Category Archives: Travel

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.

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.

Seeking Africa Exhibition

Seeking Africa: Design/Art Across A Continent Exhibition

Seeking Africa: Design/Art Across A Continent

 

The Seeking Africa exhibition, at Themes and Variations on Westbourne Grove in London, is one of the first exhibitions in the UK to focus on the variety of contemporary design from Africa.  The exhibition has been cleverly curated to give a glimpse of what is happening in different countries via chosen artists.  Themes range from pollution and the effects on the environment, reflected in photography and furniture from recycled oil drums, to story telling through basket weaving.

 

The basket weaving drew my attention as two of the baskets are from a series of three Biography Baskets.  These Biography baskets are part of the Song of the Weaver project, created by three generations of weavers: grandmother, daughter and granddaughter from one family who work for social enterprise, Gone Rural, in Swaziland. Each of the baskets in the series captures the memories of the lives of  the weaver through grasses and objects found on their homesteads.

 

Seeking Africa Exhibition

Seeking Africa Exhibition

The basket above is by Siphiwe Mngometulu, the daughter of the trio, who is the head of her homestead.  Siphiwe left school after falling pregnant and began weaving to support her child.  Together Siphiwe and her husband had six more children building a life together at his homestead.  Then one day her husband sold all their cattle and left.  He did not return for four years.

Siphiwe had to leave her husband’s family homestead but with her income from Gone Rural she was able to start her life again, building a new house and buying animals  but she has yet to regain her herd of cattle.  This is her ultimate dream.  Her husband now visits a few times a year.   Her basket is a visual memoir of her life.  Woven from grasses and collected objects, there are memories embedded in every strand of the basket.  Like the bone, which signifies that Siphiwe is the backbone of her family.  The goat skull and metal disc are reminders of her husband as Siphiwe always slays a goat when he returns home and the disc symbolises her husband’s return by bicycle.  The numerous layers of grasses symbolise the years of Siphiwe’s life (some fertile and some dry).

 

Seeking Africa Exhibition

The basket above is by Bonakele Ngwenya, Siphiwe’s first-born daughter.  Like her mother she left school at 16 when she became pregnant.  She was sad to have to leave school but happy to have a daughter.  Bonakele learnt how to weave from her mother and joined Gone Rural to support her child.  Her basket is very different in style from her mother’s.   The use of pink symbolises her love for her daughter and the metal loops represent her husband’s unstable employment.  The depressed base is her sadness at having to leave school and the zig zag patterns on the top of the basket allude to the style of basket she normally weaves for Gone Rural and her prayer for more work in the future.

seeking africa exhibition

seeking africa exhibition

Another Gone Rural basket, from a different collection, woven from recycled fabric and plastic covered grasses and copper wire.

 

seeking

 

seeking africa exhibition

Also part of the Seeking Africa exhibition were two striking baskets by Beauty Ngxongo from Zululand.  Functional, beautiful and decorative, Zulu baskets are some of the most collectable in the world.  The ones above are tightly woven from ilala palm, so tightly woven that the they are watertight.  I particularly like the earthy mix of colours and striking patterns in these baskets.

 

The Seeking Africa exhibition runs until 16th December but hurry if you want to see everything as the exhibits are for sale and are selling fast. Learn more at Themes and Variations, 231 Westbourne Grove, London.

 

The background information on the Biography Baskets is from Gone Rural.  Find out more about social enterprise Gone Rural here and click here to see our selection of baskets from Gone Rural.

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

spice-market-marrakech-maud-interiors

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

tea trays marrakech maud interiorslanterns marrakech

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.

jemaa-el-fnaa-marrakech

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.

Nomad Marrakechkilim-seating-nomad-marrakech-maud-interiorsnomad-kilim-seating-maud-interiors

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.

 

Shreyas Yoga Retreat

Relax and Re-energise at Shreyas Yoga Retreat, Karnataka, India

Shreyas coconut plantation maud interiors

 

Shreyas is an Ayurvedic yoga and wellbeing retreat in Karnataka, an hour by car from Bangalore.  It’s a Relais & Chateau hotel offering all the benefits of a traditional ashram without the austerity associated with ashram life.   It’s the place to go when you want to escape from daily life to focus on yoga and meditation and re-energize.

You start to relax on the drive to the retreat, as you pass through lush tropical vegetation and small farming communities, and that feeling of tranquility and calm continues throughout your stay.

Deep stillness in beautiful surroundings

The sense of peacefulness and deep stillness is in part due to the beautiful surroundings.  The retreat is set in 25 acres of coconut plantation, frangipani trees and organic farmland.  The only sounds are birds singing, the odd monkey chattering and frogs croaking in the evenings.

shreyas yoga retreat

Shreyas yoga retreat

Shreyas is an Ayurvedic ashram.  Ayurveda is an ancient Indian system of holistic medicine balancing mind and body through diet, yoga, meditation and herbal treatments.  My stay began with a personal consultation with the on-site Ayurvedic and naturopathic doctors who created my agenda for the week based on my needs and the yoga package I had chosen.

Yoga-pavilion-Shreyas-Maud-interiors

Shreyas yoga retreat

Days start in traditional ashram style at 06.30am with one and half hours of yoga, either hatha or ashtanga depending on your ability.  Practising yoga in the early morning in the yoga pavilion just as the sun is coming out and the ground is beginning to warm up is a wonderful way to wake up and start the day.

My yoga package included two group yoga classes a day, and five individual yoga sessions.  The yoga is expertly taught in a disciplined, traditional, way and the teachers are inspiring.

After the intensity of the yoga sessions you can relax by the pool or book a treatment or massage at the Ayurvedic spa.  Choose from Balinese, Thai, Swedish or Ayurvedic massages.

 

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shreyas yoga retreat

Time for introspection and reflection

Meditation is an integral part of the yoga package, something which is often overlooked in Western yoga.  Classes include pranayama to regulate and extend breathing, yoga nidra, taking you into a deeper state of consciousness, candle meditation or trataka, which helps improve focus and concentration, and guided meditation.  All these techniques aid relaxation and help create a sense of inner calm.

As well as seated meditation you can take a walking meditation in the grounds or find one of the hidden machans (above) in the organic gardens and spend time meditating there.

shreyas yoga retreat

shreyas yoga retreat

Shreyas decor

There are three types of accommodation: tented cabins with al fresco bathrooms, rooms by the infinity pool and three rooms in a separate cottage with a large lounge area.

All the interiors have an understated elegance, featuring natural colours and materials, which blend in with the surroundings. There is the odd splash of colour in the form of  kantha cushions and large meditation bowls filled with floating roses or geraniums.

Delicious, nutritious, vegetarian meals

Shreyas cooking lesson

Shreyas-at-night

Shreyas is an ashram so the food is vegetarian and there is a a strictly no alcohol policy.   The food is light, plentiful and delicious. Meals vary from Indian to Mexican to European and the ingredients are mainly sourced from the organic gardens.  As part of my yoga package I had a cookery demonstration with Chef Mani and learnt how to make a nourishing spinach and cumin soup. You can find the recipe here.

The staff go out of their way to make each meal an experience.  From the variety of dishes, to the floral table decorations, to the venue which changes every evening.  One night you might be sitting by a roaring fire (I visited in February) in a candlelit garden, another you may be sitting near the pool surrounded by coloured lanterns.

Returning home after such a wonderful break is tough but the staff help you to integrate what you have learned during your stay into you daily life back home with practical guidance and a yoga manual to assist you with your practice.  I returned home feeling relaxed, re-energised and planning my return trip.

You can find out more about Shreyas here.

Shreyas yoga retreat

Photos courtesy of Shreyas

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

riad due courtyard maud interiors

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.

courtyard view road due maud interiors

Views over the courtyard.

The Bedrooms

Abdul-bedroom-Riad-Due

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.

tiles riad due marrakech maud interiors

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

the roof terrace riad due maud interiors

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.

 

 

 

Spinach and Cumin Soup Recipe

Shreyas Recipe for Spinach and Cumin Soup

Mani, one of the five chefs at Shreyas yoga and wellbeing retreat in Nelamangala, Bangalore, showed me how to make this healthy, nourishing spinach and cumin soup. The food at the Shreyas ashram is vegetarian and is created according to yogic principles so it’s “fresh, light and nutritious”.  Ingredients are hand-picked from the retreat’s organic gardens and every meal is a culinary delight.  There’s more to follow on Shreyas in another post, for now I am sharing this delicious soup recipe, which is quick and easy to make and full of flavour, in time for the Easter break.

Shreyas-Manni-the-chef-Maud-interiors

 Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • 2 garlic cloves roughly chopped
  • 1/2 a red onion finely chopped
  • 1 packet of fresh, organic, spinach
  • 1.5 tblsps olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 300 ml cold water
  • 50 ml skimmed milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon of cardamom powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon powder

 

Method

  • Heat the olive oil in a large wok.
  • Add the cumin, garlic and onion and allow to lightly brown.
  • Add the spinach leaves and reduce.
  • Once the spinach has reduced add 300ml water (the water must be cold) and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes.
  • Remove the wok from the heat and allow to cool.
  • When the mixture is at room temperature add 50ml skimmed milk, the cardamom powder and cinnamon then blend.
  • Reheat and enjoy.

 

spinach and cumin soup Maud interiors

 

 

Maud’s Top 5 Things To Do In Jaipur

Maud’s Top 5 Things To Do In Jaipur

 

Visit Phool Mandi the wholesale flower market

wholesale flower market jaipur maud interiors

rose heads for sale jaipur maud interiors

Phool Mandi Jaipur

Go early, the market opens at 06.00 and watch as local farmers carry in huge sacks bursting with roses and marigolds which are traded in front of you. Later the same day you will see garland makers all over the city stringing together and selling the flower heads, which are used as offerings to Hindu deities in daily worship in temples, in offices and the home.

Whilst you are there visit the fruit and vegetable market which is alongside.  The market is on the way to Amber Fort on the Hawa Mahal Road at Chandi Taksal Gate.  You could combine your visit with a trip to Amber Fort and the Anokhi museum (see below).

Visit the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing

Anokhi museum of hand printing jaipur

Block printing areas india Anokhi hand printing museum

block printing demonstration Anokhi maud interiors

For textile lovers this is a delightful museum situated in a beautifully restored old haveli just past Amber fort on the outskirts of the city.  Anokhi is a successful block printing business with shops all over India founded over 40 years ago to revive Rajasthan’s traditional block printing techniques (see the traditional block carving and printing centres in Rajasthan and Gujarat in the map above).  The museum is dedicated to the collection and preservation of printed textiles.  Here will you see antique to modern examples of printing techniques including block printing, dabu mud resist and ajrakh printing.  You can see a demonstration of block printing (pictured above) and have a go yourself.

Anokhi works with over 1,000 craftspeople in Jaipur and the surrounding area and is known for its ethical working practices.  A visit to the main shop selling block printed clothing and home accessories in Jaipur is a must.

Museum: Khedi Gate, Amber

Shop: 2nd Floor, KK Square, C11 Prithviraj Road C Scheme.

 

Take a guided tour of the Old City

hawa mahal jaipur maud interiors

looking out from hawa mahal Jaipur maud interiors

Jaipur has over three million inhabitants and the traffic can be crazy: cars, bikes, rickshaws, trucks, cows, dogs, goats, pigs, and the odd camel and elephant all jostling for space to the constant sound of the car horn. The best way to orient oneself and get a clear picture of the old, walled, city is to get up early before the city wakes and take a walking tour. Square by Foot walks are led by architects and will give you a real insight into the history, architecture, culture and trade of the old city.  There are several different heritage walks and walks start at 06.30am on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.  Contact squarebyfoot@gmail.com for more information.

The above shots are of the Hawa Mahal, the Palace of the Winds, in the old city, which was built in 1799 by Maraja Sawai Pratap Singh to allow the ladies of the royal court to observe daily life on the street below without being seen.

 

Watch master craftman Mr Ikramuddin Mohd Sabir Neelgar and his team create leheriya (tie-dyed) fabric.

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tie dyed fabric drying Jaipur maud interiors

leheriya jaipur maid interiors

tie dyed turban jaipur maud interiors

The name leheriya, comes from the Rajasthani word for wave because the final tie-dye effect is like rippled water.  Mr Ikramuddin Mohd Sabir Neelgar is a fourth generation master craftsman from one of the oldest families practising this Rajasthani dyeing technique. It’s a complex process involving rolling white cotton or silk into long strips which are tied at intervals and then dyed.  The process is repeated up to eight times with different colours. The result is stunning jewel-coloured fabric, which is used for traditional Rajasthani turbans, for saris and more recently by international fashion designers.  Fabric is available to purchase and the silk turbans make wonderful scarves.

This place is quite difficult to find and you may have to ask your driver to call for directions.  It’s on a side road not far from the Hawa Mahal.  The address is 2803 Mehro Ki Nadi, Chokdi Ramchandra Ji. Tel: (0141) 261 9848.

 

Browse the bazaars

 

rajasthani hen party Maud interiors

Spend time wandering the bazaars in the old city and get an insight into local life.  Buy fabric and sip a cup of chai with the storekeepers, see brides to be and their female relatives choosing ornate trimmings and fabric for their weddings in the local textile bazaar, just off Badi Chaupur.   Find thali dishes, flat saucepans for making chapati and spice containers, in Tripolia bazaar and stock up on ornate mojari slippers in Bapu bazaar.  The bazaars are open from around 10am until 8pm.

The photo above of ladies in embellished saris was taken at a Rajasthani hen party which I was invited to on my first visit to the city.

Where to stay? Check out my post on Hotel 47 Jobner Bagh

Places to stay: Hotel 47 Jobner Bagh Jaipur

Hotel 47 Jobner Bagh

Hotel 47 Jobner Bagh Jaipur

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Hotel 47 Jobner Bagh was my home from home in Jaipur, India, for a week earlier this year. Described as a luxury guesthouse it’s a delightful, family run, boutique hotel with 11 bedrooms a restaurant and a spa.

It’s one of the most welcoming places I have ever stayed and it really feels as if you are staying in a beautifully designed home rather than a hotel. Shiva Gupta, the owner, his daughter Megha, wife Anita and their staff are extremely hospitable and know how to make their guests feel at home.

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A place to relax hotel 47 Jobner Bagh

Hotel 47 Jobner Bagh was designed by an Italian architect and was once part of the Maharaja of Jobner’s garden.   The grounds are beautifully maintained. There are lots of places to sit and relax and everywhere you go you are surrounded by the fragrant scent of jasmine.

the roof terrace hotel 47 Jobner Bagh

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From the large roof terrace there are views to the Aravalli hills and Nahalargh fort and the Ganesh Temple. It’s a lovely place to sit at dusk, enjoy a drink and listen to the birdsong.

The food at the hotel is delicious.  Mrs Anita Gujar is responsible for the menu and dinner is typically a healthy three course vegetarian meal.  It’s authentic home cooking and is some of the best food I have tasted whilst travelling in India.

interior styling hotel 47 Jobner Bagh

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The interiors have been elegantly styled and it is the sort of place you want to move into. Bedrooms have antique tables, colonial style chairs and old doors as headboards.  Bathrooms have a Moroccan feel with tadelakt walls and floors.  The communal areas are full of large pots, candles, old photographs and lots of seating areas, which gives the hotel a very relaxed feel.

jewel coloured lights hotel 47 jobber bagh

The hotel is within easy reach of the Old City and all the major sites in Jaipur yet tucked away from the crazy Jaipur traffic so it is a great place to retreat to after a busy day sightseeing. You can find out more about the hotel here.

 

If you, like me, prefer boutique hotels to large corporate chains see my recommendations for Morocco here and Mexico here.

 

(Hotel 47 Jobner Bagh bedroom photographs taken by the hotel)

Handcrafted Gifts for the Global Traveller

Handcrafted Gifts With A Story Behind Them

gifts for the global traveller

 

Stuck for a gift for that person in your life who is always jetting off to exotic locations?  Why not give them a handcrafted gift with a story behind it? A travel-inspired gift which will evoke memories of their travels or create a desire to visit new places.  Here are some suggestions:

 

1. First we head to India for these handcrafted copper seed pod tea light holders.  Each piece is carefully crafted from copper by a Tambat craftsman in Pune.   Each tea light holder comes in a presentation box and makes the perfect gift. Available in small £24 and large £28.  By purchasing one of these tea lights you are helping to preserve the traditional craft of the Tambat coppersmiths which dates back to the seventeenth century.

 

2. From Mexico, choose from a selection of striped cushions hand-woven and hand finished in the heart of Chiapas by Mayan women using traditional back strap loom weaving techniques. £75 each. By purchasing one of these cushions you are providing an income for Mayan weavers and helping to fund health and education programmes.

 

3.  From a cooperative in southern Morocco, a beautiful hand thrown ceramic bowl edged in copper.  The distinctive glaze on these bowls, which creates a myriad of different greens, is created from a secret formula known to only twelve members of the cooperative.  Each piece is unique. Small £40.

 

4.  To Swaziland for large open ribbed hand-woven baskets from social enterprise Gone Rural.  Contemporary design meets traditional weaving techniques in these versatile baskets.  Each basket has three circles of ribbing, a complex technique, creating the illusion of three baskets in one..  One size £112.  Gone rural employs over 700 women and through its charity BoMake provides health, water and education programmes for 10,000 women artisans and their communities.

 

5. Vintage Berber wedding blankets from Morocco.  A favourite with interior designers, these blankets are guaranteed to add sparkle on the foot of the bed, over a sofa or chair or framed on the wall.  Various sizes £380.

Photos 2,4,5 Kristy Noble.