Me and my sister, Maria
In my family, we celebrate milestone birthdays with a shared experience. It makes the most memorable gift, whether you're on a shoestring budget or have limitless money to spend. When my sister Maria's 50th birthday was approaching, there was no question about where we'd go: Morocco. That's me and my sister, Maria. To me, riding a camel felt like riding a bumpy sofa!
Looking at these, I'm reminded that Morocco is packed with gorgeous details.
More Moroccan Details
Morocco is packed with gorgeous details.
A glass of hot mint tea
I ate a lot of lamb, and John's favorite dish was Moroccan meatballs with poached eggs. My sister ate seven-vegetable couscous every night (she's not the most adventurous eater). It was a little weird to be in 100-degree heat and eating so much stewed meat! We ended every night with a glass of hot mint tea.
Archway to the garden
I booked Maria, my mom, John and myself suites at La Mamounia in Marrakech (mamounia.com). It's the most hauntingly beautiful hotel I've ever seen. The property is extraordinary, with gardens and orange groves and a massive workout space that's twice the size of my gym at home. Lots of nights we ate in a private candlelit courtyard. Through this archway is the garden of our hotel. They grow all their own (unbelievably tasty) fruits and veggies.
Handmade metal lamps
You can find some beautiful things at wonderful prices, like these handmade metal lamps.
Winding through the stands
Winding through all the stands felt like walking in outtakes from Casablanca.
Zubida, our guide
This is Zubida, our amazing guide who took us through the markets
Food and spice stands
I loved the food and spice stands the most.
This was the best-tasting produce of any place in the world -- including Italy.
It's weird to live in modern times and go to a place that has storytellers and snake charmers and men with monkeys on their shoulders.
Artisans making wares
Artisans were making wares the exact same way they did hundreds and hundreds of years ago.
We got this amazing recipe from one of the hotel's chefs, Rachid Agouray!
Hey, if I can take magazine-quality pictures, so can you! Take your beauty shots early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when the light is soft and pleasant-looking.
Don't center your travel buddy (yup, that's John!) or a landmark. It's a more interesting shot if it's a bit off-kilter.
Look out for cool archways and use them to frame pictures. I took a bunch of these when I first arrived, and they turned out to be some of my favorite shots from the trip!
Watch for details. These close-up shots will add variety to your scenery-and-smiles collection.
Mint Tea recipe
Mint tea is served with practically every meal in Morocco. To make it, boil a pot of water and add green tea and fresh mint leaves (at least a handful). Let it steep for about 10 minutes, then aerate the tea by pouring it between two pots several times. Pour it through a strainer, then sweeten with honey or sugar if you'd like. It's absolutely delicious, even unsweetened.
Once I got back to New York, I found myself incorporating a ton of Moroccan flavors into my recipes. I topped grilled fish with chermoula. I adapted John's favorite dish from Marrakech into a really easy, tasty recipe I called Moroccan-Style Mini Meatballs in Tomato Sauce with Eggs and Flatbread. And because I'm drawn to any burger within a 5-mile radius, I discovered the country's traditional spicy lamb Berber burger, which I had no trouble replicating at home.