Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Palace Museum of Oudaia Kasbah and the Andalucian Garden - Rabat

The Andalucian garden was beautiful, i felt like i was in Granada, strangely. This is what i love about Morocco it always offers you a different experience wherever you go and so varied.

I noticed a number of beautiful doors. The museum has beautiful treasures from times gone by. The colours were very different from those in Marrakech and the gardens seemed more lush. This was the last of our sites before heading off down the coast to Azzemour. I loved Rabat and will definitely be back for longer with my husband who has never been, it was truly a wonderful city. I don't think many people realise what it has to offer. Historical sites, the coast, shopping and fabulous restaurants. It is a very noble city.


The Villa Mandarine - Rabat

The wonderfully eclectic Villa Mandarin in Rabat. The bedrooms were comfortable and full of modern comforts including slippers. The most amazing thing was the wonderfully well established gardens. The service was impeccable and most of all friendly. The restaurant was also superb although a little pricey. After a longish day driving to Rabat, with stops. (Although this journey could be done in about 3 hours without stopping for a gastronomic sea food lunch) A hot shower, glass of wine and dinner was perfect in this lovely boutique hotel.

The hotel is a crazy mix of Moroccan art, old pieces of furniture and vibrant colours.






A floor tile design in the main bedroom area.
Granny enjoying dinner in the cosy restaurant.

The larger salon. The hotel was easy to get lost in at first as it's full of nooks and crannies, which is also part of it's charm. Each section of the hotel is very different to the next.

Voyage to Rabat - Historic sights

My parents have come to stay with us to get some sunshine. My father would only agree to come for a decent amount of time if i organised some trips. The morning after they arrived we set off to do a partial tour of the coast. We left Marrakech and took the new excellent motorway to Casablanca. At Casablanca we took the ring road and followed the coast road, which was very pretty to Rabat. En route we stopped at a restaurant and had a lovely fish lunch, after we walked for a bit and collected shells on the vast expanse of beach.

I loved Rabat, i have not visited for 10 years and even then it was a drive through visit. It had a very different feel to Marrakech and felt very regal. It felt much more Andalusian which of course it is, but surprisingly so. The lovely river and hilly countryside added to the magic of the place. Below you can see a photo of the Chellah wall, one of the major historic sights. The Chellah is on top of the hill and freshwater springs flow out of the hill. It is believed that Sultan Yaacoub's buried treasure is inside, guarded by a prince of the jinn (spirits or entities living in a parallel universe). For years this place once a settlement has been used for burial and tombs.















The entrance to The Hassan Tower and the tomb of Mohammed V and Hassan II.



















The Mausoleum is ornate to say the least and totally breathtaking to look at. The carving is so intricate and the marble lavish. The Moroccan people hold their past kings in high regard almost to holy status as the now Mohammed V is the spiritual leader of Morocco too.

The Tower is stunning and impressive from all views. Built by the Sultan Yaacoub El Mansour in the 1100's. It was built as part of a programme with the Koutoubia in Marrakech and the Giralda in Seville.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Rose Marble Bathroom - creating an eco-conscious riad

The first finishes have started at last. It seemed as if we were never going to get past the first stage of changing shapes, electrics, plumbing all of which seem to go on and on. There's so much stopping and starting because of religious festivals.

The first marble has gone in! It has gone into the down stairs suite. We are only buying Moroccan Marble not imported. We are trying to support the local industries as much as possible. We have two bathrooms with baths and this is one of them. It has two little marble seats in it so that one can relax in the essence of Jasmin, sipping a glass of wine after a hard days shopping in the souk. I'm rather pleased with the outcome as you never know if you are going to be happy with the work done. Marcus is now watching everything like a hawk so that it's done correctly, i think this is the only way to try and get your finishes to an acceptable standard, which believe me is incredibly hard. Luckily Marcus is a perfectionist so i know that by aiming for the stars we will have good finishes by most standards. My biggest concern really is the hot water. It seems to be that no matter what riads do ie huge tank volumes and pumps all over the place. The hot water is very slow? Even in the creme de la creme of riads I've heard people say "we had to go off for a gin and tonic to wait for the hot water to come through". What makes me really wince about this is that we are trying very hard to be as ethical and eco-conscious as possible and running a tap for 20 minutes in a desert country is a big no no.



We have had the hammam insulated with sustainable cork, we are installing solar panels (unbelievably fairly radical for morocco) and we are trying where ever possible to be a conscious low impact riad. Any helpful information or hints on this will be gratefully received. We are already a competitive destination re: carbon foot print, as with only a three hour flight to Morocco we have the upper hand, being equally as interesting and diverse as other countries ten to thirteen hours away.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The magnificent olive harvest

The family went to help Ahmed with his olive harvest. Ahmed has become a great friend and has helped us enormously with organising the riad work and helping us to find materials.

I loved the olive harvest there was a real sense of community and it reminded me of something we so often forget. Just helping each other out. You can get so caught up in the daily grind of life and getting things done. I had a real moment when i stood up and looking around at the beautiful ancient olive trees, I thought this is the lifestyle change i was after and this is the sort of integration with the Moroccan country folk that is so important. It's so easy to swan in here buy a lovely villa eat at lovely restaurants and actually have little to do with the Moroccan culture and way of life.

I recommend olive harvest to everyone who needs to re-generate their energy, feel a sense of harmony and occomplishment and to bond once more with the earth. Enough of the hippy lecture! We also collected the olives off our few old olive trees in the garden. They have gone to be pressed with Ahmeds as they wont press small collections of olives. We have 15 litres of oil from our trees !! organic virgin olive oil at that! another reason to stay at the riad so that you can eat it and cover your body in it after a hammam.

The olive tree basher. Someone hits the branches of the tree as all the olives shoot down onto the ground. They actually quite hurt as they hit you. My daughter spent the whole time shouting Oww!

The younger generation carrying the heavy plastic boxes full of olives. There was a big smile on their faces when they saw my 4 wheel drive, which we loaded up. Saved them carrying them all.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Working Our Socks Off!


Well everyone has been working their socks off, but still progress is slow.

A new plaster man has started and is starting to finish off the shapes in the riad ready for tadelakt, so it is just starting to look a bit neater.

Below are some of the great Moroccan architectural styles. These photos are of ceiling shapes, mainly in the bathrooms.

The photo on the far right is the ceiling in the master suite bathroom. The gorgeous little arch is the entrance to the grand domed shower.




















You can see far right the beginning of a plaster dome. Everything is done by hand with very few tools available. A tape measure is a rare commodity!




Friday, November 16, 2007

Tecnocrati

Technorati Profile

Zamzam development

Wow a new vaulted ceiling in the hall! Halid is a clever man thank god we managed to find him. The hall now has three vaulted sections each which will have a beautiful hanging Moroccan light.

It's gradually taking shape, thank god for Marcus and his clever design.

A 40th Birthday Lunch at the Barrage




What a fabulous spot for sunday lunch, the Relais du Lac at the Barrage. Only 30 minutes from Marrakech, on a balmy November day this really is the place to eat. A set menu consisting of a delicious salad, warm bread cooked on site in a kiln clay oven followed by vegetable tagine and barbequed meat. The crowning glory has to be the heavy berber cake pudding with a glass of mint tea, just what you need to send you straight into siesta mode!


The lake is at the edge of the atlas, during winter giving stunning views of the huge mountains covered in snow.



The water was incredibly low, but you always get this at the end of the summer, before it fills up again from the mountain snow. We had very little rain this year too.

Moroccan patterns



Choosing moroccan tiles for the riad, not an easy task as there is soooooooo much inspiration. The problem being that there is so much to choose from regarding textiles, tiles, lanterns etc. You have to be careful as if you have it all no one thing looks very special, mind you i'm all for the eclectic look.
The Bejmat are the clay fired tiles they come in all shapes. I like the square ones the best. The pictures above show the glazed bejmat tiles, which are nice in that they always look shiny. The clay tiles however look for authentic. Dear oh dear my heads spinning from looking at them all, what i love in isolation may not be what i love in contrast!

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Birthday Party and Halloween

What fun we all had at the Halloween Birthday party, still warm in Marrakech. Lots of princesses, ghouls and witches. The games were fantastic and we all joined in.

Marcus in a deep building discussion with Aisha. She's from New Zealand and is about to start building a yoga centre.




Wrapping the mummy game with toilet paper.



The pumpkin full of sweets gets a whack as they all take it in turns trying to split it open.

At last the birthday boy splits open the pumpkin, the sweets spray out and there's a mad dash to get as many as you can.


Hoolahoop pumpkins - not as easy as it seems.

The pumpkin's a bit shocked that we managed to get a hoop over.




Bobbing for apples!


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Camels of the Palmeraie



I love the Palmeraie in Marrakech, it's so pretty with its date palms and no matter how many villas they seem to build they are well hidden in the palm grove. When you drive through on the little windy road you always get a feeling that you really are in an exotic land.
I adore camels, they are superior, full of attitude and soooo pretty with their long eye lashes to keep the sand out. There is nothing more snugly than wrapping your bare feet around a camel's warm, soft, downy tummy in the cold morning waiting for the sun to come up.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Hasan ll Mosque at Casablanca





Well I have just returned from a trip to Casablanca, very short i'm afraid, it would have been nice to go shopping, but i was there to go to the British Embassy. I liked Casablanca what i saw of it and will definitely be going back to shop for the riad. The new motor way from Marrakech was amazing, mainly because it was nearly empty and new. It took only 2 hours to cover alot of kilometers.

I went with Sana which was very helpful as she used to live there and could direct me around the big city. She kept saying to me 'have you seen the big mosque? its the biggest in Africa you know' to be honest i didn't take much notice, i was thinking i've seen mosques what's the big deal. As we turned the corner i could not believe my eyes, it was the most amazing thing i've seen as amazing at the Vatican in Rome. I was totally blown away and will definitely be back to have a look round. The photos don't really do it justice, it was gob smackingly big.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Guest hand washing

This special device is found in most Moroccan homes. As your guests enter your house, you hand them the soap. You then pour water over their hands over the bowl at the bottom and then hand them a towel. This is customary in Morocco.

Elaine our lovely neighbour

Elaine our neighbour has just drawn and painted my daughter three Dora pictures for her princess bedroom, because she knew how hard it is to get children's art and posters out here. Aren't they nice. Thank you Elaine!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Djelebas and Tkchita Kaftans



Above you can see an example of a Tkchita, this is a special dress for special occasions, weddings etc, usually very ornate and worn with a thick tight belt round the middle. All Moroccans have a Tkchita.





Sana wanted to show you examples of Moroccan dress. The photo above is a Djeleba worn by women and men over their clothes. They come in all sorts of beautiful colours and the embroidery and thread work on them is stunning. The women's hoods often have a tassel whereas the men's Djelebas are more simple but still stunning, especially in winter when they all look very smart in gorgeous colours.



As-Salaam-Alaikum

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.



Creating the Guest House

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!