Whenever we speak with Cassandra Karinsky from Kulchi we always, ALWAYS, come away wanting to trade places and share in the magic of Morocco. Having made the decision to set up bases in both Marrakech & Madrid in order to operate her rugs, textiles and homewares business, Kulchi, we have to admit we are more than a little envious of her exotic lifestyle. We asked Cassandra to share with us her Marrakech and how she came about living a million miles from home…
LEFT Hotel du Tresor PHOTO Lonngren Widell. RIGHT Cassandra Karinsky PHOTO Denise Braki for Temple & Webster
Where do you call home?
Wow. Home? Sometimes I am not sure where I belong. Honestly I don’t know – I wish I did. I have lived the past 20 years between NYC, Chicago, Marrakech, Madrid and spent a little time in Sydney. My base now will be Marrakech & Madrid. They are so close to each other, and I get to work and hang out with my sister and my two gorgeous nephews in Madrid.
What led you to working in Morocco?
I went to Morocco for my first time back in 1997 when I was living in Chicago, and fell in love with Marrakech. I have been in the restaurant business most of my life (Sydney, NYC and Chicago) and always dreamt of having my own place – I thought Marrakech was the perfect place to do it. After travelling around Morocco for a couple of months you can tire quickly of the cuisine – I wanted to create a place which offered fresh Sydney style food with Moroccan flavours as a break from all the rich moroccan tagines, tangias, cous cous, etc. The restaurant never happened – which I think is a blessing really!
I met another Australian girl there, Rebecca, and we started making and designing our own kaftans to wear as we could not find anything!! You think Marrakech, floating kaftans – well there was nothing. Eventually we had a lot of interest from friends and other people wanting our designs so Kasbek was created (kas & bek) From there I met Gaelle Le Boulicaut, a great photographer out of France. We started working together, shooting and styling for ED Group and Maison Francaise.
What are the 3 things you would recommend to anyone travelling to Morocco?
1. I think for women we still have to dress respectively for the Moroccan culture. I have been astounded by some of the outfits western women wear whilst travelling through Morocco.
2. Get out of the cities and visit the country – it is so stunning with the most amazing little villages and roadside tajine stalls. You can always book a Grand Taxi to take you on day trips to the mountains or seaside towns. Get to the coast too – Essaouria (Supratours buses take you here and is cheap) out of Marrakech or up to Tanger and it’s neighbouring towns – Chefchaouen, Asilah & Tetouan.
3. A time I would definitely not go to Morocco is during Ramadan – a time when most ex-pats flee! Especially in the summer months it can be very hard, with the incredible heat of 52 degree days. The streets don’t have the same energy or buzz during Ramadan.
La pause is a magical spot – can go for the day for a long leisurely lunch and lay by the pool or spend the night in one of their huts, bivouacs. There is no electricity here so the nights are absolutely magical with the light from the desert sky. Lunch is taken in the bivouacs which remain amazingly cool in the hot summer heat.
The road to la pause, when you want the dessert but not the long drive! is only 45 minutes to one hour out of kech.
What Hotels can you recommend in Morocco for an authentic experience?
One of my favourite, with the most amazing location, is Hotel du Tresor. It is owned by Adriano, an incredibly generous Italian man full of so much life! Adore him!! It is in the Medina, just off the Jemma el Fna. The staff are amazing, led by manager Amine. It has to be the best bargain in Marrakech!!!!
To escape the city and madness of the Medina you have to head to La Pause. It is the perfect desert experience without having to go to to the desert – that hideous drive of 14 hours, not for me anymore! It is run by a very dear girlfriend, Geraldine Moureau. You can go out for the day, enjoy an amazing lunch prepared by the in-house cook, go for a swim, camel ride or play a round of mini golf. There is also fabulous accommodation to stay over night.
A great hotel which opened a couple of years ago, designed by a good friend Romain Michel-Meniere, is Kasbah Bab Ourika. It is at the base of the Atlas Mountains just up from the village of Tnine. Each village is named after the day of it’s weekly market – Tnine being Monday in Arabic. It is such a huge event, the locals will walk miles to spend the whole day at the market – like our Saturday night out. It is a great experience to drive to Tnine on the Monday, visit the market and then up to the Kasbah for lunch, have a swim and take in the most amazing views of the Atlas. The Kasbah also offers treks with an experienced guide, can pack you a picnic lunch too. It is a great place to escape to as well for a couple of days with fabulous accommodation.
Another of my favourites is The Beldi Country Club – another great escape for the day or new hotel accommodation also available, only 15 minutes outside of Marrakech.
Hotel Hotel du Tresor Courtyard & Interiors PHOTOGRAPHY Lonngren Widell
Do you have any tips for shopping In Morocco?
I have always told people to wonder the souks and look for the first couple of days – no impulsing shopping! You can always find the same thing later and most probably for less! Be patient and buy on your last couple of days. Always bargain down the price. There is a word I love in Arabic – Bisef! They will love you if you say this, means ‘too much’ The Moroccan’s have a great sense of humour and love a good bargain – have fun with it.
If you are looking for specific pieces then you have to head straight to the Lalla Showroom in Gueliz to meet Laetitia Trouillet! We worked together a couple of years ago for her fabulous, and very famous, personal shopping business. She is the person in the know of all the latest places to shop – and she has the most amazing style!! A stunning woman! She will plan out the perfect itineray for you depending on what you need – homewares, fashion, etc. Also the latest hot-spots for food and drinks! A bonus is her showroom in Gueliz where she sells her collection of Lalla bags – they are the must-have accessory from Marrakech!
The Industrial Area is a great spot to go to as well. Also known as Sidi Ghanem, it is where a lot of ex-pats choose to create their designs (furniture, fashion, texitles, etc)and sell out of small boutiques. There are some really interesting factories out there – Laeitita is a the person to give advice on this area too.
If you have bought any large pieces (carpets, etc) the perfect way to ship home is using EMS – a registered postal service. I use them all the time to ship carpets to clients globally. They are very reasonably priced and and usually ship to Australia within 10-14 days! The best place to use this service is at the Chronopost office on Hassan 11 (Hassan 2) – next door to the Haagen Dazs shop – another bonus! This is in Marrakech, Gueliz. You can find EMS services in other Moroccan cities at the local post office – the lines can be a nightmare though!
What rug do you have on rotation in your home?
I have so many rugs that I love and move around frequently. They are like paint, they can totally transform the vibe of a room – a whole new character. One in particular I love is a small antique Zaiane kilim – it has little splashes of pink green and blue. It moves around my apartment all the time – beside my bed or on the white sunroom floor where the colours pop.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT Piles of Turkish Towels and Kaftans all from Kulchi | Laneway life | Cassies bedroom layered with Pom Pom blankets and Zaiane kilim on the floor.
Whats the best thing about coming home after being away?
Oh, it is always seeing the ocean! After being land-locked in Kech, coming back to Sydney and seeing the stunning colours of the blue waters of the harbour and coastline still takes my breathe away. Also, I miss a damn good yum cha! It is one of the first things I have to do with family and friends – usually within 48 hours of of landing in Sydney – a must.