01 April 2018
Music: Shanty Deep – Oriental touch (click here to download)
As you already know, we have just returned from our moroccan – vacation – not that much of a vacation but the matter seemed appealing for Antena Stars (n.red. local TV station) – shooting session for the new Nympha campaign. Before sliding thorough our journey I must say that all the clothes that you have seen during our stay in Morocco will be soon available on their website, with an estimated date of arrival (on site, of course) of one, up to two weeks. Almost everything you’ll see in this article runs under Nympha signature. Now..where should I begin? With the flight, right? We flew with Ryanair to Morocco with the entire team from Bucharest and our first generous stop was in Venice. We managed to get out of the airport and spent the remaining hours until the next flight wondering the streets for a carbonara plate. We found them eventually at Ristorante Da Raffaele. Adrian, the photographer, flew from Paris, because he is living there for a while now.
We have stayed in Morocco for 10 days and most of them were spent (and I say most of them because we also spent one night in the desert) in a traditional Riad, from Old Medina, Marrakech. The experience was totally worth it, because I learnt a lot of things. Among these things, first on the list, is something that should never be missing from your suitcase, regardless of your destination – the bath gown. Infatuation aside, you really need a bath gown like this, along with some comfy slippers and two-three sets of thick pajamas. If the 5 star hotel you are staying at provides you with these garments, you’re lucky and you will have more space in your luggage. Do you think Morocco in March will be hot? Let me tell you something – evenings seldomly went over 8 degrees, and during daylight we were enjoying up to 15,16,18 degrees – nice, warm, but far from being hot. The only days that got close to higher temperatures were, of course, in Sahara. It’s going to be fine if you’re going there to shoot some photos, but it’s not that recommendable earlier than April-May, or June (I’m a big fan of warm weather), if you want to enjoy everything to the fullest. I am referring to 25 degrees and t-shirt weather (during the night as well).
If you are looking for a special experience, look up on Airbnb a Riad that you like and reserve a room there. If you are looking for all the luxury that you can get, go for a hotel. Outside the hotels/resorts the surrounding is full of poverty, gypsy, madness. Despite all that, the atmosphere has its magic, the fuss around Jamaal el Fna reminded me about the Grand Bazaar from Istanbul. People are kind and nice – faith somehow drove their learning towards this, because over 80% of their income comes from tourism. We were dreaming about Marrakech for six years now, so arriving in this place was kind of a dream came true, especially because the experience matched our travelling objective – non stop pictures, great sightseeing places and a sleepover in the desert. In terms of logistics, going here and there with 200 hangers, 3 pieces of luggage, 10 pairs of shoes, accessories and the afferent photo and video gear was a real challenge, so we decided to rent a driver for the entire time spent in Morocco. I totally recommend this guy if you are planning a trip to Marrakech – here is his number (+212 672 19 50 16, Abdul) – we had a 4×4 accommodating 6 people, perfect for our needs, also thanks to the fact that Abdul was there in the morning when we started to work and until evening when we finished shootings.
The first place we visited (on a rainy day) was Majorelle Gardens (حديقة ماجوريل), the famous Yves Saint Laurent gardens that you must write on your check list, along with the new YSL museum that we missed because we were running out of time. To my surprise, the rain didn’t ruin the exotic appearance of Marrakech -a thing which was also noticed by someone on my Instagram – on the contrary, it added a pinch of mystery and nostalgia. Definitely not scary, also not instagramable. Jardin Majorelle is a botanical garden made by Jaques Majorelle within 40 years , starting with 1923. Later on, in the 1930s, the Cubist villa was created by the architect Paul Sinoir. Until 1950, the artist lives here with his wife. In the 1980s, the property was bought by Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Berge who also restored it. At this moment, the garden is open to the public, and the villa hosts the Marrakech Islamic Art Museum, the Berber Museum and the newly opened Yves Saint Laurent Museum. The entrance is around 70 dirham, which means about 28 Romanian lei or 6 euros and something.
Beginning some time later than we wanted to work on the actual campaign, we only got to visit their colorful markets on the go. You can find spices, traditional products – argan, soap, perfume, leather, textiles, ceramics, silverware, but also many beautiful pieces of jewelry if you have the patience to find and crawl with them. They’re big big negotiators and they want to sell you all. They are, however, very welcoming and willing to leave the price.
We ate well at small, hidden restaurants, which didn’t inspire us trust at first sight. The first restaurant we ate was in Old Medina, in the square, right next to the taxi stop. I can’t remember the exact name, nor how to tell you to get there, but Abdul surely knows. I drank a very interesting smoothie made from avocados and milk (+ I believe) almonds. We recommend Nomad restaurant for the view, a restaurant that is always full, so you have to make a reservation in advance and consider that it is only open for dinner after 19:00. Still, another great place for dinner, a place closed this time, Dar Cherifa. We’ve got lost on the streets with the integrated GPS, great tracking up there, it’s super hidden, on a seemingly closed road. It has a superb sunset rooftop that did not work when we were there and you can take tea at the top of the restaurant at any time of the day where everything is decorated in a traditional Moroccan style, with not many rugs, pillows, prints. We ate even better when Abdul cooked us when we stopped at a super cool house (which by the way had four bedrooms, a huge living room, a kitchen and a swimming pool and it is 600 euros per night – he knows how to guide you if you want to stay there and it’s worth the money if you’re travelling with your friends). Abdul cooked traditional Tajine as I said, and I think it was the most delicious one I had ever eaten there. The Tajine is a kind of frying pan, a stew with a light steamed sauce cooked in clay pots. Most of the time it contains chicken, beef, lamb or fish, potatoes, olives, plums, nuts, lemons and many spices, they often use a mix of 32 spices that you crumble on the spot , at the market. I took some condiments on the luggage back home. Right now I’m in the airport, I left the luggage at the drop off desk, but actually I could not wear the jeans standing near the spices. They’re super strong. Tajine or tagine is found in the kitchens in North Africa, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. The name of the dish comes from the special clay pot in which the food is poured. In the Moroccan cuisine, tajine is a small cooked stew, resulting in a tender meat with flavored vegetables and a light sauce. The traditional spices used for tajine are cinnamon, saffron, ginger, turmeric, cumin, paprika and pepper. I ate vegetarian Tajine with carrot cake and cucumber – which I thought was delicious!
Tea or berber whiskey as they call it joking, is a great quest, and again, it’s a small piece of their culture. When we arrived at our Riad they waited us with mint and green tea infusion. An infusion so intense that made your mouth tingle. In the desert, during the morning and at noon, the infusion of green tea and mint was part of the daily ritual.
For the desert experience we paid 150 euro / person and this included the 6-7 hours road from Marrakech to Sahara – the route is a bit more difficult, the road is winding, the mountains complicate it even more, but the landscape is breathtaking. Very much arid, dry and even dryer land. I have not seen any animals on the road, just palm trees, from place to place. We went through the Zagora Mountains, where we stopped to take a quick photo, even though the wind was blowing extremely hard. After about seven hours of traveling by car, three Liviu Teodorescu and B.U.G Mafia playlists on repeat, we finally arrived at the sand dunes we wanted to see. The landscape seemed unreal. I wished for a long time to get to the desert – it’s an experience, after all – and when I arrived, the first thing we did was to throw ourselves on the sand. Carmen took her shoes off and climbed onto the first dune. We made a quick makeup in front of the car we came with. We placed our makeup kits on the brick sand, leaned a car mirror, and fought the Sahara wind trying to restrain the number of tears from our eyes. It was not the best idea to create a full make up on the spot, but spending that many hours in the car with that amount of make-up was not a good idea either. We took some photos before the sunset, we drank some red wine… directly from the bottle, and then we headed to our camp where we were supposed to stay overnight.
Again, we were greeted with kindness by the locals who were our hosts for one night and a day, told us about their work, about how to cherish the present moment and enjoy what we have, quietly, in peace, enjoying little things, health and strength, and restrain from thinking about what we have to do in the future – this being, in their opinion, the greatest enemy of the present. For them, the idea of being present, as a being, as a soul was the most important. They live without worries, without stress and in communion with nature in the desert.
We set everything in the tents. I slept with Carmen in a tent called La Lune, which again seemed like a sign for that tattoo that the both of us want. The tent was simple, rectangular, built from many blankets, colored scarves and wood. In the middle there was a certain light bulb taking power from the solar panels that were loading during the day. When we arrived, it was still very warm in the tent and we were glad (for nothing – to be honest) because the night was extremely cold. As you know, the night temperature in the desert is very low, so I slept with my leather pants on, a T-shirt + an Army parka from Reserved and two thick wool blankets, over. Still, it wasn’t very warm and we were looking forward to the morning sun, for a chance to get some sunshine. Originally we had to start the photo session the next day at sunrise, but it was actually too cold to get rid of all the things I told you I wore above and get into some dress, so I went to bed again for approximately an hour.
A night in the desert is a fantasy that each one of you must live once in your life. The stars are so clear and beautiful, all the Milky Way spreads lazily in front of you, like an open book waiting to be read. We were sorry we did not have a telescope with us – but hey, you can do that, if you get to the desert! We had dinner in their tent (it was also the largest tent in the camp) that was still decorated with metallic sticks remained from the holidays. I should have kept my Christmas tree back home, I told myself. One of the walls there had a writing manufactured on it – 2018, because – as far as I learned a group of 36 people celebrated New Year’s Eve in the desert. I know. I know! We want that too! I have never heard anyone do this before, and honestly it sounds awesome – to catch your new year in the Sahara Desert, under a sea of stars, in the deepest silence. As I said, I took dinner in their tent. Dinner consisted of a specially moroccan cream soup spiced with thousands of secret spices, with chicken and vegetables, along with their traditional bread with lettuce and fresh fruits and of course, sliced orange slices of cinnamon. Until I got to the dessert, I knew for sure that if I had to close my eyes while enjoying a slice of orange with cinnamon, I would feel the Christmas atmosphere around. I did that, obviously. When I opened my eyes and stood in a blunt position, in front of me there was 2018, written in silver and pink on a textile wall. A dream! I came to find out that back home- in Cluj, Bucharest and Târgu-Mureş, it was snowing again.
After supper we stood out around a campfire, drank wine (brought from home), and we got lost infinitely in the sky that opened before us. The canopy of the sky was generous, from one end to the other, round and comprehensive. The stars seemed better here than ever, because we did not have the illuminated pollution of the surrounding towns or villages, but perhaps because we were seeing them so, with our eyes wishing to see exactly that scenery. I even saw a falling star and I asked for a wish. The same old desire … After the dinner and the artistic program the girls went to sleep. We stayed out around the fire with Abdul, Adrian, Razvan and our Bedouin. Abdul told us how he was left with a car in the desert because the heater crashed, the nomads told us about their lives, how and where they were born, how they had to move through the desert to another village to have access to school and how they live now, but also about the fact that each one of them was in Paris, but also in Munich, Rome and Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Spain … and that home still is their favorite place. I think so too.
At some point, I ran away from the fire – because yes, I knew there was a 3G signal somewhere – to see if I could send Raul some video with the fire, the dance and the evening. I was alone in the night, I did not turn on the phone’s flash because I was running low on the battery anyway. I stood on the bottom of the sand dune. Suddenly, I heard a snarl somewhere behind me, to the left. I looked at our tents, at my feet in the boots, towards the fire and measured the entire distance quickly. How long does it take me to get there and how quickly can I run with my Moja boots? I heard the hungry snarl again over the hill, and I couldn’t tell where it came from. I turned on the flash and I didn’t see anything left-right. Yet, the sound was growing around. I ran down the dune and I do not stop until the camp fire still burning. I told the guys what I heard, and then I got horrified at the fact that the toilet … was about two hundred yards from our camp – and we had to adventure on that road to brush our teeth or simply use the “bathroom”! The only thing I was thinking about when I took Carmen by the hand, about an hour later, to go to the bathroom – and there was so much silence everywhere around – was that snarl, how it would track me down and catch my ankle in the night while I wanted to get to the toilet in the desert to brush my teeth. Carmen gets scared very easily – and if you walk into the room, for example, and she doesn’t know you’re going to do it, it gets problematic, so I had to march my way to the bathroom (twice, then we realized that there was 3G signal closer to us, as well) through night, sand, over brick carpets and checkpoints, with a scary image in mind. A blurry picture, of course, imagined, some kind of a hybrid between Chupacabra and a desert dog.
By the time we’ve made our second march to the toilet to exchange some files, my phone dies right in front of me. I laughed a good one, we concluded that it was supposed to be, we went back to the room and got ready for a well deserved sleep. I did not sleep well, I was also very excited about spending the night in Sahara and thinking that Raul is not with me here and ladies, how much he would have liked all this experience! Marrakech, food , the stars, the desert, the songs, the culture, the life. I felt asleep late with my thoughts away and I dreamed (that I was in Cluj, the peak) until I started to hear a bored dog barking and barking … and barking again, getting closer and closer to our tent – and believe me, through those blankets, it surely felt like surround sound systems.. I heard his footsteps on the sand. At one point I thought (while being asleep) that the dog was going to get into the tent, but immediately after I realized there was no way, since the door was closed with the latch.
In the morning we started with Heaven from Depeche Mode, I quickly took a few stories on Instagram, to find out, walking on the dune with 3G, the same one we had escaped the previous night that the frightening roar was coming from some camels near us, in another camp. I had no idea that camels can make such sounds, what amused me is that they were completely inoffensive, especially thanks to the fact that they were tethered. I went down to catch the breakfast, which consisted of properly cooked eggs, bread, cheese, butter, jam, orange juice and coffee. The landscape was so beautiful that you did not need anything – I think 7-8 am in the morning and sunsets are the most beautiful moments in the desert. I had such a haze of light everywhere, the colors of the desert looking like the earth was cut when it combined with the blue from the fresh morning sky, the cold rugs on the bottom, the lazy cat, the beggars, the thick and colorful pillows, the freshly squeezed orange juice, the smell of coffee and the long-awaited sunshine which brought the temperature back to normal – 15 degrees. We stayed in our T-shirt for breakfast and we took our vitamin D dose. Our hosts had prepared meals in the same place where we stayed the night before. We ate and returned to our tent to prepare for the shooting. We were preparing to leave the desert in the afternoon, so we wanted to take advantage of the moment … Certainly the best experience was the fact that after shooting, we sat on the sand at sunset. Nothing beats that feeling, trust me. The silence of the desert, the warm sand, those colors … Listen to me when I tell you, I’ll be coming back to the desert. But for a long time, not just one night. And I’m hoping that I also made you curious to do that someday.
The troubles began only when we left the desert and came to realize that we had a puncture on the wheel, which totally blew us off, partially because it crossed our schedule and we had to cross the mountains during the day and also because the sunset in front of us did not look good at all: heavy clouds gathered above the Atlas mountains threatening us with bad weather. It was not enough that we had to cross the mountains and the winding road that night, that there appeared another impediment: rain, no, wait, snow – a kind of bruise, actually. I filmed for the vlog, in case no one believes me. After that, fog – and here I refer to that kind of fog you do not see at a meter in front of the car. At one point I had the impression that we will spend our night in the car, waiting. Carmen panicked and kept the watching direction by wiping every half a minute the window behind the car, right, where she stood – facing the abyss: “It’s curved to the left, we must keep left, please! Take care, Abdul!”– a moment when my life philosophy emerged -a.k.a do not stress you for situations, things are happening anyway, so stressing about them doesn’t help, meaning I stood there, quiet. Maybe too quiet, but there was no room in that car for another panicky person. Carmen told me it was a situation, after all, we gotta get out of it and definitely we can’t ignore it. “What if someone hits us and we fall in the abyss? We’re on E (no signal) no one knows about us!”– and this is when I started laughing. That’s all I needed. “What’s the point of laughing? Why are you laughing? Do you think this is funny?” And this madness continued, Abdul and Adrian had their windows down to see the road, Razvan’s mother came with solutions, Răzvan was put under the hooded jacket saying he refused to see this fog and under these conditions, Liv and I were basically the only ones laughing. Carmen fixed this laughing situation in no time.
We have somehow returned to Marrakech, we have just descended a hill that I have likened to Feleac (Cluj-Napoca) because from the right you could see Marrakech as a pile of stars in the night. We got home and we decided that this was the best shower we’ve ever made, I drew all the sand out of my ears, my hair, my nose, my boots and we both slept broken, looking at the Bravo, ai stil!(n.red. Romanian TV show) gala although we did not get hold of it. We also had our Oriental nights going on.
This summarizes our 10-day experience in Morocc. As a recommendation, if you want to get there, I recommend you to go in April-May-June (you can be a rebel even tonight to get your ticket – the plane is not very expensive). We flew Bucharest-Venice-Marrakech and Marrakech-Roma-Bucharest on return with Ryanair, but the best flight options can be found on Momondo. I recommend that you look for a traditional Riad in Old Medina, especially if you go with the gang – I found here three cool Airbnb options for 4-5 people – see versions one, two and three. The number of Abdul who drove us in all those adventures and who was particularly nice (took us to the villa with the pool, cooked us, took us to the desert, took us pizza on the road, and also helped as a translator …) is at your disposal somewhere above. More about – or the story of the story, so to speak – you will get to see in the vlog about Morocco, Sahara and Marrakech, on my YouTube channel. I hope you enjoyed this story, I’m waiting for your comments and do not forget to keep an eye on us on Instagram because we will continue the #NotYourUsualGiveaway series and these days we will put together an ultra-cool gadget that will surely help you in your future trips, namely some lens that can be attached to your smartphone from Sony.