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I’ve read a lot while planning our Morocco trip, and figured we should visit Taroudant known to be “little Marrakech” on our way to Imlil, before we actually visit Marrakech. The heart of Taroudant is a small market, and perhaps, if you want to get some shopping out of your system, after spending some time in Morocco, this place could be a bit cheaper and less intimidating.  So I bought some moroccan glass tea cups, and we enjoyed some m’semen and tea in the market. All in all- a cute little manageable market town.

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M’semen guy in the Medina’s square. Couldn’t have enough of those

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Ahhh.. Sabres in Hebrew, or prickly pear fruits that we miss so much. Juicy, sweet and cheap.

Where did we stay? Again- off the beaten track, a few km away from the medina, at Riad Anma, where Marc, the Belgian owner knows everything about meats. Its located on a quaint road. We had some lovely time just catching our breath chilling in the pool or on the rooftop, while enjoying a tasty breakfasts and a dinner.

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Superb views of the Atlas mountains from Riad Anma’s rooftop

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Riad Anma’s pool

But the big discovery was a true amazing gem located outside of the city, that I wholeheartedly recommend making an effort to visit. Since not too many people visit Taroudant to begin with, and because you need transportation to get there, we had an elevated dumbfounding experience visiting and strolling this unique palace, that was almost, entirely, just ours for the day. It really helps to have your own car and driver.

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On our way to the palace. Views of the Atlas Mountains

Claudio Bravo was a celebrated Chilean painter, noted for his hyper realist still lifes and figurative paintings. Bravo who was born in 1936, traveled and worked around the world, but fell in love with Morocco, and somewhere in the 70s he built a magnificent palace, gardens and all, about 10 km north of Taroudant. Everywhere you walk in the palace says art, every little corner was well thought of and designed. Numerous paths invite you to discover sculptures, an abundance of exotic plants and at least three pools. It’s an oasis amid the red and yellow hues of the desert. Today, the palace is both a museum to Bravo’s life, art and collections, as well as a fancy hotel. I encourage you to take the tour lead by the knowledgeable Bashir Tabchich who was Bravo’s assistant, and to our understanding, inherited Bravo’s palace. After we got a closer look around the art and the beauty of the different rooms and halls, and got to ask many questions – we ended our tour at a patio, located near a lake, and were offered some Moroccan tea, pastries and fruit. The views were marvelous. From here on- I’m letting the photos of Palais Claudio Bravo do the talking.

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*A word of advice: besides the market and Bravo’s palace, we booked a tour to see the palm oasis and kasbah outside the city, an hour drive away. I DID NOT like it one bit. They offer a donkey ride around and some explanations. I felt sorry for the poor looking donkeys, and declined the ride. The scenery is nice, but I wouldn’t go out of my way for this. It definitely felt like a tourist trap. Statistically, it has to happen at one point or another when you travel a lot…

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The Kasbah

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I’m accumulator of photos. I’m interested in patterns, shapes, colors, history, and it’s change throughout time. Maybe that’s why I fixate on doors (and knobs, and windows, and floors/roofs, and…).

I’ll let my photos speak.

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This is my favorite. Which one’s yours?

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Ok, not a door. Still love it.

 

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We arrived in Essaouira at night. No cars are allowed in the medina, so the car stayed behind in the large parking lot, and we walked our way through the big gates of the old city, pulling our trolleys behind us. At this point, it was very helpful to have the cellphone GPS with us, as we navigated through the narrow alleys. Also- check out the map at the end of the post.

Finally- our beautiful Riad, that’s actually part of the old wall that surrounds the Medina. Our beautiful room had the most fabulous view. Through the window, part of the ancient wall, we had an amazing vista of the ocean. Waking up to THAT… Oh mine! Riad Perle d’Eau.  Breakfast was great- served on the rooftop, with (what would be a staple in Morocco for breakfast) M’semen (local crepe), eggs, fruit, and coffee/tea. The Riad owners were very friendly and helpful.

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This is what we saw from our room window, every morning

We stayed in Essaouira 2 nights. The small Medina is easy to navigate and is vibrant and much fun. SInce there’s so much to see, let yourself to be absorbed with this town, and here’s what NOT TO MISS:

Synagogue Slat Lkahal

A somewhat restored synagogue that served the Jewish community in Mogador- old Portuguese name for Essaouira, that was built in 1850. The synagogue was a center for many social and religious aspects of Jewish life, as witnessed by the photos on the walls. Morocco is known for its good Jewish-Muslim relationship and as we travelled we have witnessed respect, love and compassion to the Jewish minority in Morocco. Slat Lkahal is located in the northern end of the Medina, in the heart of the Mellah (the original jewish area), and is just one of other synagogues in Essaouira. Synagogue Slat Lkahal.

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Visit the old port

A mosaic of little fishing boats, fish stalls, ropes, nets, ships, seagulls, fishermen, and Moroccan mamas going out to purchase their fresh fish dinner. The sun is shining on it all, the sounds are taking over, as well as the smell, the wind, and sometimes the light spray of the sea, if you’re standing close to the water. Breath and feel alive. Charming.

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Fresh fish anyone?

Salut Maroc- Riad and restaurant

You absolutely have to visit this place, and especially before sunset. Grab a table on the rooftop, order some light food and mint tea, and get ready for the most stunning sunset. They usually have live music as well. Get there an hour before that, and just tour around the Riad, all the way up to the rooftop, to discover the gems of dazzlingly intricate tilework and splashes of color (stairways, ceilings, floors, walls, tables, heck- even the restroom). I couldn’t stop taking photos. It’s definitely psychedelic. Salut Maroc.

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lobby from above

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Salut Maroc rooftop

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psychedelic corner on the rooftop

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Even the toilet are mind boggling

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Epic sunset

Climb up to see the city line from above

Climb the old Portuguese ramparts, enter hotels and climb up to their rooftops (I recommend the views from Riad Mimouna, Skip the rest of the hotel, go straight to the roof).

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Old cannons, cobbled stone and the ocean

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From the rooftop of Riad Mimouna- 360° views

Wonder the local quarter (both morning and night market)

Lose yourself by strolling around the non touristic areas of Essaouira within the Medina, and out. Observe the bustling life of the locals, buy and eat authentic food at the night market. Try the Harira soup from the vendor, or local moroccan crepes served with honey, nutella, or Amlou (almond spread mixed with honey and argan oil). Go for the spicy olives!

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Local

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Local night market. Of course we filled our bellies with these goodies.

What else do I recommend?

-Chill with tea at African Roots cafe. Great vibes, great music, friendly staff.

-Share a lamb tagine, Moroccan tomato salad, or Pastilla (traditional chicken filo pastry pie). With so many eateries, it’s hard to decide where to eat, and you’d wish you had more time to try them all. I advocate for the ones that look the most humble, and unassuming.

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The son of the owner is watching the tagines. Can’t get more authentic than that.

-Adore the doors and entryways. I’ll have a whole post just for that. I’m obsessive.

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Winter break is the perfect time to leave the East Coast chill and visit warm, golden Morocco. We landed in Casablanca airport, peeled off our layers, and set out to the sun, where Loutfi, our driver, waited for us.

We were off to Essaouira, and though according to Google maps the ride would take about 4.5 hours, in reality, like driving elsewhere in Morocco, it takes more time, especially if you like to stop enroute.

So stop we did. We first freshened up in the old portuguese town of El Jadida where we found a cool rooftop with ocean view and good mint tea and pastries. Le Lokal

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Le Lokal, cute rooftop

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At Le Lokal, mint tea, small pastries, and well… coffee, to handle the jet lag

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Colors of El Jadida

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We stumbled upon the community bakery where  women deliver bread to be cooked in the wood-fired oven

When it was time for lunch, and after some more driving, we arrived in the city of Oualidia, located beside a natural lagoon. There, we had the freshest seafood with a tranquil seaview backdrop. Ostrea 2.

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This small town boasts the freshest mussels

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Serenity at Ostrea 2

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Ostrea 2, Oualidia

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Leaving Oualidia, to Essaouira

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Nawalgarh is one of small villages located in the heart of Shekhawati, off the beaten path for most travelers to Rajasthan. Visiting Nawalgarh gave us the chance to share some of the narrow lanes of the village with the rest of its inhabitants, aka, cows, sheep, motorcycles, tuk-tuks, and people, and feel the real, vibrant life of a village, right before tourism will change it forever.

However, the bigger attraction of visiting this village, is the amazingly colorful old mansions, Havelis, usually built between 18th and 20th centuries, decorated with wondergul intricate, detailed frescos. The more decorated, colorful the Haveli was, the more wealthy, and important the landlord was. The murals depict anything from the Hindu mythical stories, to animals, scenes from the British colonization, to the (then) new inventions, like cars or trains. Most of the Havelis are empty nowadays or are maintained by a watchman (typically an old man), while some turned into museums. Some, sadly, are slowly deteriorating.

I want a window like that

I want a window like that

Even the ceiling is beautifully decorated

Even the ceiling is beautifully decorated

Lior: Nawalgarh was my first glimpse of the India my parents had told me about, from twenty years ago. Everywhere we went, eyes followed; occasionally, a whistle followed too. I learned the most about Indian history and culture here, thanks to Krishna, our guide for the day. We learned how merchants used to live, and how to identify a water well from afar. Usually learning about those kinds of things can be a little boring (mainly for kids), but I really enjoyed this because it was a ‘real life’ setting, as oppose to behind a piece of glass in a museum. 

Gate keeper to one of the Havelis in Nawalgarh

Gate keeper to one of the Havelis in Nawalgarh

Hello there!

Hello there!

one of the old, unmaintained Havelis, still holds its beauty

one of the old, unmaintained Havelis, still holds its beauty

Back to street life:

Personal tailor, at your service

Personal tailor, at your service

Tuk-tuks add colors of their own to the bustling collage

Tuk-tuks add colors of their own to the bustling collage

Best samosa we had, was in this tiny corner of Nawalgarh baazar, Hot, spicy, and fresh

Best samosa we had, was in this tiny corner of Nawalgarh bazaar, Hot, spicy, and fresh

I would just like to point out that those samosas were hands down the best meal I had in India; they didn’t cater to our ‘American taste’, and gave it to us just like they would eat it. 

one is constantly surrounded by endless hues and colors

one is constantly surrounded by endless hues and colors

Our guesthouse in Nawalgarh was a little oasis after a long drive from Delhi. It also reminded us of our beloved Sinai.
Apani Dahni provided a comfortable, homey sensation of relaxation. Our youngest immediately found a friend in this family farm, and they spent time flying kites, the all time popular activity in India. We also learned how to tie-dye scarves in a traditional way, as well as try and cook a traditional Rajasthani dinner, which we later shared with this nice french couple that blog. We want to go back there. We will. Oh, and thank you Krishna, for your superb explanations and answers to our endless questions.

Charming little wall at Apani Dhani

Charming little wall at Apani Dhani

making Bandhani

Tie-dye scarves. First one has to tie everything. click photo for more

The painting part of the scarf. Click for more

The painting part of the scarf. Click photo for more

And here are the final scarves. Aren't they pretty?

And here are the final scarves. Aren’t they pretty?

After years of doing tie-dye experiments both at home and at camp over the summer, I finally learned the secret. The traditional Indian tie-and-dye method works so so well, and our scarves look like they were made by a professional! I also joined the cooking class, and the food was delicious! Our main course was Masala stuffed Aubergine Eggplants, and we also received a cookbook to take home. Apani Dhani is like a small slice of heaven, I would strongly recommend it to anyone. 

Meanwhile.. the boys are preparing dinner by first gathering the fresh ingredients from the organic garden

Meanwhile.. the boys are preparing dinner by first gathering the fresh ingredients from the organic garden

 Apani Dhani, Nawalgarh, India

Bye Bye Apani Dhani, we already miss you

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