There's A Girl In My Souk

Sydney-based tastemaker and digital entrepeneur Heidi Carter became so obsessed with finding the perfect berber rug, she built an online store around it. Here, the mother of two reveals a few travel secrets and top indulgences when in morocco

When did you first fall in love with Morocco? I've always had an obsession with the country so I made the trip after completing our home renovation with the idea of sourcing rugs for the house – I came back with 40! I fell in love with the story behind them and their unique use of colour. It also inspired my work with Nina Gilbert, of Artisan Project in Fez, on a collaboration of brightly coloured blankets with pom-poms. They are all hand-loomed by skilled artisans, which helps to maintain the craft in a fair trade environment.

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  2. The Life Exotic: main picture top, the founder of Paddo To Palmy pictured with her daughter Gisele, 4, and her favourite Moroccan scenes. Above, the wonderfully complex interiors at the Jardin Des Biehn riad in Fez, and right, six-year-old Ella poses with her mother's hand-loomed blankets.
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  4. Her favourite hotel in Fez: We love to stay at Jardin Des Biehn in the heart of the Medina. It was previously the summer house of a Pasha and is now owned by a French textile maven and his family. The riad is built around a huge garden filled with fruit trees, flowers and vegetables; it truly is a retreat from the bustle of the medina. The restaurant serves up the most incredible French-Moroccan cuisine. Jardin Des Biehn, 13, Akbat Sbaa, Douh, Fez Médina. Tel: +212 664 647 679. 
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  6. Her favourite hotel in Marrakech: We always stay at El Fenn, a riad converted into a very hip boutique hotel. Nothing beats relaxing on the rooftop with a cocktail while watching the sun setting over the Atlas mountains. Riad El Fenn, 2 Derb Moulay Abdullah Ben Hezzian, Bab El Ksour, Marrakech. Tel: +212 524 441 210.

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  2. Marrakech Express: above and below, the rooms at Riad El Fenn combine grandeur and historic architecture with modern touches, hideaway nooks and secret gardens. Reimagined by Vanessa Branson and Howell James, the riad features three swimming pools, a restaurant, bar, spa, library and cinema room.
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The quintessentially Moroccan experience she shares with her family: Our friends have a beautiful riad in Fez, decorated with blue and white mosaic tiles and a huge courtyard garden in the centre. We love their wonderful traditional cuisine – they always serve up special dishes for their guests such as pigeon pie with pistachios, sultanas and spices baked in a flaky filo pastry and dusted with honey and cinnamon. It’s the perfect combination of sweet and savoury.

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  2. Her favourite outings: 
  3. 1). Le Salon Bleu in Tangier is a gorgeous little restaurant in the Kasbah that overlooks the seaside. It’s great for a delicious lunch. Le Salon Bleu, at Dar Nour Guest House, 20 rue Gourna, Kasbah, Tangier. Tel: +212 662 112 724. 
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  5. 2). I love Dar Batha Museum, the late-19th century palace built by Sultan Moulay al-Hassan I, with a lovely garden and outstanding collection of Moroccan arts and crafts. This is the setting for afternoon concerts of the Fez Festival of Sacred Music – it's the most superb music from all over the world, usually held in the first week of June. Dar Batha Museum, 5, Place Batha Oued Fejjaline, Fez. Tel: +212 535 637 800. 
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  7. 3). Glaoui Palace – the Fez residence of the Glaoui family who once ruled the southern part of Morocco – is one of the most beautiful palaces in Fez. It's not open to the public but the person in charge, Abdou, is usually very happy to show you around. He was born in Dar Glaoui and his family has been there for at least three generations. Glaoui Palace, you can call Abdou to make an appointment on tel: +212 67 366 828. (It is customary to give him a contribution to help maintain the palace).
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  9. 4). Visit The Ruined Garden for brunch or dinner, this beautiful garden café and hotel is one of the few spots where you can soak up some sun in the Medina, with good coffee and delicious cakes. The Ruined Garden is situated in the medina of Fez, 5 or 6 minutes walk downhill from Batha roundabout. The concierge will guide you to and from the cafe. Tel: +212 649 191 410.
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  11. And for an indulgence: I adore getting a hamman treatment, a full body scrub followed by an argan oil massage at Riad El Fenn, then a cocktail by the pool, (above). I also recommend the Mernissi Hammam in the Bab Boujloud area, the Nausikka Spa for an amazing scrub, and Moulay Yacoub for its hot springs and luxurious spa, located near Fez.

    Her tips for traveling with a young family in tow: My girls have their own iPads, which I know is a luxury but essential for long-haul flights. Colouring pencils, paper, and sticker activity books are also a must. Gisele and Ella also have their own suitcases so I get them to pack their own clothes (obviously I do a final check) so as to prevent tantrums at the destination.

    And her secret to striking a work-life-family balance: This is a really hard one. I constantly feel like I am not giving either camp the deserved attention – if I must work around my kids I try to involve them in the designs. I've come to realise that feeling guilty and stressing about things doesn’t achieve anything, so I just try to do my best. Unfortunately this means late nights and the odd moment of anti-social behaviour checking emails on the go.

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