during the 1950s and 1960s, morocco was a refuge for writers and musicians from abroad, including the rolling stones, jack kerouac and william s. burroughs, who wrote the legendary naked lunch while staying at a hotel in tangier. morocco was to the rolling stones what india was to the beatles – they traveled there in the late 1960s in search of musical inspiration and found that and much more. the fusion of berber, african and arabic music had a huge influence on the rolling stones’ sound but they were also enthralled by the atmosphere of the country – especially the somewhat seedy city of tangier – home at the time to spies, smugglers, expatriate aristocrats and writers-in-exile. they arrived in the british mod style and left in billowing shirts, weighed down by bracelets, necklaces and various trinkets. about his experiences in morocco, keith richards said “we enjoyed being transported. you could be sinbad the sailor, one thousand and one nights. we loved it.”
the stones were part of a large crowd of swinging londoners who regularly visited morocco in the 60s. one of the most iconic photos representing morocco and the bohemian culture of the 1960s is of talitha getty, wife of paul getty, shot by patrick lichfield on the roof of their home in marrakech. our team was inspired to recreate this photo when shooting our catalog in morocco- here is our version!
the house where our team stayed in essaouira (and shot several images in the book) was so special it deserved its own post. named “atlantic,” the house is located right off of essaouira’s medina and looks so cozy and relaxing i would never want to leave. wooden stairs climb towards the sky and rooftops fade into mountains on the horizon while the atlantic ocean laps against the shore. an opening in the roof allows natural light to flood the space, and even an occasional sprinkle of rain. when the heat of the sun is replaced by a cool evening breeze, there’s a fireplace to curl up next to and a cozy nook awaits to fall asleep and dream about what the next day will hold.
from the rooftop
when you wake up in the morning head to chez driss for some coffee, orange juice and potates! they might look like potatoes and the name sounds like potatoes, but these are potates- one of our team’s favorite things to eat in morocco. these little almond flavored pastries are not easy to find- they are actually unique to essaouira, where you can find them at a bakery located on the place moulay el hassan called chez driss. another neat fact – orson welles filmed several scenes for the 1952 film othello in essaouira, and it is said chez driss is where he would sit and have his morning cup of coffee at a patio table.
continuing with our exploration of morocco, today i wanted to share some of the work of moroccan artist, andre elbaz. i was first drawn to his landscapes…they have such amazing texture and color that capture the energy and spirit of morocco. the use of cubism gives them a surreal quality but the varying sizes and colors make them appear to sparkle like a living, breathing city. the second one reminds me of looking down at urban landscapes from an airplane, seeing only clusters of light, thinking about all the tiny ant-like people that are down there going about their everyday lives.
about a three hour drive through the desert to the west of marrakech will bring you to the seaside town of essaouira in morocco. from the pictures you can feel the laid back vibe of a quaint fishing town, but essaouira also has an artistic culture that is very much alive- its medina houses several arts and crafts businesses, the beach is an ideal location for kite and windsurfing, and for the past 12 years the town has hosted the gnaoua festival of world music. often referred to as the “moroccan woodstock,” the festival lasts four days and attracts close to a half million spectators. one of the city’s most famous landmarks is the castle made of sand- said to be the inspiration for the jimi hendrix song, although he hadn’t yet visited essaouira when he wrote it. several images from our april catalog were shot in essaouira, and in looking through these photos i can certainly see why our team was drawn there.
the morocco catalog was shot by photographer dan martensen – he also shot our february catalog – we love him. the team also worked with morocco-based producer fred fantun, who has worked on numerous fashion editorials, and his familiarity with the area saved our team on multiple occasions. one obstacle? the lack of cars- our team had to use three carts to carry all of their shooting equipment, but luckily their porter was awesome and had a huge smile on his face the entire time as he helped them maneuver the narrow streets and alleyways. our team shot the catalog in several locations, including marrakech, essaouira, the house where they stayed and on the balcony of the villa maroc hotel. they did an amazing job and found some truly beautiful locations for this shoot…next time bring me along, please!?!
much like the culture itself, moroccan cuisine is extremely diverse – a literal melting pot of berber, moorish, mediterranean, arab and african influences. spices, dried fruits and vegetables are used extensively in most dishes, often served with couscous. meals are also typically served with bread, which is used as a utensil for scooping up food and soaking in its rich flavor. our team told me they ate a lot of tagine- morocco’s most popular and common dish. tagine is a slow cooked stew that combines meat, vegetables, sometimes fruit, and loads of spices. they’re usually served in really neat looking pots called tagines, like the one above, from which the meal gets its name.
when our team went to morocco to shoot the april catalog their first stop was marrakech. they stayed in a gorgeous spot just outside the city, where small streets and alleyways recede into a vast grove of palm trees. the sounds of the city are a distant memory as you enter a peaceful oasis where oranges grow on trees and roses climb the walls towards your balcony window. the hotel is called les deux tours and these pictures taken by our producer speak for themselves…
so have you all seen our new april catalog yet? if not you can check it out here – the catalog was shot in morocco and features some really beautiful dresses for spring and summer. which one of these moroccan-themed beauties do you love most?
the climate in morocco is warm almost all year round, although temperatures do differ depending on where you stay – coastal towns are much cooler and marrakesh can be pretty hot, especially in summer months. an item like the fes romper would be the first thing in my suitcase because it’s casual and cool for daytime but could be dressed up at night. for the hot days exploring the medina and sightseeing around the city pack some shorts, a tank and some comfy sneakers or sandals. layering pieces like the scandalous lace top and irina slip dress are perfect and take up little room in your suitcase, and of course- lots and lots of gold jewelry and a sun hat!
when we did a survey on the blog earlier this year we asked you all to answer the question “if the free people blog were a travel destination, where would it be?” topping out the responses was india, and a close second was morocco…which was interesting because we had just finished shooting our april catalog there! morocco is a mythical place with an incredibly rich culture and fabled cities like tangier, the vibrant gateway to africa, casablanca, made legendary by the 40s hollywood movie named after it, and of course marrakech, where our team stayed.