A Ker & Downey Traveler’s Diary by Belén Antolin, Fashion Editor, Vogue España. Read the full article here and in the current issue of QUEST Magazine.
As fashion director of Vogue, I have traveled all around the world. I usually have producers that organize my trips, so I wanted to create an unforgettable itinerary for my husband and kids. I decided to go to Morocco, for many different reasons. The weather is perfect, the places to visit are great, and, above all, there is an enormous cultural difference from Europe, where we live. It’s only three hours from our home, so I wanted my kids to get into it. Thinking about the route, I planned the trip with stops and activities for my whole family—starting in Marrakech, stopping to experience the Atlas Mountains, driving through the Kasbahs, staying in the Skoura oasis and, finally, the most incredible part, sleeping in the desert.
We arrived in Marrakech on April 27, and right in the airport we met our driver and now friend, Azzedine, booked through Ker & Downey. He made our trip so amazing, since we were traveling by car with a 5-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy.
My husband works in restoring historical heritage, and I work in fashion. We both have artistic souls and wanted to feel the essence of the city of Marrakech, walk around the medina and sleep in the heart of it. We fulfilled our dream with a perfect stay, Riad Edward, a small 18th century riad, restored with exquisite taste by Beatriz Maximo, who guided us through the medina.
We spent our mornings touring El Badi and Bahia Palaces, Madrasa, Qubba and museums. We explored and shopped Zoco de Marrakech in the afternoon, leaving some time to relax in the riad—reading and lounging. While we dug into our books and magazines, the kids were able to swim and talk about the experiences of the day. We went to different places for dinner and lunch, and the Comptoir Darna especially amazed us. The belly dancers, the food and the ambience are really something to see.
After three days in Marrakech, we went to the Atlas to enjoy the most amazing experience in the mountains. We stayed at the breathtaking, impeccable Kasbah Bab Ourika. My idea of resting is reading a book, looking at the changing colors of the landscape, and this place is truly one of the most beautiful places I have been. The people were incredible, and the gardens and peacefulness of our surroundings were unbelievable. After dinner, you could quietly read in a fire-illuminated room, listening to old vinyl records, and be transported to another era.
From there we went to Skoura. Stopping along the way in amazing places like the village of Telouet and the fabled city of Aït-Benhaddou, which fascinated our children. We spent our nights in a private guesthouse called Dar Faracha, the house of the butterflies, which felt like our own home—complete with a personal cook and attentive staff. Waking up at 7 a.m. and walking to the palmeral with my kids—finding scorpions, snakes and local dogs—made these jaunts thrilling and authentic. And to return to a delicious breakfast already set on the table, I can only say it was perfect. For the next two days, we explored the oasis on horseback and made stops to eat the local fare. We even had a nice chat with the Spanish owner of Skoura’s Kasbah Ait Ben Moro, a property that exemplifies southern Morocco’s earthen architecture restored exactly as it was in the 18th century.
We were very excited to arrive in the desert, where the landscape changed quickly as we advanced in our car—from the green mountains of the Atlas, to the dryness and palms in the oasis, and, finally, the vast expanse of sand and dunes. We settled our brood into an exclusive, private camp Desert Camp Merzouga, where we were the only guests. To the children’s delight, we spent our time in the desert rolling up and down the dunes on sandboards and riding on camels to the camp. As we arrived, we experienced a haunting and awe-inspiring sand storm. Instead of complaining, the kids were happy to experience an authentic desert event as entertainment. We had a delicious dinner, serenaded by Berber musicians all through the evening.
We opted to take the long, scenic route back to Marrakech. So seduced by the scenery and treated to a driver who kept things interesting, we didn’t even notice the hours that passed. We made a stop in the fortified city Aït Benhaddou, distinguished by the clustered, pre-Saharan earthen houses known as Ksar of Aït-Ben-Haddou, a UNESCO World Heritage site. We stayed the night at hotel Ksar Ighnda, refueling with great amenities for kids, a great dinner and breakfast and, of course, a refreshing swim and restoring massage.
Back in Marrakech, we spent our last days walking in the amazing Jardin Majorelle, a twelve-acre botanical garden that took forty years to create—a labor of love for French painter Jacques Majorelle. We also took the time to properly shop for antiques. On our last night, we had dinner at the legendary La Mamounia, another place you can’t skip if you have seen Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much.” After a cocktail in the beautiful salon, we had an incredible dinner—kids extremely happy and parents blissful. As I am writing about it, all I can think is that I just want to go back.
For more information about adding Morocco to your itinerary, contact your Travel Professional. To read the current issue of QUEST magazine online, click here, and be sure to stay up to date on all of QUEST’s online content by following the QUEST Facebook page.