part one focuses on a day in the souks.

 

The souks are situated in the Medina or old town. They stretch over roughly 20 hectares from the Ben Yousef mosque in the north to the main square, Jemaa-el-Fna in the south. It’s a labyrinth of interconnected alleyways full to bursting with hand-woven carpets, intricate metal lanterns and ironmongery, pungent spices and exotic oils, ceramics, leather bags, poufs and slippers, dried fruits, hand carved furniture and baskets.

carpets MarrakechMoroccan lights Marrakech

Marrakech has historically been a trading hub and as well as handicrafts from other regions, you can also find goods from the Maghreb and sub Saharan Africa.   Indigo fabric from Mali, hand carved wooden doors from Benin, jewellery and ceramics from the nomadic Tuaregs and Kuba cloth from the Congo can all be found within the souks.

 

There are eighteen different souks and most of them are devoted to different trades. You will get lost exploring the maze of lanes but you don’t need a guide.  It’s all part of the experience and the best way to discover new places.  If you do become disoriented or are in a hurry to find something just ask one of the stall holders for directions.

Some of my favourite places to visit are:

Criée Berbère, the carpet souk

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Carpets are sold in many locations in the souks, there are small stalls and three storey riads devoted to them but this is the main area and is situated to one side of Rabha Kdima, the spice market, show in the picture above.

Some tips for buying carpets:

  • Take your time and visit a few places before you make a decision
  • Always ask for a carpet to be held up to the light, as it is easier to detect holes and marks. If it is too dark take the carpet outside and inspect it in natural light
  • Give carpets a good sniff and steer clear of anything with an unpleasant odour as it is likely to be permanent.  That goes for all textiles not just rugs
  • If you are serious about buying a carpet then take a mint tea with your salesman and be prepared to negotiate. There are no fixed prices so bargain hard.

Souk Sebbaghine, the dyers souk

the dyers souk marrakech

You can’t miss this souk as there are always skeins of newly dyed wool in vibrant colours drying overhead in the sun. For a small fee you can see how wool is dyed here.

 

Souk El Haddadine, the blacksmiths souk

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The sound of hammers beating on metal can be heard on approach to the blacksmiths’ souk.  Feast your eyes on lamp stands, beaten metal trays, padlocks, door knockers and ornate candlesticks. Nearby you will find an area specialising in ornate metal lanterns.

One thing to bear in mind if you are buying a lightweight metal lantern is that they don’t travel well. They dent easily and it’s difficult and in some cases impossible to repair them. The best way to transport them is as hand luggage but not all airlines will allow this. My advice is to buy them from one of the larger stalls/shops, as they will be able to pack them securely and arrange shipping.

 

Souk El Khebil

Here you will find woodworkers creating household implements from lemon and orange wood. Chose from handcrafted lemon squeezers, biscuit moulds, honey drizzlers, spoons and ornate kebab sticks. They make great gifts. Note that unlike the carpet souks, where the sellers are agents for the weavers and put a substantial mark up on the carpets, these stall holders are the artisans and the work is labour intensive so the prices are fixed.

 

Terasse Des Epices, Dar Cherifa

Terrasses Des Epices MarrakechMint tea Marrakechterrasse-des-epices-marrakech-maud-interiors

 

When you are footsore, tired of dodging kamikaze motorbike drivers, donkeys, carts and bicycles, and overwhelmed with the choice of beautiful handicrafts take some time out and stop for a mint tea and pastries, or lunch, at Terasses Des Epices in Dar Cherifa. The food is a wonderful Franco-Moroccan fusion, there is a great atmosphere and the mist of water from the roof top sprays will help to cool you down.

After lunch check out the hand-embroidered linens at Scenes Du Lin, the black and white pottery from Fez, and the beldi glasses in Dar Cherifa.

 

Rahba Kdima, the spice market

Spice market MarrakechDried rosebuds Marrakech

 

Mounds of exotic spices, dyes, herbs, fragrant oils, henna, kohl, dried roses and rosewater, savon noir, ghassoul and traditional medicines are sold in this market.

 

Visit A Traditional  Hammam

local hammam Marrakech

 

The best way to relax after a day exploring the souks is to have a traditional hammam. You can go to a public one, some riads offer them, or you can go to one of the large hotels or spas. You can read about my hammam experience and learn how to create your own at home here. Note that you should allow at least two hours for the full experience.

L’Art Du Bain, Souk el Badine

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If you enjoy your hammam experience you can stock up on products at L’Art Du Bain, in Souk el Badine near Souk Sebbaghine. Here you will find argan oil soaps with blends of herbs and flowers like orange blossom. I like the Little Fatima argan oil soap with ghassoul clay and grains, the Savon de Hammam, which is the black soap used for exfoliation in the hammam, and Louise, Louisa argan oil soap with verbena and lemon. All the products are beautifully packaged and make great gifts.

 

Said Argan, Souk El Kemmahhine

For argan oil, said to be rich in anti-ageing properties and anti-oxidants, I recommend Said Argan. It’s a tiny kiosk run by a women’s cooperative at 6 Souk El Kemmahhine near Dar Cherifa, almost opposite the equally tiny beldi glass shop.  Blink and you will miss them. They have a range of argan related beauty products. My favourite is the argan oil with rose.

 

Watch The Entertainment At Jemaa-el-Fna

After a busy day take a pre-dinner stroll through Jemaa-el-Fna,or take in the spectacle of snake charmers, acrobats, musicians and dancers from a cafe overlooking the square.

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Dine At Nomad

For dinner I recommend Nomad, at 1 Derb Aarjan near Rahba Kdima, the spice market, for its cool cocktails, delicious Moroccan cuisine with a modern twist and chic, modern global, interiors.

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Where To Stay

There are thousands of hotels and riads in Marrakech to choose from. I prefer to stay in a riad in the Medina and my favourite place to stay is Riad 72. You can read more about it here.

 

Riad Due Marrakech

Riad Due a hip boutique hotel in the Marrakech Medina

Riad Due is a boutique hotel tucked away in the Marrakech Medina.  It’s a typical Riad set around a courtyard with rooms facing inward but it has been elegantly restored and decorated by Italian owner Giovanna Cinel, who also owns Riad 72.  The Riad has four very spacious, luxurious, bedrooms and can sleep up to twelve.  It’s the perfect place for a private get together or celebration.  For lovers of Moroccan architecture and interiors it’s a feast for the eyes so I will say no more and let the images do the talking:

The Courtyard

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The courtyard complete with a plunge pool which is very welcome in the summer months.

Doors to samir suite Riad Due maud interiors

Traditional wooden doors open into the Samir suite.

cosy corner Riad Due Marrakech Maud interiors

A cosy nook with a wonderful old door as decoration.  For cushions by the same designer have a look at our Souk Collection.

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Views over the courtyard.

The Bedrooms

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The Abdel suite with a traditional carved ceiling, Beni Ourain rug, kantha throw on the bed and an ornate painted chest.  This room has a sunken bath with a skylight above it so you can gaze up at the stars.

Zan-Suite-Riad-Due

The Zan suite complete with a copper bath, an original wooden ceiling and an Indian kantha throw.  For similar kantha throws have a look at our vintage kantha throws.

 

Kamal-bedroom-Riad-Due

The Kamal deluxe room features warm colours, a vibrant kantha throw and an incredible ornate ceiling.

 

Samir Suite Riad Due Marrakech

The Samir suite complete with a fireplace for the winter months.  The headboard in this room is an ornate Moroccan door. I like the idea of including a bookshelf and books in the room as it makes it feel more like home.

Decorative Details

ceiling detail Riad Due Marrakech Maud interiors

Stucco plaster work features on some of the ceilings in Riad Due.

painted chest riad due marrakech maud interiors

A striking cabinet in the entrance to the Zan suite.

old door riad due marrakech maud interiors

Traditional doors feature throughout Riad Due.

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Striking tiles and a cleverly placed mirror which reflects the stonework.

Sun hats Riad Due Maud interiors

Sun hats ready for use on the terrace.

The Roof Terrace

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A sun spot with views over Marrakech to the Atlas mountains.

 

I would be happy to move in.  What do you think?

Click here for more information on Riad Due.

For information on Riad 72, mentioned in a previous post click here.

 

 

 

My Moroccan Food Q & A

My Moroccan F

 

Q & A with Nargisse Benkkabou, creator of My Moroccan Food

I’ve visited Morocco many times on sourcing trips and on holiday and really love the cuisine; the mix of spices in the tagines, the hot and cold salads, mouthwatering appetizers and of course, the sweet, sticky pastries.

I have been looking for a good source of Moroccan recipes since my last trip and came across a wonderful blog, My Moroccan Food, full of inspiring recipes accompanied by beautiful photographs, so today I am talking to Nargisse Benkkabou, a Moroccan food writer, photographer, cook and creator of My Moroccan Food, http://mymoroccanfood.com.

 

What motivated you to start blogging about Moroccan food?

I decided to start my blog straight after my cookery training last year. I had an urge to share my love of food and I chose to focus on Moroccan food because I realized that a lot of my friends love the food but rarely cook it at home. My aim is to make Moroccan cuisine more accessible.

 

What are the key ingredients of Moroccan cuisine?

  • Spices: saffron, turmeric, ginger, sweet paprika, cinnamon, ground coriander
  • Olive oil
  • Olives
  • Preserved lemons
  • Fresh coriander
  • Almonds

The main dishes are tagines, stews of spiced meat and vegetables, prepared by slow cooking in a shallow earthenware dish with a conical lid. Moroccan cuisine is also famous for its couscous.

 

What is your favourite dish?

There are many different types of tagines in Morocco but my favourite is chicken tagine with olives and preserved lemons.

 

Tell us about your Moroccan cookery classes?

I am very excited about my classes, which will be launching in London soon. I am planning to teach classic recipes such as pastille, a type of meat pie, typically filled with spiced pigeon meat and apricots and having a sugared crust and my favourite chicken tagine with preserved lemons and olives, to individuals or small classes of up to three people.

 

You have a delicious looking recipe for Almond and Honey Briouates, which you have kindly allowed us to share. What are the main ingredients for these bite-sized sticky sweet delicacies that you find everywhere in Morocco.

  • Almonds, cinnamon, sesame seeds, anise and orange blossom water

Almond And Honey Briouates – Dairy Free (Coconut Oil)

Almond-and-Honey-Briouantes-My-Moroccan-Food

 

Briouates are small stuffed pastries that are filled with savoury or sweet fillings such as meat, cheese or almond paste.

Almond briouates are very popular in Morocco, they are mainly made of almonds and honey and gently seasoned with orange blossom water and cinnamon.

The pastry we use the envelope them in Morocco is warka, unfortunately there is no warka in London. The best substitute to warka is filo pastry, which I also used to make bastila.

Traditionally the almond paste (the filling) is made of ground fried almonds and then the whole pastry is fried. Yes, double frying. Sounds a bit like too much frying, right?

Today, I chose to make the briouates the way my mom does them (cause she always knows best!) this means that I didn’t fry any of the ingredients to make the briouates. I simply roasted the almonds in the oven and also baked the briouates in the oven.

The result tastes amazing, I found that the baked briouates feel lighter than the fried ones I tried in the past.

If you love honey and almonds you have to try this recipe! The pastry is crunchy and covered with honey, the inside has a deep and strong almondy flavour and a sweet orange blossom water aroma.

Also, in my quest to make Moroccan recipes more accessible I used coconut oil instead of butter to brush the filo pastry and to make almond paste, I think it tastes better than with butter. Ha!

Almond-and-Honey-Briouantes-1

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Ingredients

Makes 25 small briouates

300 gr blanched almonds
80 gr caster sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons orange blossom water, divided
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
20 gr odourless coconut oil, solid
20 gr odourless coconut oil, melted
200 gr filo pastry
300 gr honey
Ground nuts or chopped dried fruits for decoration

 

Method

• Preheat oven to 160 C (320 F).

• In a greased baking tray, place the blanched almonds and drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Bake in the oven until lightly tan, about 20 min (middle shelve). Give the almonds a good stir halfway through cooking.

• In a nut grinder or a food processor transfer the roasted almonds and add the caster sugar, 2 tablespoons orange blossom water, cinnamon and salt. Process until all the almonds are ground.

• Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F)

• Transfer the almond mixture in a bowl and add 20 gr solid coconut oil. Mix until the ingredients are combined all together and knead to a solid mass.

• Unroll the filo and cut the pastry lengthways into 6 cm large and 30 cm long rectangles. Use a sharp knife to cut the pastry and keep the filo rectangles covered with a damp towel until ready to use to prevent them from drying out.

• On a work surface place a filo rectangle, brush it with coconut oil. Top the corner of the rectangle with a spoonful of almond paste and fold to form a triangle, up to the right and left, until the brioua is formed.

• Repeat until you’ve exhausted the almond paste and the filo pastry.

• Brush the small briouates with coconut oil and place in the oven to cook for 10 to 12 min until lightly golden.

• Meanwhile heat the honey with 1 tablespoon of orange blossom water. Avoid burning by controlling the heat, (once the the honey is foamy you should reduce the heat).

• Once the briouates are baked and golden, immediately transfer them to the simmering honey and soak the pastries for 2 to 3 minutes (flip the briouates if necessary).

• Remove to a flat dish to dry and cool before serving. Decorate with ground nuts and/or chopped dried fruits.

 

Notes

• If you use butter instead of coconut oil, use the same quantities and replace the solid coconut oil by softended butter and use melted butter instead of the melted coconut oil

• You should be able to close the pastry with the coconut oil (or butter) brushed on the filo pastry, however if you struggle to do so, use an egg yolk.

• Variation: Blanched almonds and honey briouates. The filling in this variation will taste more like marzipan, Do not roast the almonds and follow the recipe as instructed.

 

For more delicious recipes and to find out about Moroccan cookery classes follow Nargisse’s blog: https://mymoroccanfood.com.

Create Your Own Moroccan Hammam Experience

Moroccan hammam experience Riad 72

The hammam at Riad 72. Photo: Riad 72

 

If you are visiting Morocco I recommend you try a hammam either a private one at your riad or the nearest public one.  It’s essentially the Middle Eastern version of the steam room and its origins date back to Roman times.

 

Visiting a hammam is part of Moroccan life and men, women and children visit at least once a week.  Every neighbourhood has a hammam which is often situated near the communal bread oven to share the heat source.  If you are visiting the public hammam check out the times/days when it is open to women/men in advance and find out if you need to take products with you or if they are available to purchase.

 

My first hammam experience was at Riad 72 in Marrakech, which I wrote about in an earlier blog.   When they  suggested I try the hammam I have to admit that I was slightly nervous as I had visions of having my skin rubbed until it was red raw but I had nothing to worry about.  Ayesha, the hammam attendant or tellak, at Riad 72 has been giving hammam treatments for over 10 years and she even gives her ten month old baby the treatment to cleanse his skin.

 

The riad hammam is a large tadelakht covered wet room with a heated floor and a sunken bath at one end.  The bath is filled with hot water and the room fills with steam.  First you are covered in warm water to open your pores and then in a black soap made from olive oil infused with eucalyptus.  The soap cleanses and softens your skin.  Your hammam attendant then uses an exfoliating glove called a kessa to remove old skin cells.  This isn’t like an out of the jar body scrub this is serious exfoliation. You will see rolls of skin leaving your body but it is painless.

 

Once all your dead skin has been removed you are rinsed down and clay, called rhassoul, is mixed with water and applied to your entire body and your hair.  This is special lava clay from the Atlas Mountains which  is said to remove imperfections and tighten your skin.  Once the clay has dried on your skin you are rinsed down again so that all traces are removed.  I finished off with a relaxing argan oil and verbena full body massage.  My skin felt incredibly soft and rejuvenated for days afterwards and there was no redness.

 

Moroccan Hammam Riad 72

The massage room at Riad 72. Photo: Riad 72

 

Create Your Own Moroccan Hammam At Home

A hammam is a great way to unwind and pamper yourself at the same time.  You can create your own Moroccan hammam in your bathroom at home here’s how:

create your own hammam experience

1.  Create the right mood by lighting candles or try floating candles in our copper meditation urli for an ambient glow.

2.  Fill your bath with hot water or leave your shower running to create a steam filled room.

3.  Take a dip in the bath or under the shower  and then cover yourself with exfoliating soap.  There are a few providers of Moroccan soap and beauty treatments online but I am suggesting the Beldi soap with eucalyptus oil from Essence of Morocco.

4.  Once covered with soap start gently exfoliating with the kessa glove.  Work from the extremities in using long sweeping movements and applying pressure.

5.  Rinse off and apply a thin layer of rhassoul clay, lava clay, which is said to rid the skin of impurities, detoxifying the skin. I’m suggesting the Essence of Morocco Rhassoul Clay Mask because the mask is already mixed for you so it is easier to use.  The clay is mined from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco.   You can also use the mask as a natural shampoo and as a weekly face mask.

6.  Leave the mask for 5 – 10 minutes so that it is dry but not too tight and then rinse thoroughly with warm water.

7.  Finally to finish off the experience massage in Argan oil.  I like Essence of Morocco’s organic Argan Oil with Rose.

Afterwards your skin should feel cleansed, soft and rejuvenated and you should feel pampered and relaxed.

 

Please note this isn’t a sponsored post.  There are a number of online providers of Moroccan hammam products I have suggested the Essence of Morocco products because I have used them before and think the quality is good.

Riad 72 Marrakech

Where to stay in Marrakech: Riad 72

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If you are planning a short break to Marrakech I recommend staying in a Riad in the Medina rather than a large hotel in a newer part of town.  It’s the best way to soak up the atmosphere, get a sense of the history and the architecture and a glimpse of local life.

 

I’ve stayed in a few Riads in Marrakech over the years and Riad 72 surpasses them all.  From the moment you arrive you leave the hassles of life behind.  You are greeted by the wonderful Stephania, the general manager, and her staff who give you orange water and towels to freshen up and a welcoming Moroccan mint tea and pastries.  Stephania and her team have thought of everything to make your stay enjoyable.  If it’s your first time in the city they can advise you on where to go and can arrange trips outside the city into the Atlas mountains, to the coast etc.  They will also provide you with a mobile phone in case you get lost or have any problems during your stay.  The Riad is situated within the Bab Doukkala neighborhood, part of the Medina, so it is within easy walking distance to the souks and Gueliz but far enough away to ensure some peace and tranquillity.

 

The Riad itself is over one hundred years old and has been tastefully and elegantly restored.  The owner , Giovanna, is an Italian photographer with a keen eye for interiors.  The decor is pared back but sophisticated giving the architecture, the intricately carved wooden lattice screens, the carved wooden ceilings and the ornate plaster work centre stage.  There are seven bedrooms and each one has been beautifully decorated with textiles, lights and carved furnishings.

 

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As well as serving a wonderful breakfast of pastries, yoghurt and honey  the Riad has its own restaurant, La Table du Riad, and the food, a contemporary twist on traditional Moroccan cuisine, is delicious.  There are lots of great restaurants in Marrakech but if you have spent a long day outside the city sightseeing, or in my case sourcing, it is nice to be able to return to your Riad and relax watching the sunset from the rooftop terrace with a glass of wine before dinner.

 

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Finally I have to mention the wonderful in-house spa.  The Riad has a traditional hammam, like a steam room, and after a day in the hustle and bustle and heat of the souks there is nothing more relaxing than having a traditional hammam treatment (more about that in a later post) followed by a full body massage.

Photography: Riad 72 and top and bottom Maud interiors

More information is available on the Riad’s website.

 

Baking bread in the Medina

 

Communal Bread Ovens in the Medina, Marrakech

 

Moroccan bread or Khobz, is an important part of the country’s cuisine.  It’s a flatbread, made with white or wholewheat flour with a thick crust and it’s served at every meal.   It is used like a utensil to scoop food and  to soak up the delicious tajine sauces.  Not all families within the Marrakech Medina (and other cities in Morocco) have ovens so if you wander through the streets in the morning you may see women, or sometimes children, carrying metal trays of dough, biscuits or tajines to the communal bread oven.   Every district or neighbourhood has a communal bread oven, a hammam (one male and one female) often alongside the oven to share the heat source, and a mosque. The locals drop off the dough with the baker and for a few dirhams he bakes their bread or biscuits or tajines.

 

I like to stay in the Medina when I am visiting Marrakech so that I can explore the narrow streets and get a glimpse of local life.  These shots are from the communal bread oven near Riad 72 (more about this wonderful Riad in a later post) in Bab Doukkala in the Medina.

 

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Wajid, the baker, with Khobz dough ready for baking.

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Making room for more bread.

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 Flatbread cooling on the tiles and on the racks waiting for collection.  Typical Moroccan biscuits ready for collection far right.

 

Traditionally Moroccans have used exotic, brightly coloured, lidded baskets called tbiqa to store the bread.  These hand-woven baskets are made from palm leaf, which is covered in wool in a variety of colour combinations and patterns.  You can see our selection of these quirky  baskets here.

 

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 Moroccan bread baskets

 

 

Our New Souk Collection Berber Cushions

I am so excited to finally be able to share with you our new Berber cushion collection.  I stumbled across these dramatic, one-of-a-kind cushions whilst on a sourcing trip in 45 degree heat in Marrakech last month.  It was definitely the wrong time to visit Marrakech but I found lots of interesting products for our new Souk Collection and the cushions are the first of these.

 

Designed by artist Sylvie Pissard and her team of Berber seamstresses, the cushion covers are inspired by  Moroccan life.  Each cushion is carefully crafted from  an exotic mix of modern silk screened henna patterns, traditional kelim fabric, ribbons and the silk screened face of a Berber woman.

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These Berber cushions featuring classic Moroccan fabrics and imagery with a modern twist will bring an exotic vibe to a contemporary interior.  They work well mix and matched as floor cushions or as statement pieces on a bed, sofa or chair.

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Click here to see the collection.   We will be adding more products to the Souk Collection: super warm Berber pom-pom blankets and colourful Berber baskets over the next week so watch this space!

 

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