For Caitlin and Samuel Dowe-Sandes, the husband-and-wife team behind Popham Design, walking down the street in their adopted home of Marrakech brings inspiration. Designers and manufacturers of Moroccan tiles, they say, “the designs take their aesthetic cue from our life in Morocco and the things that inspire us—the curve of an arch, a delicate carved wooden ceiling, the branch of an almond tree, the shadow cast by the wheel of a donkey cart (yes, a donkey cart!). Indagare spoke to the ex-pat design gurus to get their tips on how to enjoy the red city.
What should no visitor to Marrakech miss?
The Majorelle Gardens really are lovely. And the concept store across the street, 33 Rue Majorelle is a must for some more unique artisanal finds. This sounds totally corny, but a sunset ride in a horse-drawn carriage around the city and through Djemma El Fna is really fun. We lived here for almost six years before trying one and did recently with my mother and our two-year-old daughter. All of us were enamored.
What is your favorite Marrakech ritual?
After all these years, I’m still a fan of a hammam treatment – gommage, massage, the works. I love the spa at the Beldi Country Club and you can go and have a treatment and then a gorgeous lunch by the pool. As we have a toddler, I also enjoy a Saturday brunch at a place called Flower Power Café), a bio café (with the best eggs benedict and fresh-pressed fruit juices!) located in a nursery called Casa Botanica. It’s about a 15-minute drive from the city, but well worth it. They have loads of fun stuff for kids, bunnies and chickens, donkey rides and a mini-café, which means that parents can relax and have a delicious meal while the kiddos play.
What is your favorite secret spot in Marrakech?
Well, it’s not such a secret, but it is off the beaten path. La Pause, is a sort of boho, eco-retreat in the Agafay Desert (which looks like a lunar landscape) and is only a 45-minute drive from the center of Marrakech. You can go for a delicious lunch and some hiking or camel or horseback riding. It’s incredibly peaceful, so a nice antidote to the craziness of the souks.
When do you consider the best time to visit Marrakech?
Spring and Fall. October is ideal, but that seems to be true the world over. Summers are too hot for us; we usually go to Europe and then the States for July and August to escape the maddening temperatures.
What is the best item you have found in the souks?
That’s tough because we have bought so much from the souks over the years. Now, however, we often look with an eye to what will translate well back in the States. I’d say the Beni Ouarain rugs are still a must-have. They really work with just about any interior. The other day I bought a few goatskins that I’m having made into pillows, and I’m quite pleased about those at the moment. We also bought these hunks of white gypsum stone quarried in the Atlas that we’re fashioning into mirrors and lamps.
What has been the Popham Design creation you are most proud of?
The best thing for us has been the creation of the company and the people we’ve found to work alongside us. We have an amazing group of tile artisans and we take a lot of pleasure in combining our two cultures (American and Moroccan) and skill-sets in making a product that melds a long-standing traditional manufacturing method with some fresh designs. My husband and I both work on new designs and we’ve just redone a house, so we had a tough time deciding which patterns/colors to put where. I’m very jazzed about the new Hex Target and one we’re calling Tracks, inspired by some condensation on our factory door.
Popham Design tiles can be purchased directly through Popham (their store is located at (Km7, Route d’Ourika) or through their retail partners. Click here to check out their website.