Traveler: Rachel Juarez Carr – Photographer
What is your most unforgettable escape? I’ve been on quite a few unforgettable trips – I’ve always prioritised travel and I’ve been really lucky to make a career in travel, too. But the best trip I’ve ever been on was my honeymoon in 2014, to Morocco.
What was the purpose of your travel? We wanted a lot from the trip – to relax more than ever before, luxuriate like it was our last three weeks on earth, see part of the world neither of us had ever visited, and take a lot of pictures. We’re both photographers, so we *always* take a lot of pictures.
With how many people did you travel? Just one.
Where did you stay? I went a bit crazy on the hotel planning. I love hotels. We stayed here: Riad Dar Maya and Le Jardin des Douars in Essaouira; Dar Zemora, La Mamounia and Riad El Fenn in Marrakech; then Kasbah Tamadot in the Atlas Mountains.
What did (do) you most like about the trip? The variety made it incredible: it felt like we were away for a lot longer than just three weeks. Everywhere we stayed was so different to everywhere else, and they all felt like mini holidays all of their own. Ending the trip staying in a Berber tent suite at Kasbah Tamadot was incredible – we would lay on our deck overlooking the valley at night and stare at the stars, and visit the mules and camels in the stables opposite our gate in the morning. “Heavenly” is a really overused word, but I think I can safely use it for mule trekking through the Atlas Mountain foothills.
Could you share an unforgettable memory about the trip? I think everyone English person’s first hammam is pretty memorable: sitting in a tiny, hot, dark room in my knickers at Dar Maya getting hot water thrown over my head by a tri-lingual stranger isn’t something I’ll forget. I couldn’t stop myself from taking a sharp breath in every time, either, so I was a little bit drowned by the end, but somehow it was simultaneously really fun.
Your most surprising find during the trip? I didn’t think I was good at lying in the sun or lounging by a pool, so I was surprised by how much I enjoyed both once it gets really, really, really hot. We had the amazing Perla suite at Dar Zemora and had the entire rooftop as our terrace, and I discovered I could easily spend hours being ridiculously lazy while it was too hot to do anything else. (And it’s a tiny place so we often had the house – and pool – to ourselves. The spectacularly lovely staff would suddenly appear with mint tea and icy towels without you even asking.)
Favorite restaurant(s) or food you have tried during your trip? Le Tobsil is everyone’s favourite restaurant in Marrakech so it’s a really unoriginal choice, but I really did love it; it’s just a few minutes’ walk from El Fenn. You make your way through quiet medina alleys (follow the chalk arrows on the walls) and then arrive at this magical dark, tiny room with a few tables. The food just keeps coming, and it’s all amazing – I had no idea I’d love traditional Moroccan dishes so much. I almost burned the place down, though – the floors are covered in majestic rugs, the tables are laden with candles, and I’m clumsy
What are the must tries of the city? In Essaouira, Taros serves a delicious Bloody Mary. Actually, everything we ate and drank there was perfect. We meant to pop in for a drink but stayed for hours. We need to go back. In Marrakech, you need to book far ahead to eat at Maison MK if you’re not staying there, but it’s worth it – the inventive modern cuisine, killer cocktails and charming service were all first-class.
Any hidden gems you could whisper to us? In Marrakech, 33 Rue Majorelle sells gorgeous shoes. It’s over the road from the Jardin Majorelle. And I should’ve bought everything at the Kif-Kif shop in the medina, round the corner from Maison MK.
Would you go back? YES. I was really excited to see direct flights from London to Essaouira were starting and thought we could pop back for weekends… but then I found out they’re at some ungodly hour of the morning so we’ll still have to go via Marrakech. But that’s not such a bad thing, because the thousand (almost not an exaggeration) photos I took of El Fenn somehow still aren’t quite enough, so we need to stay there again. It’s the most ridiculously photogenic hotel.
Could you list a few of your favorite finds you came back with? One of my favourite souvenirs is the really dodgy toy camel my husband bought me at the airport when we were leaving. It says “Morocco” on it but was made in China. It doesn’t even have a hump. Another favourite is the mostly pink geometric neon psychadelic see-through Kif-Kif kaftan I got to throw over my swimming costume in the spa at Le Jardin des Douars – it’s totally unlike anything else in my wardrobe but I practically lived in it for the whole trip. I still wear the little babouche slippers they give everyone at Kasbah Tamadot (if the ones in your room don’t fit you, just leave a note and they’ll switch them). And of course I took home all my half-used toiletries from La Mamounia; they were too fancy to leave behind.
Any tips that might be useful to know before going there? Pack clothes that won’t make you look like an idiot: on the ramparts in Essaouira we saw one tourist in a miniskirt that kept flipping up in the wind and revealing her thong (blue, lacy). Also essential: aftersun and painkillers, for when you spend too long in a rooftop plunge pool and your sunscreen washes off (me) or fall off a horse on the beach (him).
Next stop you would like to visit? I’m going to Budapest for a photoshoot in May and I can’t wait. I’m staying at Brody House, and I’ve been dying to shoot there for years.