Holiday Memories : Recreating a Moroccan Riad Experience at Home

Welcome to my brand new mini-series. Holiday Memories will take a trip down memory lane as I reminisce about some of my favourite travel experiences. I will then aim to recreate a little part of the trip at home (with probably varying results). I hope you like it.

In the first part of the series, I re-visit Marrakech where Steve and I spent a long weekend in 2012. We visited in July and wow it was hot (over 50 degrees). We crammed a lot into our weekend including visiting the YSL gardens and wandering the souks and shopping in the medina. We enjoyed the night market at Jemaa el-Fna and took a cookery and saffron masterclass at a farmhouse in the countryside. Marrakech is a wonderful city and somewhere we would love to return one day.

I wasn't as confident of a traveller back in 2012 and we were on a bit of a budget too. These days, I wouldn't think twice about independently booking a riad in the city centre (and that would be my preferred option) but back then, not many budget airlines flew to Marrakech so we decided to book a package deal and stay in an all-inclusive luxury hotel on the outskirts of the city.

We managed a pretty good deal and paid £350 each for 3 nights in a 4* hotel on an all-inclusive basis and flights with Thomas Cook. Considering this was the summer holidays, we thought this was brilliant.

Although we stayed in a luxury hotel, I was keen to experience a riad too and after a little research, I booked dinner at Maison MK which is the most beautiful boutique riad in the heart of Marrakech. I am so pleased we experienced a visit. After a quick peek at their website, I have noted that Maison MK has now actually closed and is looking for new owners. What a fantastic business opportunity! I really hope they manage to find new owners as it is such a gorgeous place.

If my memory serves me correctly, we booked dinner at Maison MK on a Saturday night. We booked a taxi from our hotel and like most riads, it was a bit of a walk through the maze of streets to find our way. Our taxi dropped us as close as possible and we walked through the streets using the instructions provided by the riad. I am pretty sure Google Maps wasn't really a thing then so it is probably a lot easier now.

Walking the streets of Marrakech can be a teeny bit daunting. The buildings are tall and the streets can feel narrow. There are no street signs and there doesn't seem to be any structure to how the streets are laid out. Getting lost is easy. Obviously, the culture is completely different and we passed chickens, donkeys, mopeds and probably stuck out like a sore thumb.

In Marrakech, young boys will often bother you and try to help with directions whether you like it or not (in return for a tip of course). We already had instructions, just avoided eye contact/firmly said no and it was fine. We found Maison MK without any problems.

Gastro MK has been the number one restaurant in Marrakech on Tripadvisor for years. At the time, you could book a spa / hammam treatment and dinner/ dinner only  / overnight stay and dinner. We opted for dinner only. Dinner is a 5 course tasting menu and I think we paid around £50 each which although expensive for Marrakech, does reflect the fact that it was a fine dining / luxury experience.

Our Maison MK experience started with cocktails up on the roof terrace. We visited during Ramadan and as the sunset and the call to prayer echoed around us, it was incredible to watch the busy streets empty from our birdseye position as locals headed indoors to break their fast. The city changed from buzzing with activity to being able to hear a pin drop within what felt like seconds. It was the most incredible experience and something we still talk about now. 

Canapes were brought out with our cocktails including this delicious cold melon soup. The service and food were both exemplary. There were other couples on the terrace with us but it very much felt like a private and exclusive occasion.

What a gorgeous place to watch the sunset. As far as views go, this one is up there with my favourites.

Once the sun had set, we were escorted down to the dining area which was super romantic. tables were set around the spa pool and it felt like a private dining experience. Everything was lit by candles and lanterns and cameras / my photography skills were not what they are right now and it was too dark to take any food photos. 

What an experience though - 5 delicious courses of Moroccan food, beautifully presented in the most decadent of settings. Rounded off with traditional mint tea. Definitely one of the best nights of our lives. The whole experience lasted around 2 and a half hours. We enjoyed an aubergine, red pepper and tomato terrine, slow-cooked lamb tagine with couscous and raisins, a delicious chocolate tarte and more. Take me back!

Recreating our experience at home........

We found ourselves with some leftover lamb shoulder from Sunday Lunch one weekend so decided to plan a little Moroccan date night and transport ourselves back to Maison MK in Marrakech. We have a tagine but if you don't have one, you can easily just use a pan instead.

We popped some Moroccan Music on YouTube via our TV to set the mood and filled the room with candles to try and recreate the atmosphere.

Morrocan food is super simple to make. We simply added our leftover lamb and some sliced peppers to lamb stock and Morrocan spices and warmed through for 20 minutes. We served it with pitta breads and couscous - simple but delicious.

We could have gone all out and ordered Morrocan decorations / tableware etc.... but honestly, if you have the food and music right, that is all you need.

With the atmosphere, Moroccan music and food (and a nice bottle of wine), we were temporarily transported back Maison MK in Marrakech. Not quite as fancy but still a lovely way to spend the night and relive our holiday memories.

I hope you enjoyed my trip down memory lane, it is something fun and to look forward to during these strange times. I will be back soon with another holiday memory. Watch this space......

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