All Aboard the train…the Marrekech Express. ” Looking at the world through sunset in your eyes, traveling the train through clear Moroccan skies”. Sing it loud (Ali) and dance like no one is watching cause this train was full and rockin with 14 incredible women. And to say we hit the pavement or in this case souk running was an understatement as this group was ready to party even before we arrived trying to change the S in STAT to Shopping instead of Sports.
But we managed to find the balance from the luxury of our first indulgent night at La Mamounia to our very last at Riad El Fenn which captured the vibrant style of the sophisticated mix of colorful textiles with an artistic flair.
Our drive 110 miles west of Marrakech to Essaouira pronounced es-Sweera, a coastal oasis on the Atlantic coast was a perfect one-nighter to experience our camel ride not to mention camel pose, see the goats in the tree, and taste the local fish from the strip of casual eateries on the pungent port…evidently an unmissable experience! Some of my girls would have preferred to miss that meal!
A Unesco World Heritage Site, it’s a town all about the sea known as the “Wind city of Africa” so no doubt it attracts the surfer crowd. Our guided walk in the medina between retail sweats was filled with interesting facts about the town’s history. It was the only arab town that had a majority of a jewish population. In fact, there were as many as 40 synagogues now long gone but there were still several doorways where the Star of David was visible. And let’s not forget our stop to experience making Argan Oil.
Without missing a beat, we were off again on our Marrakech express “bus” to the Atlas Mountains where our road bikes were lined up waiting for us at Kasbah Tamadot…Richard Branson’s exquisite resting place on a plateau where we slept in the most magnificent Berber tent you’ve ever seen. We biked for miles across ploughed fields, barren and terraced land to the mountains beyond. Such a glorious backdrop that we almost didn’t notice the heatwave (ha) which made the ride incredibly more challenging as it was truly 102 degrees in the shade. Our guides
kept us hydrated of course but with the mix of uphills and downhills, it was up to us to stop and smell the roses, snap a few photos of the simple life of the locals working in the fields and enjoy being hosted for tea in a Berber village. It was a huge day and we earned our cocktails and delicious moroccan dinner on the veranda overlooking the picturesque pool area while looking forward to another hot day in the Atlas mountain range. Mixing it up, we really got the lay of the land on our waterfall hike through traditional Berber villages with Jbel toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa, as our backdrop. This was NOT like hiking in Aspen as not
only has this region retained a remoteness where the way of life has changed little for centuries, we actually had some shopping opportunities along the trail! Not that my girls were interested in the least! But we were all interested in the wonderful lunch of tangines filled with veggies, lamb, and chicken at kasbah du Toubkal overlooking the waterfall. It was so yummy including the greatest tasting melon ever. Another big day bonding and carrying on together in nature only to be rewarded back at the Kasbah with Hamanns and massages before cleaning up for our last evening together in Branson’s paradise before we head back to kech in the morning on bicycle of course. Anyone can ride the “bus” but my gang took to the open road and decided to arrive in style just in time for lunch at Terrassa des Epices in the middle of the medina with a great view of the souk chomping at the bit for another round of exploring the colorful spices, carpets, jewelry, enamel, copper, brass, cedar and other local treasures. It was like a labyrinth and so damn easy to get lost in. Peacock Pavilions was our early evening plan and our most important of the journey in that it was our philanthropic element. I’ve read about Maryam Montague and the wonderful work she has been doing with women in developing countries and now she has brought it home to her own village giving them access to sport and art…2 of my favorite pastimes. She hosted my STAT girls in her beautiful home on the outskirts of Marrakech set in a tranquil olive grove filled with her gorgeous collections with a contemporary flair. She was as gracious as they come encouraging us to engage with Soar (the name of her non-profit) in order to “take something away with you that is more meaningful than a pair of slippers from the souk”. And thankfully gave us another shopping opportunity at her store Red Thread where all the profits go to Soar. I was moved by her humanitarian spirit and the way she comes by it all so honestly. It was a take a deep breath moment for all of us in the middle of the craziness to have gratitude for our blessings.
Staying on theme, we were off to Al Fassia for dinner which is a women’s cooperative with the best tasting tagines and lamb of the trip but I’m partial to women! No trip to Marrekech would be complete without a “fast” walking tour of the city and we did just that for our last full day together. It was keep up or else as we were on a mission to get it all in between our spice tutorial, shopping, lunch at the magnificent Yves Saint Laurent’s Jardin Majorelle, shopping, and having enough time to get ready for our celebratory final evening together. And boy was it a final evening to end all evenings starting with Mohamed collecting us all in horse and carriage!
Loved that touch. It was as special as it gets at Mohamed’s Riad Kniza for our 2 “still under 50” May birthday mamas. Everything was meticulously articulated and we were all together including our wonderful guides Samira wearing her trademark red lipstick (a tough-as-shit chick in a muslim country) protected by her handsome brothers Farouq and Saif and our Mohameds…every male’s name by default. A magical night and a most memorable trip for me. And as I hang this talking stick in its final resting place in my office, I am in awe of all our intentions and reminded that it’s not “all about us” but a collective us which is the Universe that has brought us all together on this special Marrakech express to Morocco. And that’s a wrap.