Last April, a group of Atlanta designers and architects traveled to northern Africa for an annual conference that’s held for professionals within the design community. The Atlanta contingent—of which there were about a dozen—joined other members of the Design Leadership Network from across the United States for this year’s event, which was held in Marrakech, Morocco.
As a precursor to the event in Marrakech, Marmi Natural Stone, one of the sponsors, escorted a handful of Atlantans on a trip through Egypt. In addition to touring the company’s facilities in Cairo and some of its marble quarries, the group crisscrossed the area over the course of five days—from the Valley of the Kings and the Temple of Karnak to the Great Pyramids.
At the official Design Leadership Summit in Marrakech, members participated in four days of design-related lectures, seminars and networking events, along with architectural tours, sightseeing and guided shopping tours of the souks within the city’s medina. Social events included cocktails at Jardin Marjorelle (the former home of Yves Saint Laurent), a grand nighttime feast in the desert and intimate dinners in private riads. Optional excursions included a trip to Fez or a visit to the Atlas Mountains, where a traditional Moroccan tea ritual in a local casbah inspired our story back in Atlanta.
A Moroccan tea service, which often begins with the washing of hands in orange blossom water, is one of the highest gestures of hospitality. “Green tea is steeped with mint and sugar, and its preparation in uniquely shaped pots and glasses has been elevated to an art form,” says Atlanta designer Beth Webb, one of the travelers on this excursion and the creator of our Moroccan-inspired environment.
“I love the blend of African and French cultures there. In America, Moroccan design has been around us all along. In the past it was more subconscious—a plethora of color and geometric patterns—but there’s certainly more of an awareness of it now simply because we live in a global economy, and Marrakech is such an international city.”
READING LIST Food from Morocco by Paula Wolfert (Ecco Publishing, $45). PLAYLIST Moroccan Flavours album by various artists ($8.99; amazon.com). SHOPPING LIST ZamouriSpices.com for tagines, Moroccan copperware, spices and more. INSPIRATION “My Marrakesh” blog by Maryam Montague (MoroccanMaryam.typepad.com)