Paradise Found

Royal Mansour Spa

Marrakech, Morocco | http://www.royalmansour.com

If it is actually possible to have an outer body experience, this might have just been mine.  The Royal Mansour Spa’s white iron atrium can only be described as heavenly.  The structure, which was designed to evoke a bird cage, is a design masterpiece that entices the senses.  As I gazed up the three story structure to the sky, a cloud of soft light seemed to engulf my spirit taking away the last shred of stress I had in my being.  I was completely under its spell.

Total tranquility followed for the next two and a half hours.  My appointment began with a consultation with a spa specialist who created a personalised programme designed to meet my needs.  After changing into my bathrobe, I was escorted to my treatment room where true bliss followed.  I was quite sceptical about whether the Maroc Maroc treatment would do the trick as I usually prefer strong massages that work the pressure points rather than oil based aroma therapy sessions.  So what I loved the most about my treatment was  how my massage was tailored to my desired strength level, soothing my muscles and clearing my mind.

Royal Mansour Spa Royal Mansour Spa Royal Mansour Spa

Behind the Scenes

With an indoor swimming pool, a relaxation room, two Hammams and Watsu bath areas to enjoy, spending your time at the Spa can easily be an all day affair.  As it was Alice and my last day in Marrakech, we only had 2.5 hours for our treatment and to take some photographs of the premises. It was a shame we did not have more time to spend at the Spa to fully unwind and relax.  Once our treatments were done, we were back to business working against the clock to shoot.  We had less than 30 minutes before our car arrived, but the Maroc Maroc treatment had reinvigorated us for our short shoot and I cannot be happier with the results of the photographs.

Royal Mansour Spa Royal Mansour Spa Royal Mansour Spa Royal Mansour Spa

Blouse| Ilse Jacobsen.  Star print maxi skirt | Matthew Williamson. Belt | Vintage. Front and back earrings | Astrid Miyu.  Temporary hand tattoos | Kitsch.

Photography | Form 42 .  Photo editing | Mariko Kuo.  Art direction + layout | Mariko Kuo.

A Day of Bliss at the Royal Mansour Spa

Royal Mansour Spa

Marrakech, Morocco | http://www.royalmansour.com

If it is actually possible to have an outer body experience, this might have just been mine.  The Royal Mansour Spa’s white iron atrium can only be described as heavenly.  The structure, which was designed to evoke a bird cage, is a design masterpiece that entices the senses.  As I gazed up the three story structure to the sky, a cloud of soft light seemed to engulf my spirit taking away the last shred of stress I had in my being.  I was completely under its spell.

Total tranquility followed for the next two and a half hours.  My appointment began with a consultation with a spa specialist who created a personalised programme designed to meet my needs.  After changing into my bathrobe, I was escorted to my treatment room where true bliss followed.  I was quite sceptical about whether the Maroc Maroc treatment would do the trick as I usually prefer strong massages that work the pressure points rather than oil based aroma therapy sessions.  So what I loved the most about my treatment was  how my massage was tailored to my desired strength level, soothing my muscles and clearing my mind.

Royal Mansour Spa Royal Mansour Spa Royal Mansour Spa

Behind the Scenes

With an indoor swimming pool, a relaxation room, two Hammams and Watsu bath areas to enjoy, spending your time at the Spa can easily be an all day affair.  As it was Alice and my last day in Marrakech, we only had 2.5 hours for our treatment and to take some photographs of the premises. It was a shame we did not have more time to spend at the Spa to fully unwind and relax.  Once our treatments were done, we were back to business working against the clock to shoot.  We had less than 30 minutes before our car arrived, but the Maroc Maroc treatment had reinvigorated us for our short shoot and I cannot be happier with the results of the photographs.

Royal Mansour Spa Royal Mansour Spa Royal Mansour Spa Royal Mansour Spa

Blouse| Ilse Jacobsen.  Star print maxi skirt | Matthew Williamson. Belt | Vintage. Front and back earrings | Astrid Miyu.  Temporary hand tattoos | Kitsch.

Photography | Form 42 .  Photo editing | Mariko Kuo.  Art direction + layout | Mariko Kuo.

Marrakech Romance

Breathing in the Orients

Marrakech, Morocco | Dar Ayniwen

From the moment we stepped foot at Dar Ayniwen and breathed in the sweet scents of the orange and lemon blossoms, I was in love.  The days that followed were romantic bliss and a short, but sweet love story with this private paradise began.

SilkandSuits at Dar AyniwenSilkandSuits in Finders Keepers at Dar AyniwenSilkandSuits-Marrakech-Dar-Ayniwen-2SilkandSuits-Mariko-Kuo-Marrakech-Morocco-6

Tips for the Wanderlusters

Dar Ayniwen is the perfect luxury hotel for wanderlusters seeking both adventure and relaxation.  Located in the dramatic palm groves of the Palmeraie, Dar Ayniwen is a perfect setting for anyone looking to unwind and escape the stressful reality of work and city life.  As I have mentioned countless times already, the air at Dar Ayniwen has a subtle sweet scent which is hypnotic and soothing.  Days could be easily spent within the grounds at Dar Ayniwen simply relaxing by the heated pool under a parasol or strolling through the gardens.

With free shuttles to and from the airport and into the Medina,  exploring the heart of Marrakech is convenient and very accessible as well.  The balance between our exciting days spent exploring the Medina and our afternoons spent in our private jacuzzi in our suite was pure indulgence.

SilkandSuits in Finders Keepers at Dar Ayniwen SilkandSuits in Finders Keepers at Dar Ayniwen SilkandSuits-Mariko-Kuo-Marrakech-Morocco-11SilkandSuits-Marrakech-Dar-Ayniwen Behind the Scenes

Trying to choose just a few photographs, all taken at a place I had fallen in love with, was suffice to say, quite a struggle.  It may be hard to believe when scrolling down this mammoth post, but I really did try to narrow down my selection of imagery taken at Dar Ayniwen significantly.

Once Alice got her suitcase back, we were in full shooting mode.  We had spent the day before exploring the vast grounds at Dar Ayniwen, getting excited about each and every potential location to shoot at.  These photographs were shot throughout our time at Dar Ayniwen and every day gave us the opportunity to discover new settings within the premises.  With a myriad of coloured tiles decorating the floors and walls of Dar Ayniwen, it felt as if I was holding a cardboard picture frame wherever I went.  Each corner, nook and cranny was a perfect postcard image waiting to be captured.  Each day was even more inspirational than the day before and a truly creative few days for me to completely fall in love with Dar Ayniwen and Marrakech.

SilkandSuits-Mariko-Kuo-Marrakech-Morocco-4SilkandSuits in Finders Keepers at Dar AyniwenSilkandSuits-Marrakech-Dar-Ayniwen-3 SilkandSuits-Mariko-Kuo-Marrakech-Morocco-10SilkandSuits in Finders Keepers at Dar Ayniwen

Look 1

Creator top and trousers| Finders Keepers. Alana nude block heels | Public Desire. Wool hat | H&M.

Look 2

City heat shorts | Keepsake. Shirt | Asos. Breanna court shoes | Dune London. Flap bag | Chanel.

All images photographed at Dar Ayniwen, Marrakech.

Photography | Form 42 and Mariko Kuo.  Photo editing | Mariko Kuo.  Art direction + layout | Mariko Kuo.

Moroccan Heaven

Royal Mansour

Marrakech, Morocco | www.royalmansour.com

An invitation from the Royal Mansour on our last day in Marrakech was more than we could ever desire and a perfect way to end our Moroccan adventures.  As one of the most luxurious hotels in Marrakech, we were honoured by the generous invitation and waited for our final day in heightened anticipation.  As we entered through the grand entrance, what awaited us was more than words could describe.   A spectacular vision and a masterful marriage of modern and traditional designs, the Royal Mansour transported us to a Moroccan heaven and a hidden city surrounded by the ancient city walls of Marrakech.  We were truly enchanted.

Spa at the Royal Mansour, Marrakech, MoroccoSilkandSuits at Royal MansourReception at Royal MansourSilkandSuits at Royal Mansour

Meticulously designed and crafted by Moroccan artisans and craftsmen, the Royal Mansour is a testimony to Moroccan architecture and craftsmanship. From the geometrically carved wood ceilings to the ceramic tile work, every last inch within the hotel has been masterfully designed with breathtaking results. We were escorted through the courtyard passing a beautiful fountain surrounded by lush trees and into a labyrinth of marble walls. Visiting during the Easter break meant that we were just in time to see the main reception being decorated with flowers and Faberge eggs. The splash of colour gave the main reception room a new look and added a different dimension to the iridescent white marble and tiled walls. The light trickling sound from the water fountain provided a fitting tune to the serenity which engulfed the enchanting setting. Time seemed to have stopped and we were mesmerised by its beauty and its exquisite peacefulness.

Each and every room was a masterpiece of design and a confident showcase of the Royal Mansour’s ingenuity. My favourite of all was the Blue Room, and as the name suggested, an ode to the deep and vivid wonders of the colour blue. The reception to two of the most gastronomic restaurants in Marrakech, the Blue Room was striking beyond imagination and a tantalising introduction to the feast that awaited within.

Our short but sweet visit to the Royal Mansour gave us an overwhelming feeling of pure indulgence. The Royal Mansour radiated pure quality and was an utterly stunning setting for true relaxation.

A separate post on my experience at Royal Mansour’s spa will follow shortly.

SilkandSuits at Royal Mansour Royal MansourStuart Weitzman HeelsSilkandSuits at Royal Mansour
Tips for the Wanderlusters

For anyone in search of the ultimate luxurious experience, the unsurpassed service of Royal Mansour begins from the moment you touch down in Marrakech. As you disembark the plane, a Royal Mansour representative will escort you to a private VIP passport control lounge complete with butler service, followed by a Range Rover delivering you safe and sound to the hotel. With 53 private riads each set over three floors and arranged around private central courtyards, there is plenty of privacy where you can easily avoid any form of interaction with other guests if desired. In addition, the 53 riads are only accessed by staff through underground tunnels guaranteeing the utmost discretion.

SilkandSuits at Royal Mansour

Lulu maxi dress| Gestuz. High heel slides | Stuart Weitzman.

Photography | Form 42 and Mariko Kuo.  Photo editing | Mariko Kuo.  Art direction + layout | Mariko Kuo.

Madrasa Serenity

Ben Youssef Madrasa

Marrakech, Morocco | www.medersabenyoussef.com

“You who enter my door, may your highest hopes be exceeded” reads an inscription over the entrance to the Ben Youssef Madrasa.  Once a Quranic college, the largest in North Africa, the blessing immediately works its charm on us as we enter through the cedar gates.  The cool air within the dimmed corridor soothes our senses from the bustling chaos of the Medina.  We take a moment to reset and prepare ourselves for what awaits deeper within.
Ben Youssef Madrasa, Marrakech, Morocco
Ben Youssef Madrasa, Marrakech, Morocco
Stuart Weitzman in Ben Youssef Madrasa, Marrakech, MoroccoBen Youssef Madrasa, Marrakech, Morocco

As we manoeuvrer our way through crowds of tourists, the path widens into the courtyard.  We stumbling through cedar carved doors, adjusting our eyes to the Moroccan sun reflecting on the mosaic tiles. We smile. Our highest hopes have been exceeded.

Founded in the 14th century, the Madrasa was once the home to over 900 students until it was refurbished and reopened to the public as an historical site in 1982.  The courtyard is an oasis in the heart of the Medina intricately embellished with five colour zellij mosaic walls, stucco archways and cedar windows.  The ornate and winding carvings of Arabic inscriptions generously designed around the courtyard also fit harmoniously with the surrounding artistry.  Even amongst the crowds of tourists furiously photographing every nook and corner of the building (us included), the courtyard maintains a constant level of serenity.  We spend little over an hour exploring the Madrasa and its 132 dormitories scattered around the courtyard and leave back through the cool corridor taking with us a spiritual connection with a site which once was a centre of learning and curiosity.

Ben Youssef Madrasa, Marrakech, Morocco
Ben Youssef Madrasa, Marrakech, Morocco
Ben Youssef Madrasa, Marrakech, Morocco

Tips for Wanderlusters

Ben Youssef Madrasa is in the heart of the Medina and only accessible by foot through winding sun soaked streets.  It is a perfect place to visit for anyone in search of some authentic Moorish architecture.  The Madrasa is conveniently located next to the Souk and 10 minutes away from the Museum of Marrakech so why not combine your trip with these beautiful Marrakech wonders.  There is a 10dh entrance fee to the Madrasa so be sure to come with some small change as the friendly gatekeeper did not seem to have a credit card machine.

Ben Youssef Madrasa, Marrakech, Morocco
SilkandSuits at Ben Youssef Madrasa, Marrakech
Ben Youssef Madrasa, Marrakech, Morocco

Silver metallic tailored blazer | River Island. Electric lady top coming soon to Harvey Nichols | Finders Keepers. Hazel maxi skirt | Gestuz. High heel slides | Stuart Weitzman. Akalis engraved single disc pendant necklace | iLoveDesigner.com.

Photography | Mariko Kuo and Form 42.  Photo editing | Mariko Kuo. Art direction + layout | Mariko Kuo.

Palm Oasis

Dar Ayniwen

Marrakech, Morocco | www.dar-ayniwen.com

Nestled within the endless palm groves of the Palmeraie, Dar Ayniwen is a postcard perfect Moroccan oasis.  With perfectly manicured gardens stretching over 2 hectares and a sanctuary consisting of a collection of exotic birds, the resort is an ode to serenity and an exclusive gateway to an oriental dreamworld.

 Our trip had started with a slight hiccup as we waited patiently by the carousel for Alice’s luggage to appear.  As the crowd of travellers slowly receded and the number of suitcases dwindled, we looked at each other with the sinking feeling that her suitcase had not travelled with us.  With Alice’s entire holiday essentials, not to mention her camera equipment, grounded somewhere else in the world, our carefully planned itinerary for our holiday quickly melted away along with what was left of our makeup on our faces.  The last minute ticket scramble which forced us to travel with none of our familiar and trusted airlines, but Vueling, Iberia’s low-cost sister carrier, evidently back fired. Alas, at close to midnight, the only thing we could do was to hope that Alice’s luggage would turn up soon.

With the saga of the missing suitcase looming in our minds, the 20 minute shuttle ride to Dar Ayniwen, whilst passing the ancient walls of the Medina and the vast terrain of the Palmarie, did little to ease our anxiety.  However, our preoccupation was about to come to a sudden halt as we neared our Morrocan home for the week. Our shuttle’s headlights lit up the magnificent wooden gates as it slowly creeped open into a parallel universe which resembled a scene from King Kong. Our journey from London had finally come to an end.

Stepping out into a candlelit garden of date palms, orange hedges and jasmines, our lungs filled with the sweetest of aromas as our worries disappeared into the darkness with our last breathe.  We knew, at that moment, we had arrived to paradise (Alice’s luggage luckily arrived the following evening).

Complete with a heated pool, a spa, endless gardens, a fairytale mini bridge, wondering pheasants, and an array of sitting rooms decorated in the rustic Moroccan style with a hint of colonial influences, Dar Ayniwen was a resort tailor made for seekers of a slower pace of life.  Our mornings began with breakfast by the pool followed by a lazy nap beneath the palms and parasols.  The heated pool was set at just the right temperature for April’s spring temperaments and the winding paths through the garden gave our legs a change of scenery.  With shuttles to wherever our hearts contented, our afternoons were spent wondering the streets of the Medina and exploring the vast palm groves.  Providing an excellent selection of Moroccan and European cuisines, the restaurant delighted our pallets throughout the day.

White double layer tank top | River Island. White trousers with plaid pattern | The Fifth. High heel slides | Stuart Weitzman. Wool hat | H&M. Swimsuit | H&M.

Photography | Mariko Kuo and Form 42.  Photo editing | Mariko Kuo. Art direction + layout | Mariko Kuo.