After continuous years of exceptional company achievements, Cardenas founders Antonio & Rolande wished to find a way to show their appreciation for all the hard work put in by all Cardenas staff who helped to achieve this success, offering us the opportunity to decide a destination for an all expenses paid company trip. A unanimous verdict was reached by all, resulting in destination Marrakech!
The 13th of June saw the arrival of 25 members of the Cardenas team to Marrakech on the start of an unforgettable 3 night cultural getaway that not only served as an enjoyable sightseeing trip, but also bought us even closer together as a team.
Our first impressions were of a mind-boggling chaotic city with streets full of crazy drivers, donkeys and horse drawn carriages. Poverty was also a word that sprang to mind, and although a poor city in general, its people are very proud and resourceful. Within a short period of time we learned to fully appreciate the richness of their culture.
We were accommodated in the luxurious 5* hotel “Les Jardins de la Koutobia”, situated inside the Medina only a few minutes walk from the famous “Jemaa el Fna” square. Entering the hotel made us feel as though we were in an oasis of calm with the only sounds to be heard coming from the singing birds resting in the plant filled patios and the unaccustomed sound of the call to prayer from the Koutobia mosque which could be heard 5 times a day.
The hotel in itself was fascinating to see, elegant and authentic with carved wooden ceilings, lounge areas serving Moroccan mint tea, patios & gardens, four restaurants, a main pool and heated roof terrace pool with views to the mosque.
A further surprise for us was that the hotel housed a Clarins Spa & Relaxation Center which we were privileged to be able to use courtesy of Mr CardenasJ
Throughout our trip we were accompanied by Latifa, our tour guide, she very patiently walked and talked us through the sights, offering a real insight into everyday life.
Early evening began with a walk to the Jemaa el-Fna square, a night visit was highly recommended to fully appreciate the atmosphere, but even so we found it alive with storytellers, snake charmers, musicians and henna tattoo artists amongst others. For the brave, open minded eaters the square offered food stalls where you could choose from dishes such as meat skewers, mixed fish, stewed snails, soups and even cooked sheep heads!
The real delights were to be found edged along the side of the square; a wander through the ancient souks took us through passage ways full of shops selling kaftans, carpets and traditional craft items. Many visits were made by us all, shopping for presents whilst practicing our haggling skills, and for some reason the male members of Cardenas got the best bargain prices!
During our stay we also made several sightseeing trips including:
El Bahia Palace – A beautiful building from the 19th century built for Ahmed Ibn Moussa, his 4 wives & 24 concubines. Our guide, Latifa gave us a good explanation of the lavish lifestyle of the Moroccan elite which was very interesting.
The Saadian tombs dating back from 1578 to 1608 but only recently discovered in 1917. Here rest the corpses of around 60 members of the Saadi Dynasty.
The Majorelle Gardens, designed by Jacque Majorelle for Yves Saint Laurent. A lush garden estate filled with colourful walkways, ponds, cactus and plants.
Ben Youssef Madrasa – Islamic collage housing 130 students in dormitory cells clustered around a beautifully decorated courtyard richly carved in cedar, marble and stucco. Founded during the 14th century and closed in 1960 and re-opened to the public in 1982.
Luckily for most of us our culinary experiences did not include stewed snails or sheep heads; we were treated to 3 days of mouth watering food. We dined in perfect settings within the hotels restaurants, enjoyed a delicious pool-side buffet in the award winning Mamounia hotel set in over 17 acres of historical gardens and on our last night we had the pleasure of enjoying a gala dinner in the restaurant Dar Yacout. This enchanting restaurant is located in a medieval mansion deep in the Medina, the decor, service, breathtaking panoramic views over the city from the roof terrace and the highly traditional Moroccan cuisine made our last night very special.
Many of you may think that after our intense days we would all be tucked up in bed by 11pm but oh no, all of us under 55´s managed a few dance moves in the surprisingly sophisticated night clubs! We had the immense pleasure to befriend a waiter in the hotel called Normand (who someone from Cardenas decided to rename “Jose”). He became out night guide-come-bodyguard accompanying us on our party nights in the exclusive areas of the city with the rich!
After a fun packed 4 days full of fabulous moments, great company and unforgettable experiences we were all well and truly worn out and ready to go home and charge our batteries for what will hopefully be another year full of company achievements!