Hi, i'm writing this blog page to share information with all you wanderlust souls out there. Living in Morocco comes with lots of bizarre and unexpected events, which i thought you may enjoy reading about and sharing in the laughter.
My family and I moved to Marrakech 11 years ago from London. The beginning of a huge adventure for us. Choosing which country was right for us to live in had been an extremely long and tiring process. Having made a choice to move to Marrakesh, was in itself a big box ticked. We had two criteria lists, one for our business (opening and running a guesthouse) and one for personal.
Phase two of our journey then began. Setting up home in Morocco, also a non English speaking country with a very different culture to ours. Marrakech is a real melting pot of; languages, tribes, rich, poor, city slickers, country peasants. It sometimes reminds me of that place Luke Skywalker went to, to buy that space ship, with all those different intergalactic aliens. (Any one know what it was called?) After months of beauroctratic paperwork, rendez vous with people who don't turn up and renting from an unpleasant woman for a large amount of money, we bought ourselves a villa. This was not in the plan as we didn't want to tie up our capital in a home. I now realise it is one of the best things we could have done. When you've had a really difficult day here to be able to close the door and relax in your own place really balances you.
Zamzam Riad & Spa was eventually created out of love and we hope you will come and stay and be pampered in our luxury boutique riad.
"When we arrived, I thought perhaps there had been some mistake: it didn't look like a town that would attract royalty. Or flamingos. But then you turn a corner towards the sea and Oualidia uncurls to reveal the magical lagoon at its centre.
It is immediately beguiling. The crescent of butterscotch-coloured sand loops at the southern tip of 11km of lagoon, protected from the crashing Atlantic by a barrier of rocks that catch all the violence of the ocean. Slickly wet-suited children surf in miniature waves and teenagers play football among djellaba-clad women making sandcastles with their babies on a stage-like central island, which evaporates and re-emerges with the tides. Over the course of our three days, it never looked like the same beach twice. Silver at night, the water was lilac in the rising morning.
In spring and autumn, migrating pink flamingos land here on the way from Spain to sub-Saharan Africa. We watched elegant sandpipers and curlews, herons marching their lolloping Egyptian walk through the sand, swallows dancing to the sound of minarets calling the boatmen, fisherman and surfers to prayer." Article in the Observer 2 September 2012
Zamzam Retreats are holding a wonderful luxury pampering Retreat in Oualidia in November 2013 you can view the whole programme here - www.moroccoretreats.com
We went to do a rece last month and consider surrounding beaches and generally have a fabulous weekend. This bay with its abundance of fresh sea food is stunning and magical.
The beautiful horizon pool of the villa allows you to swim whilst taking in the stunning view of the lagoon.
We sometimes manage to escape for a couple of days to the wonderful Moroccan Coast. Agadir is south of Marrakech and now with the new superb motorway it is just 2.5 hours of smooth easy driving through the stunning hills from Marrakech.
Agadir is great for a chill out. The weather is balmy, warmer nights and cooler days although this weekend it was 29 degrees C in the day so pretty warm, but with the cool breeze off the sea it's really relaxing.
One of the great things about Agadir is if you stay in a hotel on the sea front, there is a long clean promenade 5 kilometres along the beach to the pretty port at the other end. This time we hired bicycles and cycled to the port and back which was really nice after breakfast. The bicycles cost 80 dhs for half a day and your hotel will arrange it for you.
The port has some shops including my favourite Max & Jan and also a Zara. There are a few classy restaurants too for lunch or dinner. We mainly like to arrive along the promenade in the morning have a coffee or ice cream and walk back.
I just thought that this was fantastic. Free exercise machines have now been added to the promenade for everyone to use. What a great idea!
You could combine Marrakech and Agadir for a great holiday and to combine souks and beach.
Everyone knows that beautiful carpets are hand made in Morocco and that the Berber Vintage Carpets with their soft wool and ancient but tribal motifs are every designers dream.
I who only like cream and black/brown or very muted soft colours has suddenly gone mad for these stunning colourful Boucherouite rag carpets. I also love the way they are made from recycled cloth in a totally eco fashion. They are made by women in the countryside and can often be seen on the side of a mountain as you drive through the Atlas or at the beach.
I have seen a few of these Boucharouiate carpets now and only one has really moved me until I found these. They are so me their colours out of this world. Every carpet is unique and these particular ones I have just bought dance around your head as you look at them. Finding these was like a visual orgasm. They sang to my soul and filled me with excitement. I hope you love them too.
The deep indigo blue of this one with the bright pink I love so much. I'm very into indigo at the moment. It looks like a peacock tail.
The Zamzam Boutique will now be selling a selection of these stunning vintage rag rugs. Email me for more information - Emma firstname.lastname@example.org
or view the stock at http://www.riadzamzam.com/zamzam-boutique/
Also gorgeous Juju Hats from the Cameroon, Beni Ouarain Carpets, Handira, pouffes and embroidered cushions.
I have just bought these 3 Beni Ouarain runners, I love love them. They are so hard to find so when I found them that was it. Over the years clients have asked me to find them and it has been so hard. Ive actually only seen 2 in 5 years. So now I have 3 gorgeous ones! first come first served! email me if you would like one. email@example.com they are varying sizes 3.80 - 4.85 meters x 1 meter.
For those of you new to Beni hunting. They are wonderful hand made Berber carpets. You can also see more wonderful items at the Zamzam Boutique http://www.riadzamzam.com/zamzam-boutique/
We spent our days in the Luxury Desert Camp sand boarding! which has now been added to the list of things to do on the Zamzam Retreat in March. Laughter is a therapy after all!! See the full programme at www.moroccoretreats.com
The dunes were so stunning real sand mountains. It was so much fun driving over the dunes in a 4 wheel drive. 15 years ago I pushed a truck over the Sahara with a group. So much pushing so much sand matting I can recommend it if you want to get fit and slim fast but this was much more fun now being in the driving seat.
We walked up the highest dune with our sand board ready to whizz down. When I turned around there was a vast sea of dune stretching to the Algerian border, simply soul touching.
Sand boarding down the dunes, cool we loved it. For help organising trips in Morocco email firstname.lastname@example.org we have a number of partners that provide excellent Moroccan experiences.
We left Marrakech across the Atlas Mountains with heavy rain looming. We were tired and thought we would never leave Marrakech everyone wanted a piece of us as it was the night before Eid.
Having driven throughout the Atlas Mountains past an interesting Alpine hunting ground we got stuck in a village. Cars at loggerheads as they would not make way for a tourist bus trying to get though. As is the way with Moroccan traffic. We decided to park up and get lunch. We ambled towards a smoking bbq cafe full of the hubbub of lunch and became smoked ourselves as the wind changed and we ate our tagine and chips with smoke pouring over us. I quite like being smoked out as it reminds me of African fires and my childhood in Nigeria.
Into Ourzazate a town which many people are rude about but I quite like and onwards towards the Dra Valley to Agdz, town of the old Kasbah's and beginning of the Dra. We came over the hill with high spirits knowing that in less than an hour we would be at our cosy guesthouse for dinner when we were confronted with about 300 cars immobile. We had no ideas what had happened but they soon told us there had been a flash flood due to the rain volume in the mountains and the two bridges, one after the other had been washed out and we couldn't pass.
Very swollen river but beautiful rainbows. Uma and I were excited at the adventure and as I kept telling Marcus we wouldn't be on an adventure if these exciting happenings didn't cross our path. We waited 3 hours and then in the dark we were directed slowly across the charging river to the other side. The journey from Marrakech to Agdz had taken 10 hours!! but this is not normal. Uma and I wined and dined and Marcus fell into bed with a migraine.
Through the Dra Valley the scenery was spectacular and I started to feel that I was leaving Morocco and entering Africa.
Along the road on the way to Mhamid the last town before the desert we saw these amazing v's made from reed. They are to stop the desert sand taking over the town and keep it in the Sahara
Camels in Mhamid a charming Desert town full of Berber Nomads and a mix of African's from Mali and other parts.
A photo of the gorgeous Dra Valley on the way to Mhamid.
We had decided to buy land and build a country guesthouse as per our business plan, about 10 double rooms and suites. The dream was to create a holistic retreat and build our house on the same plot. We were going to have an organic vegetable garden and provide a Moroccan Spa.
Land in Marrakech at that time, went mad. Prices going up daily, lots of people fishing but not really wanting to sell. There is also a problem here of title. ie not much land is titled and to buy land without a title is very difficult, unless you have a lot of time on your hands and like a gamble. We looked at more land than you can shake a stick at, drank more mint tea than you can imagine and got totally no where. It can take weeks to even get a price. You may be being shown a piece of land that isn't for sale or has already been sold. After a year of this we said 'that is it!, we are buying a riad!'
I had a total nervous breakdown and couldn't talk to anyone for three days. He then said this doesn't have to be the end....... It wasn't I have now built an Ecological Camp Adounia in the Sahara Desert!