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.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009 - Conde Nast - Zamzam Riad

I got an email from a lady last week saying that she had heard about Zamzam and loved the photos. Was it true that children could really stay free? Would we mind if she did an article for us for the Conde Nast Traveller website. I nearly fell of my chair. Any how I sent her some pictures and information on how we are kids friendly and how I used to be a Montessori teacher and today here is her article.

Affordable Family Vacations - Conde Nast
by Nicola McCormack

Some destinations are magical enough to appeal to all ages, which pretty much sums up Marrakesh. The low costs of traveling to Morocco are equally bewitching right now. Airfare can get up there, but the on-the-ground costs for food, shopping, and accommodation are where you'll make your savings. For parents, the maze of souks is a place to hone bartering skills; for youngsters, it's a mysterious labyrinth of (inexpensive) treasures, exotic aromas, and glowing lanterns. Early evening is when the main square, the Jemaa El Fna alive with gnawa musicians, tumbling acrobats, snake charmers, and the infamous "dentists" who proudly display the rotting fangs they've hauled out—tooth brushing may never be an issue again. Eat at one of the hundreds of smoky open kitchens, where tasty chicken kebabs (under a dollar apiece) and desserts drizzled in honey will satisfy even the most finicky eaters—although it's probably best not to point out the cooked sheep heads until the kids have finished their food. Stay in a riad—a traditional Moroccan house-turned-hotel with a central courtyard—for an authentic experience; the Zamzam is a beautifully restored seven-room riad in the Medina. Room start at $173 a night in low season; the child-friendly amenities range from babysitting services and high chairs to kids' meals and extra cots (youngsters under 10 can stay in their parents' room for free). There's also a pool and a hammam where even kids can benefit from a jet lag–relief massage.

Just to let you know we also do cooking classes for children and they are really successful. At the moment I am compiling a list of things to do and restaurants that are family friendly. Come and stay and let us organise something for all of you.

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Children's cooking class - Zamzam Riad

Some photos of our cooking class with two boys! they were actually quite hyper and I wondered how they would get on, but the concentration and interest in the vegetables and spices was incredible. We spoke about respect for the knives and hygiene rules of the different coloured chopping boards and they absolutely loved it. They chopped and cooked for two hours allowing dad to have a beer and mum to have a hammam and massage. Maybe we will start a Tagine Club for kids! They were so proud at dinner as their dishes were served to their families.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Beef Wellington a la Zamzam.

Sally, where she loves to be! We rolled out the puff pastry making sure it was big enough to cover. The secret to this dish is also excellent puff pastry.
The meet was previously sealed in the overn on 180 for 7 minutes, you can do a little less if you want it rare. The meet was left to cool and rest, before then covering it with the smooth pate.
The pated meet was placed on the pastry and the mushroom placed all over the meat.
Finally the pastry was folded over and sealed with a beaten egg. Sally then decorated the Wellington with pastry leaves before putting it in the oven. We cooked it on 180 for an hour. 45 mins maybe ok if you want it medium, just check the pastry is cooked.

Please try this at home and request it when you come to Zamzam.
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Sally Joyston-Bechal - Zamzam Cuisine

We have just recently had Sally to stay with us, which we loved. Above all she is a wonderful cook and we spent a long time discussing dishes. Her Middle Eastern background, Indonesian upbringing and later years in Australia, give her great flare in the kitchen. At Zamzam we are about fusion food, so this was a great time to be discussing different infulences from around the world and how we could bring them into our cooking.

On this occassion I asked Sally to share with me her Beef Wellington, because it is somthing i occassionally hanker after. I am going to share the process with you all now.

Firstly you buy your nice piece of fillet beef prefereable a piece from the middle so that it is the same proportions.

You need, puff pastry, smooth pate, mushrooms, onion, stock cube, parsley and an egg for sealing the pastry.

We chopped the mushroom, onion, parsley and half a stock cube, butter and stir fried in a pan, then left to cool.
The smooth pate was mashed to loosen it up, a good idea to leave it out of the fridge for an hour.
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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Deep pile Beni Ouarain Carpets - Zamzam Boutique

These are the Beni Ouarain carpets I am heavily into at the moment. Made for Berber's to sleep on in the middle Atlas, they are soft and comfy underfool, you actually can't stop walking on them.

It is not easy to find the deep pile carpets, but when you do it is a love affair to last forever. There is something very comforting about these carpets especially when they are on your floor in the house. I also love the simplicity of them.

They are so beautifully woven by the Berber bed weavers that they don't need to stand out with design.

Close up photos showing the soft organic wool and deep pile. If you love them as much as me send me an email at Zamzam
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Saturday, April 18, 2009

The World of Beni Ouarain Carpets - Zamzam Boutique

 In the March issue of Elle Decoration nearly all the editorials and shoots featured Berber Carpets.  I thought you would like to see these carpets in Interior design to give you an idea of how fabulous they are and how they go with just about anything.  The ones in these photos are of a medium pile but still lovely and soft to walk on, another bonus.  After walking on a Beni you will never want to put your shoes back on.  I am really into the deep pile Beni Ouarain carpets at the moment.  In my next post I will show you some photos of the really shaggy Beni's, originally made as carpets to sleep on by the Berbers, the wonderful long pile moulded to their bodies to keep them warm.
 A nice short pile Berber carpet, looks wonderful on this dark wooden floor.
 The classic Beni.
I have one of these Beni Ouarain at the Zamzam Boutique for sale.
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Friday, April 17, 2009

Elle Decor - Berber Carpets - Zamzam Boutique

I don't know if any of you saw the March edition of Elle Decor but it had numerous Berber carpets in it, mainly Beni Ouarain. I recently found this carpet whilst out shopping with a designer and just loved it. Unfortunately the flash has made it a little light but it is a gorgeous subtle red, just like the one on the cover above of Elle and it has an unusual navy blue pattern. A stunning piece, which caught my eye as I have never seen a vintage Berber Carpet like this one.
The carpet itself is soft wool and the carpet is lovely and supple. If you are interested in buying this Hammanart carpet email me at
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Monte Laster's Marrakech - Beni Ouarain, Zamzam Boutique

I got a phone call on my mobile one morning dashing through the souk. "Yes" I said, thinking it would be some random person wanting to sell me mint! "Hi my name is Monte Laster I would like to buy some Beni Ouarain and found your blog, im trying to find out if it is worth me flying over to do some shopping with you. I need 7 Beni Ouarain." "Absolutely I said, I can take you to find some great carpets. How long will i need." "Gosh at least 4 days and you may find some if you are lucky."

And so began the wonderful journey into the land of Berber carpets with Monte Laster, an American living in Paris. He is, I now realise one of the most sought after interior designers for anyone rich and famous wanting a journey into interiors. Regularly in the likes of World of Interiors, Vogue Living etc this man knows what he is after.

The trip started in hell and ended in heaven. He missed his flight, got food poisoning in France before he left and after nursing him back to health - "lets go" I said not much time. "I'm still ill " he said. Not one to be put off a shopping expedition to buy 7 carpets - "shall I get you a corossa" I said. "What's that?" "a kinda large wheel barrow, at least you wouldn't have to walk!"

Well what a lucky man, i don't know if the global recession and lack of carpet dealers from abroad in the souk is a reason, but we found staggeringly beautiful Beni Ouarain carpets. I found myself saying "you'r gonna have to make a choice you know". What a dilema! An interior design heaven?

What a purchase, this man definately has god on his side and what a joy. I loved meeting him and chatting and exchanging stories. After two days of doing carpets, I said, need an assistant. He looked at me in the eyes, I think i've got one. It was a mean feat getting them into the couriers after he left for New York. Just wait until you see the photos of the Manhatten appartment.

For more interiors go to and his photographers site

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Moroccan Strawberries - Zamzam Jam

Yes it is finally here. The strawberry season in Morocco. Everywhere you look are donkey carts piled high with strawberries on a bed of mint. Men yelling 8dirhams a kilo come and buy. We love to cooking with season fruit and veg at Zamzam it is one of the joys of living in Morocco, thinking up dishes when something comes into season.

So I have been busy making strawberry jam. This recipe is a soft set, strawberries in a delicious syrop. The clients at Zamzam love to eat this in the sun on the terrace, spooned onto their fresh Moroccan pancakes. If you would like this recipe drop me an email. I sometimes use some Rose Flower water in it to give it more perfumed taste, but I didn't need to with this batch as the strawberries were so perfumed themselves. I noticed when i was in the UK at Waitrose that the strawberries had Morocco on them, just lucky they don't export them all. They taste much better here straight from the farm with no packaging!
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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Moroccan cooking classes for children - Zamzam Riad - Marrakesh

We have had great fun recently at Zamzam doing children's cooking courses. Being a Montessori Teacher in a past life the whole experience rang true to me. Discussing the spices, using real knives, talking about the vegetables, learning how to chop, it was all great and the children just loved it. Then at the end of it all they sat down together and enjoyed eating what they had made with their family.
Most of the Moroccan salads are cooked. The vegetables are charred over the hot coals as in the photo, they then put the vegetables in a bag and wait for them to steam their skins off before chopping them and marinating with numerous ingredients.
The class consisted of various Moroccan salads followed by a beef tagine with preserved lemons and artichokes. They also prepared a delicious couscous with raisins and almonds.
A tagine is traditionally cooked over a terracota base with hot coals. Email Zamzam for more information on holidays with cooking. We have a fabulous chef who runs the cooking classes. Two guests today prepared wonderful stuffed chicken and a vegetable tagine with whole chillis.
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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!