warmth

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the final chapter

featuring ANTHROPOLOGIE EU and J.LAUREN
location DAR JAGUAR, MARRAKECH

With my final narrative from Marrakech, you thought I was going to talk about the warmth in Morocco. The desert wind against the grain of sand that picks up heat recycled through the sun’s bright capsule and laid ever so ‘warmly’ against our skins.

To be completely, frank, I meant ‘warmth’ in quite the opposite sense really. We live in an era where travel has become easier, borders are closer and there are not many stipulations against an individual from exploring different communities and their respective countries. As time passes, wars manifest, people start to territorialize and egos become a tangible liability-we may not be able to travel so often.
 

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what I’m wearing

dress c/o ANTHROPOLOGIE belt c/o ANTHROPOLOGIE shoes CANTAÑER
ring c/o J.LAUREN nails JORDAN c/o ZOYA NAIL POLISH

“I’m headed to Morocco with my little brother, just Marrakech though.” “Be careful.” The only thing mentioned when sharing with people what my upcoming plans were and it was surprising to hear that even in the mouths of the Brits as holidaying is so common there. It baffled me and though those people have zero inkling of where I’ve been, what I’m capable of-I was still shocked to hear.

I had the pleasure and honor to travel through parts of Syria back in 2009 before the war took a stronghold and people’s lives were observantly threatened. For months, years and today when I’m asked where is one place I absolutely loved visiting, it is Syria. It is now a place that can not be touched as easily and the things I saw with my own eyes in person can never be experienced ever again, but it was truly an exceptional experience. And as politics, culture and society progress, I only hope that no other area of the world, especially the Middle East, has forced barriers like this.
 

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DAR JAGUAR

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‘Warmth’ is the word that I can only think of when talking about the Middle East and my travels overall for school, work and pleasure. No two cultures and religions are the same, which makes us all so different from one another and it is precisely why we travel-to explore and to understand. The Middle East and North African region has been a part of the world that has always astounded me. A society deep rooted in their religion and culture that is admirable to see a community that will move forward with the times, but also uphold their integrity.

‘Warmth’ is what you feel when the people greet you, open up their homes, offer you food and a place to sleep and provide you with a glass of water when they have to sacrifice so much for all those things just for themselves. The region and its people are not impoverished, it’s not different from the world that has evolved in America and in Europe. The region and its people are just willing to give guests that hospitality that many may not be willing to provide even when they have an abundance.

‘Warmth’ is the feeling in your stomach after a meal with many, many plates topped with hot mint tea. It is that feeling you get right before you’re just too full. The melody of spices that intertwine with the meat, vegetable the fresh herbs. The combination of sweet and savory delicacies placed on a single plate. A gastronomy that brings full flavors in the most subtle ways.

‘Warmth’ is when you get lost in the labyrinth of the souk, find yourself in front of many shopfronts stopping to peruse the handmade goods whilst asking for directions. Exchanging sweet smiles, bits of broken conversation, sharing lots of enthusiasm and then guiding you to the next destination…
 

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an open-mind, being informed

Instead of a narrative, I thought I would share this as an ode to hope. To inform you of all the possible opportunities and experiences you have at your fingertips. Keeping an open-mind, being informed and embracing the unknown are the only steps towards allowing for these porous borders to continue being approachable.

{more narratives from marrakech}
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marrakech city guide

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a siblings getaway

Sitting in London, with the rain pecking against the window, I can’t help but miss my brother dearly. Let me preface this post with how beautiful this trip truly was. The Instagrams, Stories, photographs and videos don’t do it justice at all. There was a moment in one of the very dim-lit restaurants where my eyes welled up with how seamless this trip was going and who better to share it than my younger brother. I was going to list all the locations and places to east in this post at first, but realized that a proper digest of every aspect of the trip was probably what would be more appreciated.
 

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day one

We started with checking-into Riad Boussa, which was a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle that was merely a few minutes away from the door. If there was one thing, we were spoiled by how quiet the riad was considering it’s essential location just a short walk away from the main square and the maze of souks. Instead of diving into great lengths about our incredible stay and new friendships with Brigitte and Ali, I will just guide you to the dedicated blog post here… Shortly after dinner, however, we did take a walk through Djemaa el-Fna, a great marketplace where you will find people charming cobras, playing with monkeys, selling food, drawing henna tattoos and more. My friend Diogo, who studied abroad to Morocco, made me promise to have orange juice on the square. Literally pennies, the orange juice was the most fresh, sweetest juice I’ve ever had. That quickly became a daily routine to enrich our vitamin C intake.
 

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what my brother wore

jeans H&M shirt H&M sunnies MAUI JIM
his instagram @SHYDESAI
 

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day two

On our first full day in Marrakech, we were a bit ambitious and wanted to explore and understand as much of the history, culture and politics as much as possible. The best way to do that was actually taking the cooking class at La Maison Arabe. You can find the detailed historical account of the ingredients and culture plus recipes for a full Moroccan feast on my last post from Marrakech right here.

After the class, and a belly full of food prepared by our own hands, we decided to take a walk through the souks and find Cafe des Épices. Climbing the stairs, we knew we were about to be well-impressed. We sat down and immediately ordered a sugary mint tea. And looking to the left we were greeted to a view of the spice market. Though high up, we were able to smells the subtle smell of rose petals, sandalwood, turmeric and cumin. And with the warmth of the sun, it felt like the perfect place to spend a few moments to unwind.

Once refreshed, we took off to the other part of the old city that felt incredibly residential. In between the homes, were significant monuments that brought the country’s heritage to life. We made our first stop Ali Ben Youssef Medresa. We walked down a dark hallway and opened up to an incredible oasis-one of the largest Islamic schools from the 1100s. The intricate details and scriptures are derived from Quranic versus that sits atop stucco, wood and marble forming geometric print called zellig.
 

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and furthermore…

Playing in between all the hallways and student rooms, we made our way down the street and perused the hallways of Maison de la Photographie de Marrakech, which houses a permanent collection of photographs that depict life and society of Marrakech. Just a tip, I advise you go to the terrace for gorgeous views of the Atlas Mountains and a proper coffee too!

We watched the sunset on the terrace of the photography museum and once the sun was pretty much gone, we made our way out and peeked at the metal shops with lanterns all lit up. Each lantern was intricate and gorgeous with stain glass and exotic shapes. And after getting a few little trinkets for mom, we made our way down the street to Le Foundouk. Upon our arrival, we were a bit early, we were greeted by a massive room with high ceilings and lots of seating. At first, I thought the owner was a bit ambitious on filing the space. To our surprise, by the time we sat and enjoyed half a glass of Moroccan Syrah, we looked around and saw that so much of the restaurant was full and there were many more coming in. Traditional menu, we decided to go for some of the seafood dishes and the pigeon pastilla. It was so beautifully decorated and the portions were extremely generous. The seafood was fresh, still salty and uniquely presented. Frederic, the owner made his way around introducing himself from table-to-table and reassured everything was alright, whilst sharing notes with the staff. It was an experience I haven’t had since being in America. The service was unstoppable and the food had just as much to praise.

* * *

Le Foundouk

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what I wore

skirt c/o BODEN top c/o BODEN shoes – green c/o BODEN shoes – beige CASTAÑER sunnies c/o BODEN
 

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day three

We started the day early to avoid the crowds. Many people have been coming to Marrakech on holiday, but what was mostly baffling was people thanking us for visiting when we told them we were American. My experience in the Middle East has always been interesting. Indians usually come as laborers and Americans are hated because of their egotistical behavior. So the welcome was surprising.

But I digress, so we made our way to Palais de la Bahia. A palace from the named after the word, ‘brilliance’, was built in the 19th century to be considered as one of the most extraordinary palaces of its time. Considering today is the 21st century, I was floored by how beautiful and intricate the details were. From one terrace to an open garden, to a courtyard and then an oasis. It was heaven and a nice getaway from the craziness within the souks. Soon after we made our way to Palais el Badi, but I found myself a bit disappointed after perusing the colorful walkway of Bahia. The stone touches and urban corners made this the perfect scene for my brother to enjoy and play with photography a bit. I think what did make this momentous was the view from the terrace that overlooked Marrakech with its winding orange-peach walls and the sounds of the prayer in the distant.
 

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places to shop in the area

bijoux des 4 tribus
riad zitoune jdid no. 52
+212(0) 676 398 763

chabi chic
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what I wore

blouse c/o BODEN jeans c/o BODEN wedges c/o BODEN sunnies c/o BODEN leather jacket HUGO BOSS
 

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the day continued…

After hundreds of photos and exhausted after spending the afternoon directly in the sun, we found our way back to the souks, through the winding “streets” and then were coughed up to the courtyard where Nomad sat. We were taken to the top floor where we had a view of the cafe from the day before and then spice market. And right after we ordered, the call of prayers started and there was nothing to be heard just the prayers. It was majestic and beautiful and felt so different to the everyday life we’re used to as the people working the restaurant continued on with their responsibilities.

We decided to try the cheese from Essarouia, the fish and the lamb. What I found most impressive was that everything was locally sourced and produced. Each ingredient was fresh and each bit felt like Morocco had truly engaged itself culinarily.

* * *

Nomad

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day four

Our last final day was upon us and there was a somber feeling between my brother and I. It meant our time together was coming to an end and hopefully we didn’t have to wait another year to see each other in the flesh. We made our way to Jardin Marjorelle after a bit of haggling with a taxi driver off the main square. Making our way to the garden, the moment we got to the ticket counter we were so surprised by how much it reminded us a bit like Paris. The street signs labeled as Rue Yves Saint Laurent and then the wide courtyard at the entrance with the fountain. As we walked through, pungent and bold colors were splashed on the walls and there was a large cacti garden. It was breathtaking. And to think that right outside those gates was a city that was loud and highly energetic, this space was controlled and quiet. All you could hear were the faint chats of the tourists and the goldfish in the pond swimming fighting with the food the keeper provided them.

After our a long morning at the jardin, we were feeling just a bit peckish yet didn’t want to over do it. So we made our way to the Le Jardin for a light lunch. We grabbed a bunch of starters, an avocado shake and an iced mint tea. The restaurant grounds was in the middle of a garden and a lush green oasis with many turtles casually sauntering around. After an incredible orange blossom creme brulee, we decided it was time to do some souvenir shopping in the souks.

* * *

Le Jardin

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We seemed to find everything we wanted from Souk Semmarine and the places des epices for all our friends and family. They were the easiest to navigate and the easiest to haggle. After literally hours of perusing shop after shop and row after row, we went back to the hotel for a little late afternoon relaxation. Before our final dinner at Le Tobsil.

When the sun went down and we had another orange juice from the square, we made our way to the other part of the city. We walked into this dim lit alleyway that wasn’t quite so inviting. After a right and then possibly a left a couple of times we made our way to a door with an overpass that even had me ducking. The room opened up to what seemed like a palace. So intimately decorated with rosepetals, nothing but candles and live Berber music-it was the moment where I knew it was going to be a pretty epic dinner.

what I wore

dress c/o BODEN shoes c/o BODEN clutch c/o BODEN belt c/o BODEN
 

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proper luxury moroccan experience

It was a set menu with non-stop flowing drinks and not a pretentious wine list to choose from (only “red, white or rose”). We had the rose as we weren’t sure what we would be served, so it seemed appropriate. People gradually trickled in and there was literally only 8 people, with my brother and I easily being 30 years younger than everyone. At the moment everyone was seated, the first course of 6 different types of salads came out. Moroccan cuisine is known for its array of warm and cold salads, so it was nice to try something outside the roasted aubergine and dig into a variety. Some were set, some spicy, some flowery and some became a quick favorite. And we couldn’t even finish all the salads and by the next point chicken tagine wrapped in a pancake was served. It was absolutely lush. The chicken literally falling off the bone and the light pancake with the crunchy edges made the experience so unique for something we have never encountered before.

Le Tobsil

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The third course came out and I saw another tagine. I looked at my brother and said that there must have been a mistake, but in reality, the lamb was the next course. A slow roasted lamb tagine served with a beautiful couscous that was topped with roasted vegetables and caramelized onions. There was lots to eat, but we ate the meal like kings. Then the final course… of the two desserts. The poached fruit with pears, oranges and strawberries. The orange peel help sweetened everything and it made for a stunning poached recipe and entry to the orange blossom milk pastilla. We started our trip with these two desserts at Riad Boussa and were excited to end on the same sweet note.
 

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moroccan feast with La Maison Arabe

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culinary adventure

My parents cultivated a strong loving bond with my brother and I around the kitchen island. Our home growing up had an open plan kitchen, breakfast nook and family living room-and even the most important guests that came to visit would still be invited to sit in the family room, where we felt the most comfortable and where my mom could seamlessly prepare an incredible multi-course meal whilst entertaining.

My fondest childhood memories always included food, something prepared by the hands of my parents, and still today they tend to cook together. It’s what brings us together…

On mine and my brother’s first full day in Marrakech, we were invited by La Maison Arabe to a private cooking class that truly was unforgettable. Since I lived in the Middle East, I attempted to cook Moroccan ravines, but this 1-day class provided a thorough (thoughtfully done with brevity) course on the derivatives of Moroccan cuisine. What made it truly special from any other cuisine in the world.
 

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base spices & herbs

Moroccan cuisine is a combination of Berber, Arab, Jewish (think preserved lemon) and Moorish (the Islamic empire from Spain) cuisines. The spice trade to colonialism to the tribes have all influenced the gastronomy of such a rich country.

Bread being the fork and knife of the cuisine, you can see where colonialist elements seeped into the Moroccan traditions.

You will find black and white pepper used brought from India, dried and ground ginger that is slightly sweet and subtly spicy, turmeric for color, dried cumin for salads and omelettes and lamb, sweet paprika, harissa chili for a touch more of spice, cinnamon to caramelize dried fruits and onions, ras el hanout is the garam masala of the country with each family and region with its own variations, saffron for a royal layer, orange blossom in the desserts as well as rosewater and argan oil.
 

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what I wore

top c/o BODEN skirt c/o BODEN shoes c/o BODEN sunglasses c/o BODEN

The moment we started cooking in the tagine, a conical clay pot from North Africa that traditionally was cooked inside a baker’s oven is conical clay pot that is filled with meat, dried fruits and spices to create an entree. The aromas of each ingredient flirted with the next ingredient that was added into the tagine. The pungent olive oil, the onion then the garlic. This is the moment where I wish my photos had scratch-and-sniff capabilities.

* * *

La Maison Arabe

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the menu

Moroccan cuisine is known for its assortment of salads, not just the ravines. For the winter months you will find salads that are warm and more hearty. In the warmer months, more pickling is done. We made 2 salads:

taktuka salad

which is a tomato and pepper salad that is earthy and natural. I found extremely refreshing and lovely with extra olive oil.

zaalook salad

a warm aubergine salad with garlic. Not being too big of an aubergine fan, my brother devoured it everytime we had it during the trip.

* * *
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chicken tagine with preserved lemon & olives

For our entree, we made a chicken tagine with preserved lemon and olives. This dish drew elements from all the communities that makes the populace so unique in Morocco. With preserved lemon from the Jewish heritage, to saffron from the Spanish Islamic empire, to the olives of the Mediterranean influence. It was a refreshing dish for a warm afternoon meal.

milk pastilla

Finally, the dessert was the milk pastilla. A slightly floral flavored, milky dessert that was topped with almonds, cinnamon and powdered sugar. It was a very simple dessert that had my brother asking for it for breakfast each morning too.

* * *
You can right click on the recipe card to save directly to your computer.
Print on a 3 x 5 index card setting and store with the rest of your recipes.
For more recipe, visit the recipe index here!
 

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time for adventure

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Marrakech with my little brother

We got into an SUV where the driver greeted us with Justin Bieber on the car stereo. We asked him if he could change the station to something in Arabic and the light in his eyes made him really excited to turn something more of his liking on.

Just about 10 minutes into the drive we started seeing bits of the Koutoubia and then horse carriages that lined the lane leading up to Djema el-Fna. We got out of the car and were greeted by a sweet, old Berber man that started walking us through a bustling square. Enchanted snakes on the left, monkeys on the right, men selling selfie sticks and the smell of citrus and schwarma perfumed the air. The square’s edges were ornamented with petit tables and chairs where tourists perched watching the energy evolve and seep into the little arteries that bled into the souks.

Once we hit the opposite end of the square, we entered little streets where markets, cyclists, old women carrying fresh bread from the market all shared little broken pavements. It was worrying at first, but it transported me back to the shanty streets of Jodhpur!
 

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what I wore

dress c/o RIVIERA CHIC belt c/o ANTHROPOLOGIE necklace c/o JLAUREN

And the little streets, opened up to residential areas where you couldn’t hear a thing but the little saunters of the local people living their everyday life. And then came a door marked with Riad Boussa. After three-knocks, Brigitte opened the door and the smile on her warm, friendly face reassured we were going to be just fine.

Each welcome came with mint tea, a sit on the edge of the courtyard that overlooked the small man-made pond in the middle that collected rose petals. We were shown around the riad, essentially a home turned into an intimate hotel, and then situated into our rooms. The rooms were comfortable and quiet, what we sought after walks through the souk to get here. And after a bit of freshening up, we made our way downstairs to dinner.

We were introduced to Ali, another friendly soul in the riad who quickly became one of our close friends and a proper face of what we will remember Marrakech by. He urged us to try the Vin Gris, a Moroccan-produced wine, which tickled our tastebuds to excite us for our first meal in Marrakech (which easily became the best meal we had during the trip).
 

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and so it began…

The first course was a sample platter of Moroccan starters. A warm aubergine salad with garlic, sautéed courgette with preserved lemon and a briouats (meat filled pastry). Light, full of flavor and fresh. The fresh produce got me excited after a winter spent in the UK. Our second course was a chicken tagine with raisins and onions. I started with a fork, but quickly realized that I will need a spoon to eat the entree. The softest and most tender pieces of chicken on the bone, a spoonful of the slightly sweetened broth topped with a helping of raisins-it was a delicacy that I wanted to be served if I had to choose a last meal. My brother, sitting across from me, looked me straight into the eye and said “it will be hard to top this.” And it was.

Before dessert was served, we looked around and listened. Not a chirp from a bird, but just the sound of the fountain and faint North African jazz playing in the background. There was light fighting to get through the holes of a lantern and it was at that moment I finally felt like I was in Marrakech.

Riad Boussa was a blessing. To start this trip with the warmth and service they provided would not have given us the first impression we anticipated. A luxury experience without the superfluous bits and the perfect amount of keeping you excited each day to explore the vibrant, and unbelievable city.
 

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Riad Boussa

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Special thanks to Riad Boussa for providing the incredible hospitality, all opinions and thoughts are my own, as always.
 

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