Dara’s Personal Guide to Morocco

Morocco is one of my favorite places to travel. I love wandering through Marrakech’s winding Medina and losing myself among the opulent displays of artisan wares. Moroccan craftsmanship is some of the finest in the world. I am pleased to showcase a collection of handmade Moroccan treasures at DARA with Frederic Alcantara’s colorful handwoven rugs and Jewels’ supple leather tote bags. In the spirit of highlighting some of Morocco’s other cultural attractions, here are my tips for exploring this beautiful country, both in and outside of Marrakech:



Riad Azzouna 13 is an intimate 5-room riad just minutes away from the souks and Marrakech’s main square.


This charming hotel is a true oasis with simple yet stylish decor and ample outdoor seating. Sadik, the manager, goes above and beyond to make guests feel at home. A traditional breakfast is served every morning on the roof terrace with fresh orange juice, Moroccan pancakes, and yogurt.


Located just outside of Marrakech, Amanjena’s terra-cotta villas and pavilions encircle a series of small lagoons spread out across meticulously manicured gardens. After our memorable stay at Aman’s Bhutan resort, Dan and I are eager to someday experience its Moroccan counterpart. The resort’s world-famous Moroccan spa features hammams, steam baths, and a glass-enclosed whirlpool.


“Fenn” is local Moroccan slang for “cool,” which explains why this Marrakech hotel seems to embody a distinctive sense of laid-back tranquility. With 28 individually styled rooms and suites, tree-filled courtyards, and a stunning roof terrace, El Fenn combines contemporary grandeur with historic architecture. It is a mere 5-minute walk from the town square.


This delightful boutique hotel was one of the first upscale riads in Marrakech. Centrally located in the heart of the Medina, the residence includes seven rooms, two expansive patios, a swimming pool, and a cozy hammam. To top it off, the roof terrace offers dazzling views of the Atlas Mountains.



At sundown, the plaza of Jemaa el-Fna transforms into an incredible market with rows of tantalizing food stalls.


I love visiting Stall #13 for tangy, hand-squeezed orange juice or Stall #32 for harira, a traditional Moroccan soup of tomatoes and lentils.


Run by a group of local women, Al Fassia is Moroccan Cuisine 101, a great starting point for discovering authentic home cooking in Marrakech. Choose from dozens of salads, tagines, and savory pastries.


Not your typical cafe, this hipster hangout offers modern interpretations of casual Moroccan fare. Don’t miss the famous camel burgers (yes, camel!) and milk shakes with homemade ice cream. There are also plenty of refreshing vegan and vegetarian options.



Dan and I often spend hours perusing the stunning, handwoven rugs at Ethno Art Gallery in the Marrakech Medina.


For efficient browsing, I recommend sticking with the souks’ two central routes, Rue Semarine and Rue Mouassine. The former is where you’ll encounter the more traditional, bustling energy of the bazaar, while the latter is a quieter path lined with boutiques. Ethno Art Gallery is one of my favorite stops in the Medina. Tucked away amidst knockoff sunglasses and other tourist junk, this shop is the real deal– especially if you’re in the market for beautiful, handwoven rugs. Youssef, the owner, is renowned for his ability to tell you the background of every item.


Often described as a real-life “Aladdin’s cave,” this hidden treasure trove is piled floor-to-ceiling with various ornaments and home decor, from candlesticks and lanterns to dinnerware and furniture. (And don’t worry about over-shopping– they happily ship internationally!)


33 Rue Majorelle is Morocco’s version of a concept boutique, fusing contemporary design with the country’s famed master craftsmanship. The trio of spaces includes a boutique for housewares and clothing, a snack bar, and a salon offering furniture, art, and a sitting area.



The docks in Essaouira are incredibly picturesque, surrounded by hundreds of bright blue fishing boats.


A two-hour drive from Marrakech, Essaouira is my favorite place for a relaxing Moroccan getaway. Dan and I like to stay at L’Heure Bleue Palais, a hotel overlooking the Medina and ocean. The best part of Essaouira is the amazing seafood. We always pay a visit to the local fish market, where you can buy fresh fish and have it grilled on the spot for lunch. Don’t miss the artisan stalls near the rampart.


Last time we were in Morocco, Dan and I rode donkeys through the Atlas Mountains’ hamlet of Imlil to have Christmas lunch at this luxury eco-lodge. Run by local Berbers, it is the country’s premier alpine retreat. Dan and I still reminisce about sitting on the terrace, taking in incredible views of the North African sunset.


Kasbah Tamadot, one of Sir Richard Branson’s renowned international hideaways, is a 45-minute car ride from Marrakech. Branson purchased the property in 1988 and turned it into a beautiful hotel. With its heated cliff-side infinity pool, never ending supply of fresh fruit, and guest rooms scattered with rose petals, Kasbah Tamadot is the perfect luxury destination for peace and quiet.


Located in a private olive grove on the outskirts of Marrakech, this hand-built, artisanal, luxury boutique hotel is a favorite destination for travelers in the know. Every aspect of the estate has a story to tell, from the table that was once the bottom of an Indian cart to the hand-stenciled floors and ceilings. Guests have the opportunity to shop the M. Montague Souk, a selection of exquisitely handmade accessories and home decor pieces with a tribal-chic aesthetic. A portion of proceeds goes to Project Soar, a charity that seeks to uplift underprivileged girls through art, fitness, and educational opportunities.

Shop Frederic Alcantara & Jewels

Written by DARA Artisans.May 11, 2015
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DARA Artisans promotes cultural curiosity and a sense of discovery by offering a sophisticated edit of handmade artisan crafts to an audience seeking authentic, responsibly sourced designs with a modern aesthetic.