Marrakesh has long been a hub for interior ideas, with many artists, architects, fashion, and interior designers drawing inspiration from its rich history and cultural influences, writes Catherine Wilman.
My partner Nigel and I enjoyed spending a few days in Marrakesh for our friend Paul’s birthday. We had a wonderful time, and I highly recommend it for a city break and providing Moroccan decor ideas to transform your home.
Visiting the city offers a fresh perspective and new ideas for an interior designer or home decor enthusiast seeking inspiration. It is certainly a cultural contrast to London, where I live, so it was the perfect breakaway with a relatively short flight from the UK. I loved the great use of bold colours and patterns, and textures with bright blue, green, and pink hues, often paired with geometric shapes and intricate detailing. The locals are fearless in blending materials, such as ceramic, metal, and wood, and use stunning techniques of micro cement and polished concrete and tiles and brickwork.
Moroccan decor home ideas to look out for during your trip
Ceramics, from beautiful pottery with a huge range of colours, from muted to vibrant to the array of stunning tiles adorned with intricate patterns and vibrant hues. Perfect if you want to add a touch of design to your bathroom or kitchen, or you want to dress a sideboard or bookcase.
A photo below of the Moroccan tiles we used for our house renovation project in Fulham, West London. We used them in a child’s bathroom to add a fun, youthful twist.
Textiles and Rugs: Moroccan textiles are known for their rich colours and intricate patterns for cushions and table settings, and hundreds of beautiful Rugs. Made in many size, these beautiful rugs can be ordered and shipped to the UK.
Lanterns and Lighting: Moroccan lanterns are great for your garden of terrace; often made from metal or glass they have intricate patterns that can project a pattern within your space and so I think these looks great in a garden or terrace or use to line pathways or walls.
Woven Baskets that have been made by weaving together materials such as reeds, grasses, or other natural fibres handmade by local artisans perfect for a bedroom/bathroom storage or child's bedroom.
Places to stay
There are lots of cool places to stay in
Marrakesh but for visitors seeking beautiful interior decor we can recommend RIAD de TARABEL. The riad is in the heart of the Medina and its interior is a perfect blend of traditional Moroccan architecture and stylish design. Every detail is carefully considered to create a harmonious and elegant "home". The rooms and suites are spacious and comfortable, featuring handcrafted furnishings, luxurious linens, and all the modern amenities you need. Just beware, some of the bedrooms don't have separate en-suites and they have opted for an open plan bath and sink in the bedrooms, so if a private ensuite is very important to you, check which room you book.
The Riad de Tarabel has a stunning rooftop terrace; a perfect place to relax and unwind after a day of exploring Marrakech, and you can enjoy a refreshing dip in the plunge pool or soak up the sun on the loungers. The riad also has a spa where you can indulge in various treatments and massages to help you relax and rejuvenate. And if you're feeling hungry, the riad's restaurant serves delicious Moroccan and international cuisine made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. They even offer cooking lessons.
Places to eat in Marrakesh
We visited a few great restaurants during our short stay, so I wanted to share some with you. It is best to book in advance as these places get busy:
Paul and Kath, our friends, found this wonderful roof top restaurant/bar and Paul’s held his birthday lunch here. It is a cool rooftop terrace with a great vibe, decor, and food, perfect for lunch or an early evening meal. It provides a lively and vibrant atmosphere and serves alcohol which is a plus, as not all places do, so if you fancy cocktails and great food, this was a great place to check out.
During the day, we had a great lunch in Nomad, this is a vibrant rooftop restaurant with stunning city views. The menu features creative dishes made with locally sourced ingredients, and the interior design is a chic blend of traditional and contemporary styles. It is located just off the central square, which is known as Jemaa el-Fnaa. This bustling square is a popular tourist destination, filled with street performers, food vendors, and stalls selling various goods that specialize in woven baskets.
LES JARDINS DU LOTUS
One evening we went to the Les Jardins Du Lotus. This is very cool restaurant known for its hidden entrance that leads guests through a narrow alleyway and ruins before revealing the stunning garden courtyard. The entrance is intentionally designed to create a sense of anticipation and mystery and looks like a ruin. The contrast between the dark passage and the vibrant garden is genuinely breathtakingly. The courtyard has lush plants, beautiful tiles, and cool deco with huge crittall windows. The interior design of Le Jardin is a blend of traditional Moroccan elements and modern touches, creating a chic atmosphere that perfectly complements the beauty of the courtyard with chilled music. We really enjoyed it.
TERRASSE DES EPICES
Another great evening was at Terrasse Des Epices. This was very cool restaurant. You enter via a spice shop that leads up a staircase to the large open-air rooftop terrace restaurant. Its dim lighting and lanterns created a moody, intimate atmosphere with an international clientele playing our favourite chillout Ibiza music. We didn't go during the daytime, but we believe this is also a great place to have lunch, as the rooftop terrace offers stunning views of Marrakesh and the surrounding Atlas Mountains.
Highlights of Marrakesh
During the day, we walked the souk and visited some famous religious sites, including the Madrasa Ben Youssef. Madrasa means "centre of learning". Once one of the most prominent Islamic colleges in North Africa and is now a World Heritage Site dating back to the 14th century. It is an impressive example of Moroccan architecture. The entire building is decorated with intricate geometric patterns and carved stucco. This university has 130 tiny rooms that housed up to 900 students. These basic rooms meant there was barely room to lay a sleeping mat, but it was also used as an area for studying and cooking – I thought my university bedroom was small!This is an eye-opener to how people can manage in cramped conditions.
Another architectural highlight is Koutoubia Mosque. I could not find a direct web link but there is lot of information about the mosque on the internet. The iconic building is a stunning example of Islamic architecture that dates to the 12th century. Its soaring minaret can be seen from almost anywhere in the city, and it is a must-visit for anyone interested in architecture.
Other must-sees during a city stay include:
It was once owned by Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé. It's a house with a beautiful garden they discovered in 1966 and spent many years restoring to its former glory. It is now a public museum and worth a visit. After Saint Laurent died in 2008, his ashes were scattered in the garden.
LE JARDIN SECRET GARDEN
We recommend visiting the Secret Garden (Le Jardin Secret). It is a peaceful botanical garden, an oasis hidden in the centre of the city - and a nice contrast to bustling activities outside.
MULE & DONKEY REFUGE
Located just outside central Marrakesh, Jarjeer Mules is a must-see for animal lovers. I am a big fan and follow their Instagram updates here: https://www.instagram.com/jarjeermules/
This wonderful refuge was founded by two retired English barristers who were moved by the plight of the working animals they saw in Morocco. The organisation rescues, rehabilitates, and rehomes malnourished, injured, or overworked animals, such as mules and donkeys. They work closely with local communities to promote responsible ownership and raise awareness of animal welfare issues. Sponsoring a donkey through Jarjeer Mules is also a great way to support the refuge and can be a meaningful gift for an adult or child. Even a small donation can make a big difference. To learn more about how to donate or sponsor a donkey, please visit their website: https://jarjeer.org
Tops tips for the first-time visitor to Marrakesh
For anyone who hasn't been before, I have compiled a few tips that visitors should be aware of to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip:
Dress appropriately: Marrakesh is a predominantly Muslim city, so it's important to dress conservatively, especially when visiting religious sites.
Be cautious with street vendors: Marrakesh is known for its bustling souks and street vendors, but some may use aggressive or high-pressure sales tactics. It's crucial to negotiate prices. The tip from the local staff in our riad was to drop the price by 50% and work back from there. It takes some time to learn the ropes, but they say to try to be firm in your bargaining and be polite and respectful.
Tip from experience: Don't follow people if they want to show you something. Some of the sellers in the souks work in a tag team to get you into a particular shop to try to sell their products; despite all the warnings, Nigel and I fell for one of their scams. A bunch of different vendors throughout the day kept telling us we must see the special leather sale that was taking place, and we ended up being led down various alleyways to someone's remote shop with no special sale! Some scammers may try to take advantage of tourists, and they are brilliant at it, so be wary of offers that seem too good to be true.
Carry cash and small change: Many places in Marrakesh, especially in the souks, may not accept credit cards or larger bills. It's a good idea to carry small change and cash for purchases.
Animal Welfare: Finally, I wanted to highlight an important point that is close to my heart, and that is animal welfare. Anyone who knows me will know that I love animals in general, but I am a huge equine lover growing up with ponies and horses as a child. Hence, the one thing I found upsetting was the condition of some of the donkeys and mules, which are often used to carry heavy loads and can be mistreated, and many are simply abandoned once their lifelong service is over.
The horses used to ferry tourists in carriages from one destination appeared to be treated better than the mules and donkeys. However, remember that these poor animals trot around for hours on these hard roads, which can cause splits in their legs, and they work every day in intense heat. I would avoid using the horse and carriage services. When I got home, I spoke with my team, and they all agreed that we should help try to bring more awareness and acknowledge the challenges to the treatment of the equine, which prompted me to write this blog.
Marrakesh offers a feast for the senses with its stunning architecture, delicious cuisine, vibrant atmosphere, and an excellent place for some winter sunshine. I saw a vast improvement since first visiting 16 years ago. The people are friendly and welcoming, and the city is perfect for generating some interior design inspiration. All in all, Marrakesh is a must-visit destination that offers a unique and memorable experience.