Glowing in Marrakech
Meet Saida Kadiri, Founder of Marrakech's Coté Bougie's Fabulous Scented Candles
Saïda Kadiri knew no-one and was at loose ends when she moved to Marrakech with her husband and three children 17 years ago. The family had relocated after her spouse had been offered a position in the city, and Saida, who found herself with no social or professional network of her own, decided she was going to reinvent herself and follow a long-time passion for candle making. “I was always drawn to the world of design and I’ve always loved candles. Whenever I was home, a candle would be lit, spreading its warmth and gentle scent throughout the house.”
Saïda was born in Abidjan, Côte D’Ivoire, but when she was three years old her family returned to Morocco. She grew up in a traditional Muslim home in the thriving metropolis of Casablanca, “which is a bit like the Paris of Morocco,” Saïda says, “Casablanca inspires the creative within you, and as far back as I can recall, I’ve always wanted to create beautiful things”.
All photos from: @cotebougie
Saïda’s artistic journey began while she was still living in Casablanca and working as an interior designer. But it was the artistic hub of Marrakech that really allowed her to dive headlong into something she’d long held a flame for. “When we arrived in Marrakech, our life completely changed, but this change also created new possibilities. I was free to pursue my true passion.” Once the decision was made, Saïda traveled to France to study candle-making. When she returned to Morocco, she began the business in earnest, with just three employees in a tiny workshop.
Seventeen years later, her labor of love and passion, Coté Bougie, is a well-respected and treasured brand in Marrakech, highly regarded for its quality scented candles nestled in gorgeous handmade pots, precisely and elegantly crafted by local master artisans. Their fragrances deliciously smooth and tender, with uniquely local aromas such as “mint tea” and “orange blossom,” immediately transport you from your suburban living room to the exotic, buzzing terracotta alleyways or sunny rooftops of Marrakech’s famous medina.
“My first real challenge and real break was when I received a massive order from this one client. I did not have the capacity to fill that order back then, but I wasn’t going to let this unique opportunity slip away. I worked around the clock for three months straight, leaving the workshop at 4am and starting again at 7am. I still don’t really know how I did it, but I guess when we love something, we give it everything we have, right to the last drop of energy. I wasn’t bothered by staying up all night, I was resolved to get the order out,” Saïda recounts, in her frank and serious manner.
- Shop Cote Bougie Scented Candles here
Her determination paid off. Completing this order was a big turning point for Saïda and her burgeoning business. Soon after, Coté Bougie graduated to a bigger atelier, “we became more well known, started to expand, update our infrastructure, received more orders and of course were able to employ more staff.”
Saïda’s passion for candles is contagious and it has led her two sons, Omar and Faycal, to join the family business. The two had each pursued independent business careers outside of Morocco, but ultimately decided to return to Marrakech and work together with their mother on the continuous building and expansion of the brand that they grew up with.
Today, Omar and Faycal act as the General and Executive mangers of the business, allowing their mother to focus entirely on the creative side. Faycal, sitting with us during the interview, notes, “I admire my mother for her courage and determination and am proud of her for everything that she has done for us to bring us to where we are today. Passion is important, but you need vision and you need grit. Not everyone can say that about their mother.”
At the center of the family business success, is not just a driven, creative matriarch but also high-quality products that combine the best of Moroccan artisanal savoir-faire and Saïda’s expertise as a candle maker. Quality raw materials, and outstanding craftsmanship are present in everything that Saïda creates.
Each candle is quintessentially Moroccan – with the pottery made from local clay, and the organic soy wax poured by hand at the Coté Bougie workshop in Marrakech. Some are then painted by local artists, others are wrapped in intricate raffia holders, woven by a women’s cooperative in Essaouira. “The scents we choose, the materials we use are all very deliberate. We want to allow our customers to take home a piece of this beautiful country, its rich artistic heritage, its openness, its liveliness, its warmth. Our scented candles are a perfect embodiment of all that,” says Faycal.
After nearly two decades in the candle business, Saïda is just as passionate about Coté Bougie as when she first started. She is constantly pushing her limits and whipping up new, creative designs. Her candles truly are a labor of love and an inspiring reminder of what can be accomplished by one creative individual with passion and a vision.