Tag Archives: Morocco

La Pause, Marrakech

Sometimes to experience the essence of a place, you have to venture out of its heart and beyond its periphery. Marrakech is a seething urban cauldron, dust-tinged and hectic, petrol vapor refracting in waves off of its every surface.

But drive 40 km out of the city, and sputtering mopeds give way to donkey carts, and then to nomadic shepherds herding lambs by the roadside, and then to nothing but undulating red dunes. Eventually, there is breeze, there is quiet, there is calm.

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I really couldn’t fathom a better way to end my trip to Morocco than a day at La Pause eco-resort blissing out over lunch in an authentic Bedouin tent surrounded by the remote tranquility of the desert.

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Run by an eccentric French expat (of which I saw several roaming about fitting that description), La Pause aims to provide an authentic and timeless desert experience, with no electricity, and minimal modern conveniences.

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The chef at La Pause offers a set menu cooked with local seasonal ingredients, and your 5-course meal is served under a private nomadic tent. All produce is transported daily from Marrakech and not stored on location, ensuring the freshest, most delicious ingredients go into every bite.

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Lunch started with a rocket salad, freshly picked from the garden and seasoned using the extra virgin olive oil pressed from La Pause’s olive groves.

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Traditional Moroccan soup

Traditional Moroccan soup

Lamb tagine with prunes and almonds

Lamb tagine with prunes and almonds

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This intriguing Moroccan dessert tasted like frosted cornflakes

This intriguing Moroccan dessert tasted like frosted cornflakes

Moroccan tea

Moroccan tea

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All visitors have free access to the grounds – go on, wander through the olive groves, take a dip in the swimming pool, or just stretch out to warm yourself on a sun lounger.

We sipped rose wine and gallivanted around the Agafay desert terrain.

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And what a special surprise when I spied the La Pause boutique! Leave it to the French to identify stylish wares of superb quality – without the dread of having to haggle animatedly for ages to get a fair price! Berber cushion covers, hand painted glass tableware, and woven baskets. Viola!

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Leaving with a bagful of goodies!

Leaving with a bagful of goodies!

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This magical desert experience was by far the highlight of my Moroccan trip. I have to say I probably won’t ever go back to Marrakech in the future; but if I do, I’ll definitely be La Paus-ing here again!

Marrakech: Palmeraie & Guéliz

Our base in Marrakech was Dar Sabra, just one of the many luxury resorts and spas concealed amid the palm trees of the Palmeraie district. This desert oasis is only navigable by red dirt roads that look better suited for four-wheelers and motocross than taxi traffic. Thankfully, our driver was willing to risk his suspension (and probably his sanity) shuttling us blathering American girls back and forth to the city!

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We decided to spend the day in the buzzing Guéliz district, or (thanks to French colonialism) the ville nouvelle.  Its broad avenues speckled with art deco architecture of bygone glory days, this is Marrakech at its most urbane.

For a little bit of Moroccan glamour, look no further than the 1980s love shack of designer Yves Saint Laurent. Jardin Majorelle is a stunning cobalt pavilion sprouting with exotic flowers and cacti.

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It has a brilliant boutique with an array of YSL accessories and traditional Berber crafts to tempt you!

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Jardin shop

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We sought out the most incredible Lebanese eatery for lunch. La Cuisine de Mona came highly recommended, and it more than lived up to its celebrated repute. Hardly noticable down a residential side street, we lucked out getting an empty table on the itty-bitty shuttered terrace. We ordered Ses Assortiments de Mezzés to share, only for owner/chef Mona to spoil us rotten with plate after plate of freshly prepared, sensational food. A true testament to her culinary talent, Mona had cooked that very morning for the King of Morocco!

House lemonade - made with a dash of orange blossom water

House lemonade – made with a dash of orange blossom water

Tabouleh and eggplant

Tabouleh and eggplant

Moujadarah (Lentils with grilled onions) and Hummus

Moujadarah (Lentils with grilled onions) and Hummus

Baba Ghanouj  (Smoked eggplant puree, sesame cream, lemon juice)

Baba Ghanouj (Smoked eggplant puree, sesame cream, lemon juice)

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Arayes Lahmé (Lebanese bread stuffed with ground beef, parsley, onions and broiled)

Arayes Lahmé (Lebanese bread stuffed with ground beef, parsley, onions and broiled)

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Falafel

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Mouhalabiyeh (Yogurt with pistachio nuts and orange blossom water)

Mouhalabiyeh (Yogurt with pistachio nuts and orange blossom water)

After our meal, Mona scuttled out and crowned us with traditional fez hats for a photo! What a dear, she is!

with chef/owner Mona Farah

with chef/owner Mona Farah

We spent the remainder of the sunny day exploring the modernized parts of the city – including an invigorating scrub-down at a traditional hammam – then retreated back to Palmeraie for a well-deserved glass of wine by the fire. Bliss!

The Red City: Marrakech

One of my best beezies recently celebrated a milestone birthday. And you know my friends don’t celebrate with a couple of drinks down at the pub after work – they do it BIG! So we packed our carry-on luggage (maybe sitting on it to squeeze it shut) and jetted off to the Red City – Marrakech!

The birthday girl said it best, when she remarked, “I just wanted to go some place where I wouldn’t think about real life – and this is it.” And our real lives could not have been further from our minds! From the moment the airplane landing gear goes down, Marrakech is an assault on your senses. The red clay walls and rusty corrugated tin roofs of this fortified city are visible from the sky. As you motor into the congested town, dust and exhaust fumes billow up in little puffs, dogs barking, drums beating, the warbled lilt of the muezzin chanting out the call to prayer.

It all feels a bit feral. But that rawness makes Marrakech intensely stimulating – the relentless cadence of the city keeps you on constant alert. As I careened through the beguiling labyrinth of souks, I took in the smell of leather, the glinting light of intricate filigree lanterns, and the nubby weave of hand-loomed textiles. I absorbed all the frenetic energy of life in the medina.  Here are just a few glimpses inside the throbbing heart of Morocco’s most vital city.

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Rumble out of town a bit toward the Atlas Mountains, where the pace of life in traditional Berber villages is markedly more subdued.

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As you can see, it was quite overwhelming to arrive in such a dazzling and charismatic land! After a feverish first day, I was absolutely kaput. Check back again soon to see more of my explorations of Marrakech!