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.

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.

RIAD ZAMZAM - press launch

what an exciting day, our riad's name was accepted, so we are now officially opening as
RIAD ZAMZAM. For those of you who don't know this is the story of Zamzam. Hagar and her baby son were roaming around the desert near mecca desperately looking for water, when the Angel Gabriel came down and took them to a place. At that place his wing touched the sand and a spring burst out for them to drink from. Zamzam is now part of the Haj and is still flowing today. The water is said to have powerful properties and the healing water is very coveted.

RIAD ZAMZAM will be a place where you can rest and re-charge your batteries after the hustle and bustle of the souk. Watch this space............................

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

FFF - Funky Fireplace Finished

3 cheers for Marcus, the fireplace is finished in the salon. Marcus says it's huge, but huge is gooood. I'm yet to get over there to see it as i spent another morning in 3 bureaucrat's offices, trying to get the riad registered for trading. You know what - the longer you are here, the calmer you become and the more you get done. I even managed to body swerve a 400dh traffic fine from the police for not stopping at a stop sign. They are so ridiculous who invented them - oh yeh the french. The scary policeman giving me a hard time, said 'I'm giving you a fraction', looking at my blank face 'do you know what that is?' 'No' I said. After 20 minutes of me being really annoying as a dumb English person, he told me to please go.

Back to the fireplace - wait until you see it covered in shiny Tadelakt. I hope we will have many an evening sitting in the salon, fire going, g and t's and chatting with good friends.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Cooking a Tagine - Berber style

Above is Amina making a tagine in her house. I just happened to pop round at the best moment. A tagine is the name given to the earth pot with the pointy lids the stews are made in. In the top of the lid is a round hole. Not many people know this, but the round hole at the top of the lid is for you to put cold water in to keep the vapours of the stew returning to the stew. Many people however just stick their spoon in the hole.
The tagine above is a Berber Tagine. Now a big secret that i have found from many tagines being burnt on the bottom is this; if you are using your tagine dish on the hob you need to place a metal plate under it to act as a conductor. These tagines are traditionally made on a little charcoal fire.
How to make a Berber Tagine - olive oil, onion, garlic, ginger, cumin, salt and pepper. Fry these ingredients for a little bit then add the meat and brown. This one was chunks of beef. After add water and leave meat to cook until tender. You may have to top up with water regularly. Cook on low simmer.
When the meat is nearly ready layer on top, tomato, potato, carrot and sometimes courgette if you fancy (but it cooks very quickly) in slices. Replace the lid until all veg is steamed. You can also add chopped fresh parsley at this stage.
Serve with flat bread and steaming mint tea. The bread should serve as your cutlery which is why the Moroccans eat so much of it.
In the same way you can do a vegetarian tagine, as above but add more tomato.
Other tagines I LOVE -
Chicken, lemon and olives
Lamb and apricots
Beef and sweet potatoes - really good
Beef, prunes and almonds
Poached egg and tomato - the best one actually
Mincemeat and tomato
If you would like any of these traditional Moroccan recipes, drop me a post and i will consult with the chef.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Moroccan Shapes

I'm always looking for Moroccan shapes, that we can use and incorporate into our Riad. I love them, the wackier the better!

A charming Berber House

Off we went for mint tea and cakes. The Moroccans love to have tea and chat it's part of their welcoming nature. What a wonderful surprise inside this charming little mud house. Immaculately clean and cared for, a true Moroccan experience. The Moroccan's love colour and prints. Most of the houses are made of mud, if not, like this one clad in mud (pise). The white markings you can see on the mud walls are typically Berber. In the mountains white is painted around the windows to keep the insects out.

The End of Ramadam - special handmade cakes

Excitement has been in the air, singing and trumpets throughout the night as the silver light of the full moon covers the palm trees. It is the end of Ramadam, no more long thirsty days, no more road rage, no more fights in the souk, a strange calmness has taken to the streets as everyone is busily cooking royal couscous and entaining guests in their Moroccan Salons.

The lovely Sana and Karim walked a good mile or 2 to the villa bearing gifts of her handmade Moroccan cakes. So delicate and delicous, almonds, honey, seasame, dates, orange blosom water. I love but also dread these gifts as i can't stop eating them once i've got them.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Moroccan Garden in October

The summer seems to never be ending, it's still 27 c at 9am in the morning and yesterday was 35 c!

The garden is soooooooo beautiful, bougainvillea, roses, Jasmin which overwhelms me at night as i lie in bed, geraniums, lots of native flowers (see pictures if anyone else can help me with my useless vocab of plants. I had to live in this country as bougainvillea touches the very heart of my soul.

Funky Fireplace

At last the funky fireplace in the lounge is being done. It will hopefully look a little like aladins hat when finished. Its a tough job for a small person, look at the guy plastering the inside!

Riad Guest House Marrakech: The Old Dame gets a cut

Riad Guest House Marrakech: The Old Dame gets a cut

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Old Dame gets a cut

The wonderful Abdulgani, what would we do without him, nothing is too dificult.
We have a very old palm tree running through the riad, she is about 150 years old and has not had a haircut for quite a while.
Abdulgani with a machetee in his mouth and bear feet scaled up the palm which passes the first floor and the terrace. Once at the top he pulled a rope around him to free up his alms to cut the old palm fronds down. It was very exciting and has now given the riad patio on the ground floor alot of light.
The dates she produces are royal, they are huge. We now have our own organic dates from the riad to serve with a lovely mint tea when you visit.

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!