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 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.
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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!