On The Road

Go to Morocco Without Even Leaving Your Desk

Amanda Shine takes us along on an aesthete’s dream trip to Marrakech.

By: Laurel Pantin

For those unaware, Amanda Shine has excellent taste. Taste so excellent, she formed her business on it. With her company, The Setting, she aims to help overhaul the way *we* (those with taste significantly less excellent than hers) entertain. With her line of beautiful, handmade ceramics, she’s transforming one family-style dinner at a time from “a bunch of stuff I ordered last-minute on Seamless” to “I have my shit together, and I know how to throw a grown-up party.” Did we mention that a portion of each of her sales goes to City Harvest to help fight hunger in New York? Because it does.

Being that she’s made her name on her eye (so we’re sure girl knows how to travel), and we’re stuck in freezing New York and it’s February , and we don’t have any vacation on the horizon, we agreed to be virtually whisked along on her dream trip to Marrakech with her friend and business partner, illustrator Billur Kazaz. Twist our arms, Shine.

Billur and I traveled to Morocco for an inspirational trip to explore the colors and cooking of Marrakech. Our trip was anchored by an upcoming spring/summer project which led to us journeying to North Africa for ideas. Our handmade line of homeware, The Setting, was launched with customizable ceramics and has grown into a high touch boutique branding and programming agency. As we prepare to launch our first hotel project, we wanted to experience hospitality and travel from a different perspective, and our adventure to Morocco did not disappoint!”

“Touchdown! After an easy flight in from JFK, I landed at Casablanca International airport. The morning fog cleared to reveal the greenest ground I’d ever seen.”

“Coming for you, Marrakech! A taxi picked me up and drove me the 2.5 hours from Casablanca to Marrakech, where Billur and her family had already settled into our Riad, La Sultana. The drive was beautiful and felt like the perfect introduction to my trip.”

“A new friend outside of the hotel. Our guide told us that he was dressed in traditional Berber attire, and his role in the Medina is to provide water for people throughout the day. Known locally as a fixture and roughly translated into ‘Waterman.’ We said hi to him every morning.”

“Every inch of our Riad was this beautiful... A Riad is a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior garden or open courtyard. Our hotel was a converted Riad within the center of Marrakech. Tucked behind a cobblestone walkway, one would never know it was there.”

#Outhere in the souk! Our first day led us straight into the Jamaa el-Fnaa. Located within Marrakech’s Medina quarter (old city). The area is a world-famous market selling juices, fruit, teas, and handmade goods to tourists and locals. Snake charmers and fortune tellers add an exotic accent to the experience, making for an always adventurous afternoon.”

“Reunited and it feels so good! Here we are in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the souk.”

“Dried flowers and herbs in colorful cloth baskets were a palette inspiration for us to take home. We have a new collection of ceramics that we are creating based on the bisque ware and colors we discovered in Morocco, and these colors were among our favorites.”

“I spy Billur taking the streets! This scene was immediately outside of the stone alley leading into our Riad. We would wake up early to explore the neighborhood and Billur was always on the hunt for the rarest oils, herbs, and fragrances. She knew exactly where to go. When flying back to New York City from London, the TSA agent commented on my Orange Blossom oil and how amazing it smelled. I told him my business partner was a professional in the markets of Marrakech.”

“Some OG Coca-Cola to cool off after hours of navigating the markets. The old-school glass bottles of Coke were everywhere and were referred to as Coke Regular by waiters and vendors. This is at a restaurant overlooking the Jamaa el-Fnaa. It is customary for locals and tourists to sit upstairs in cafés around the center of the market as they drink teas or enjoy a meal before going back into the souk.”

“Hammam is heaven. This amazing oasis was in the subterranean level of our hotel. The Hammam is an Arabic bath room distinguished by a focus on water with steam. After walking all day we went into the Hammam to soak, lie in the sauna, and have massages before dinner... I could have stayed there forever!”

“Only Moroccans love roses more than we do. This was the setting for dinner in our hotel by the pool. The ceiling is open, revealing a night sky with candles and soft string music echoing throughout the Riad.”

“High Tea at the Royal Mansour was an incredible experience just to witness the sheer grandeur of the hotel, which is adjacent to the King of Morocco’s palace in Marrakech. The security to even enter the grounds involved a full search of our vehicle. Once we were inside, there were rooms dedicated to fireplaces and shallow pools with gold adornments hand-carved into the walls and ceilings.”

“Magical crystals inside the souk... We saw these outside of a shop and went to find them again, but weren’t able to. The souk is so large, sometimes it feels like [it] rambles on for miles. That’s part of its magic, maybe you find something to buy and then never see it again... If you see something you love, make sure you get it!”

“We arrived at Aux Merveilles de Marrakech, a shop famous for their selection of handmade Berber rugs. Fettah and his team made us feel immediately at home and began showing us an incredible array of beautiful tapestries and rugs.”

“Negotiations heating up... Billur and I got matching rugs that we joke are our new Best Friend Berber Rugs. They brought out mint tea as Billur’s mom started working with them on price... Always a good sign!”

“One last look from inside the Medina…”

“Leaving our hotel for the next destination.. Thank you, AYR, for this coat! I wore it every day and night. The attention to detail in stairwells and doorways was something that struck me more than almost anything else. The tiles here are all hand-placed one by one.”

“On to the next one! Billur wearing Smoke x Mirrors sunnies in the car, traveling the half hour to a house where we spent the last two nights in Marrakech.”

“Waking up in Palmeraie, which translates to Palm Grove, is a private suburb situated at the edge of the city’s northern section. Known for its several hundred thousand palm trees and serene resorts, it is a quiet respite from the busy city center. The Dar Zemora house was so incredible.”

“Taking a break from the sun to have coffee and play chess... I won! Although I lost in Scrabble later that night.”

“Hi, YSL! We visited Yves Saint Laurent’s Jardin Majorelle and roamed through the grounds for hours. Exploring the fish ponds, overgrown cacti, and trees kept us distracted before discovering the Berber museum.”

“Garden goals!”

“Making ourselves at home in the YSL gardens.”

“Playing in the sun and admiring the doorways at Royal Mansour.”

“The family, plus one!”

“A cozy night by the fire at our favorite restaurant, Le Tobsil. Owned by a beautiful French woman who greets you upon arrival, this restaurant was the most romantic and authentic Moroccan dining experience that we had throughout the trip. The hazy blue walls and live music were only a backdrop to the seven-course meal that came without us ever glancing at menus.”

“They always have my drink.”

“Last day in paradise! Heading to lay by the pool at Dar Zemora.”

“Trying to get some color in my sunhat from the house and Eres swimsuit.”

We retreated to the covered veranda for lunch. They would bring a shisha (hookah) and we would spend hours sitting here watching the light change and play against the colorful curtains and textiles.”

“Off to London... Until next time, Marrakech!”

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