Day 4: YSL, Majorelle Gardens, Rugs Galore

Once again I woke up to the call to prayers, but at least I slept soundly most of the night. As I get older, I have come to realize that a good night’s sleep isn’t something I can take for granted.

I was the first person to come downstairs as the sky slowly lightened, my only companions were Momo, Tagine and Cous Cous. It was raining softly and I worried how it would affect our day’s plans. 

I enjoyed some of the cheese and bread from the night before and was tired again by the time everyone else woke up. I turned in for a mid-morning nap and woke up refreshed and happy to see the sun was out.

Lindsay, a 22 year-old electrician from Darwin, Australia, is also an early riser

The plan was to go to the Yves Saint Laurent museum and the Majorelle Gardens he called home. 

Jo arranged for two vans to meet us at the edge of the médina and take us to the museum. It was jarring to leave the walled inner city and be confronted with the modern Morocco. It was like traveling 200 years in two minutes.

The YSL museum was gorgeous. While familiar with his iconic pieces, I’ve never been much of fashion person. The exhibit of his most important designs was artfully curated with original gowns on display in a dark room. Projections of models walking in his creations would emerge ethereally out of the black walls. There was a short documentary about his career and his connection to Morocco. 

It was a small and easily consumed show, leaving plenty of room for a tour of Majorelle Gardens next door. It was one of the most beautiful gardens I’ve ever been to. It wasn’t very large, nor did it attempt to cover all the bases like many botanical gardens I’ve been to. It was simply a work of art. A mood.

Marrakech.

We walked through a mature bamboo forest and were surrounded by mostly cacti and succulents, enormous with time, though it didn’t feel arid. There was water everywhere and large trees that supported glorious bougainvillea. Color was used sparingly but with maximum impact. It was a dreamscape.

My new favorite color is Majorelle Blue.

Lindsay insisted we all take pictures on the stairs of the Majorelle blue house steps, no small feat given that everyone had the same thing in mind.

We had lunch and café nous nous (a tiny latte) at the café in the gardens. I thought it would be a nightmare trying to seat 13 people together but it seems that in Morocco the answer always is, “Yes, yes. No problem.”

We enjoyed yet another spectacular meal of fresh fruits, vegetables, and perfectly seasoned dishes. I did not expect Morocco to be such a culinary dream-come-true.

We stopped at the Berber museum before leaving, it was my favorite part of the outing, which is saying something.

It was a very small museum housed within YSL’s former private residence.

How do I describe it? Ancient, rich, steeped in so much history, completely over-the-top beautiful. I am so glad that visiting Berber villages is on our itinerary because I have to see it in person.

The room that houses the jewelry collection was the most outrageous installation I’ve ever been in. It was probably an eight-sided room, I couldn’t tell because it was entirely dark, every wall covered with floor to ceiling mirrors. The ceiling was painted black and dotted with tiny lights that looked like twinkling stars.

The effect of the “stars” mirrored into infinity made me feel like I was stepping into outer space. Glass cases housed spectacular Berber jewelry that would make more sense on a wall than on a person, each piece was epic in scale and carried so much history and tradition. (BTW, click on the images below to see them full-screen, it’s worth it.)

Those three small rooms left me speechless.

We loaded back into vans and went back in time to the médina. I was waylaid on the walk to the riad when I saw a vintage rag rug. The price was right, Jo nodded in approval. I had to have it.

Lor and I stopped at the riad next door that Jo was staying in, owned by Julien and Françiose, the French couple that manages Riad Matham. It is called Riad Dar Kleta and is also available to rent. Anything Julien and Françiose are involved in gets my enthusiastic recommendation.

It was a riot of green and color, personal feeling as opposed the the womb of cream and earth tones at Matham. It feels lush and alive, vibrant. Good lord, I love the visual design here so much. I can see why YSL never wanted to leave.

We dropped my rug off and headed back out to get some cash. I downloaded the Here We Go app and dropped a pin at our riad and hoped for the best.

These ladies were always ready to go

One very meandering walk and a rug later, we made it back and I had some orange juice and a nip of the whisky I brought from home and did some writing.

Before going out for dinner I dipped my aching feet in the courtyard pool. My heart sank a little knowing that we weren’t leaving for dinner until 7:15, I was going to be in for a very long night. 

My Parasitic Twin’s duty at parties is to get everyone out of my house when it gets late (9pm) which is to say that my dread over a long night had nothing to do with the company I kept or the environment. I’m an early bird.

That said, if there was ever a place that would keep me up, it’s this place.

Hesham led us into the center of the medina to a chic French restaurant. Jo reserved a table on the roof for us and we spent the first 15 minutes gawking at the sunset and taking pictures of each other before being seated. She has a gift for sussing out the most wonderful places to eat.

La Table du Palais had a liquor license so many of the ladies ordered wine and cocktails. I already had some booze in me and I could feel the fatigue settle in, more wasn’t going to make it better. 

Fabulous portrait of YSL at the restaurant

The waiter was surly and we were by ourselves on the roof, I looked at my watch, it was going to be a long evening. It was a multi-course meal and I felt that not only would it be wasted on me, I would dread each course. Come nine o’clock we hadn’t even ordered so I made my move.

“Ladies,” I said standing up, “it has been a lovely evening, I have enjoyed this so much, and I’m really tired and am not going to make it. I’ve got to head back.” I hope they were assured that it wasn’t them – the conversation was great – I was just tired and couldn’t face two hours of eating. Jo insisted I call Hesham to escort me home – which I did – and I went downstairs to wait.

Hesham is the loveliest man, absolutely devoted to his job and service. Everything is “no problem.” It took us probably 30 minutes to get to the restaurant from the riad but he was there for me in ten. Without a large group of people to keep together, we moved very quickly. 

The souk at night is a different animal. It is less busy but also feels less safe. Hesham led me down empty passages and dark alleys where the shops had closed up, nothing was familiar. We darted around people and jumped out the way when we heard scooters approaching.

I’ve been used to moving pretty slowly but I told Hesham that he could step on the gas. Sideboob would be proud.

I asked him if he could recommend a spot to grab something to eat to take home. He asked if I wanted a restaurant. “No. Street food,” I insisted.

“When in Rome … “ he said.

We stopped at a cart, I asked him to order whatever he thought was best and I watched them grill up turkey kabobs on the brazier and crack and egg on top while we enjoyed a little hot tea from the same glass. I had a potato fritter while we waited, it was greasy and divine.

“If you want to go back again you can, they know you now and will serve you food.” 

He told me the men at the cart wondered what I was doing there, why I was eating on the street. 

“Its my favorite thing,” I said.

I carried my food back to the riad, happy to know that in 10 minutes I would be fed and in bed.

I really wanted quiet time to write and slowly get ready for the next day. Jo is taking us to Essaouira and told us we would be leaving at 10am sharp, so be ready.

To be honest it was several hours before I fell asleep, but I did what I wanted the most and I hope no one was offended. After all, it’s my trip and I should be able to take control of my own experience. It’s actually a big step for me, I’m more likely to not say anything and be uncomfortable that speak up for myself.

It was 11:30 by  the time I heard the ladies come, I’m glad I took matters into my own hands because I want to be rested for tomorrow’s trip to Essaouira.

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