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.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Maroc photos - life as seen by a 4 year old

I found these photos on my camera when I last down loaded and think they are fabulous. My 4 year old often goes off on a shoot with my camera and I think it is such fun seeing life through a 4 year old eyes. I hope you enjoy them too. Annoyingly she seems to get far clearer shots than I do!

This winter has been a really hard one weather wise and I know the rest of the world has and is having it much worse, but the rain we have had, the winds we have had (our beautiful new bach has been ripped off in the wind) and the frosts we have had. I have never known it before. I have a feeling it might mean we are in for a dirty hot summer. Watch this space! I hope you are all keeping warm and well. Is spring finally here?

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Zamzam Cuisine - Fantastic Moroccan Food

I thought I would share with you some of the wonderful Moroccan and Berber food coming out of our kitchen. These are a number of Moroccan salads. Morocca salads are usually cooked. The first one is roasted aubergine with steemed carrots, garlic, olive oil and fresh herbs. The second salad is green peppers cooked with olives and chopped tomatoes, one of my favourites.

You can see a meddly of mushrooms, not traditionally Moroccan, but certainly a fusion dish which is something we are working on for the Zamzam Cook Book. The lovely Hind, serving them up with fresh chillis from the Zamzam garden and rock salt from the Moroccan coast. We have just started our cookery demonstrations and Moroccan cooking workshops, send us and email if you fancy rolling you sleeves up and getting stuck in!!
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Oualidia - A Moroccan coastal secret

Well we only went for a short trip and it is a bit of a drive from Marrakech about 2.5 hours, but the drive is stunning and part of the getting away. We had two days of glorious weather it could not have been more perfect, apart from the fact that there were no oysters!!! forbidden i was told. So they are either suffering like many of us from a bad dose of flu or as I suspect they are breeding??
However we walked on the beach in the balmy sunshine and warm breeze what a tonic and then we ate delicious fresh fish at the well known Ostrea II, where the oysters are farmed and then went back to our apartment for a glass of wine and to sit in front of the fire. The next day was followed by more fresh air and unfortunately a sun burnt face, but everyone was happy and regenerated, especially JoJo the dog. Oualidia is actually a bird sanctuary and protected site. In this photo the ruin in the distance is the old royal house and the land around it. Oualidia is actually a bird sanctuary and protected site.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Luxurious old Beni Ouarain Berber Carpets

These are old authentic Beni Ouarain Carpets. They are stunning pieces, in the traditional pattern. The wool is excellent and for their age they are in great condition. They speak volumes just from the photos.

The second one is really unusul it is one carpet with two designs, larger hatch and the smaller.
They are both extrodianary carpets, have a look at my Zamzam Boutique stock under Ancient Beni Ouarain to see a full set of photos on each. I'm coming back to the UK next week if anyone fancies a free courier.
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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Stunning Handira - Berber Wedding Blankets at Zamzam Boutique

Today I found two gorgeous vintage Berber wedding blankets or Handira as they are known. The first one is especially exciting because it is large and most of you hunting for a large one know how difficult it is to find one, let alone a gorgeous one like this. It is 2.64 meters by 1.6 meters and loaded with little sequins in this fabulous box pattern. I have added these to the collection at The Zamzam Boutique. I have also added some new Beni Ouarain carpets and two antique Beni.
What I love is the clean simplicity of these two glorious pieces.
The second is smaller but a really good piece non the less. It measures 1.66 meters by 1.06 meters.
The work that has gone into these fine Handira is exeptional. These are sure to sell fast so if you are interested in one make sure to drop me an email quickly. I'm going back to the UK next week so anyone in the UK can have a free courier too!
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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Stunning Berber Wedding Blanket - Handira

Wow look at this super fantastic Berber Wedding blanket I found today and in gorgeous orange. It is heavily laden in little sequins and is a total work of art. It has the two little straps that the bride would have used to tie it around her for her Berber wedding.

The sequins are separated by tufty little boxes. This wedding blanket is so cool and I have never seen a piece like it. What a gem it would look so good on any sofa or bed.

You can see the back of it, all those threads are the backs of each sequin. What a find! email me if you'd love to buy it from the Zamzam Boutique.
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Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Moroccan Coast - Oualidia hotels

This morning we are heading out of town through the hills and arid landscape to the beautiful bay of Oualidia, where the flamingos stop on passing at Christmas and the wonderful oyster beds are found.

We have had a week of rain and Marrakech and its surrounds are starting to look like Hampstead Heath rather than Morocco. Some say cold winter, scorching summer so we may well be in our bikinis before long. Today is brilliant sun, blue skies and the snowy Atlas Mountains are in their full glory. The JB's are off to the beach with dog and child to search the pretty rock pools for sea slugs and eat plates of oysters.

We have had a busy 4 months with Zamzam opening and full of guests at Christmas, Marcus father has been very ill too so the last 4 months have been full on. We are all off for one night to catch our breath and remind ourselves of why we work so hard.

See you when I'm back!

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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Passing through two worlds - Marrakech/Mountains

I know you have probably all had enough of looking at snow, but we love it. We love to escape the city and head for the mountains as they loom ever larger on the horizon. This particular day was even better. We awoke, thick fog outside, jumped out of bed into our salapettes, dog in the boot, hundreds of jackets and gloves and off we went. It will burn off we thought, the fog and clouds never last very long in Marrakech. We were wrong and what was more thrilling was the fact that as we climbed the sharp winedy road with huge boulders balanced either side, like an aeroplane we came through the dull clouds and out into blue sky and brilliant sun. Talk about privileged I though, feeling ever more guilty as I knew we had clients in the riad who hadn't ventured up into the sunshine.

It was a special day for me as my daughter had her first ski lesson and loved it, one of those days of motherhood I had been waiting for. I can't wait until we can ski together. It was strangely warm though and it was obvious a big thaw was on as we saw little mountain waterfalls cascading down.

At Zamzam we can ring ahead for you for weather checks, book you a restaurant for lunch up there and organise the transport. Boot and ski hire available and lots of good ski instructors if you want a lesson. There are also tons of tobogans for children.
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Friday, February 6, 2009

Mountain decent into Marrakech

These are the photos of us going down again to Marrakech after a hard days skiing in the sun and exhausted, reluctantly descending through the clouds again. All like a dream really had we been asleep had we really been basking in the sun with the gods?

Like going underwater in a swimming pool, bloob bloob.
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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Marrakech Grand Prix - Race of Morocco

You can see the circuit map which was made available during a press conference organized on November 19 at the conference room of the Farah Kenzi Hotel. The circuit map of the MGP (Marrakech Grand Prix) was announced to the audience, mainly journalists, both local and national, attended this press conference that was followed by a tour to visit the circuit under construction as well as the MGP village.

The official 2009 FIA World Championship Calendar (F1, WRC, WTCC) was made public on 7 October by the World Motor sport Council. For the first time since 1958, Morocco makes its entry into the prestigious line up of international motor sport events, among them Monza, Macao and Valencia. Labeled “Race of Morocco”, Marrakech becomes the only round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship (FIA WTCC) to be held in Africa and the Arab World.

Marrakech starts the new round of the 2009 FIA WTCC Season By hosting the FIA WTCC in Marrakech on May 1-3 2009. “Race of Morocco” will become the only African round of any FIA World Championship (F1, WRC, WTCC). This is the result of 3 years of concerted efforts between the Moroccan government and the Promoter, MGP. In doing this Marrakech joins the league of international urban circuits, such as Monaco, Valencia, or Macau. Known to be the most fascinating and popular in the world of motor sports, street races draw more than 100.000 fans from all over the world to experience all of the adrenaline and excitement of the racing events.

For its racing weekend, Morocco will be projected onto the international motor sports scene, as Euro sport broadcasts the series to more than 200 million TV viewers across 70 countries. The MGP young and active team took all the participants in the press conference on a field tour to present the circuit layout with detailed explanations.

The circuit is designed by D3 Motor sport Development, MGP’s partner in Morocco, and one of the world’s leading motor sport development companies. D3 is one of the few companies responsible for the construction of four of the most competitive and successful race tracks in professional motor sports. Among them, the street circuit in Surfers Paradise, Australia, is recognized as one of the finest street courses in the world today, with more than 400.000 fans in attendance.

The FIA-standard circuit will ensure the safety of the teams, drivers, and fans. In fact, it has already been subjected to several tests and inspections, pending final FIA homologation in 2009. Construction is already underway being supervised by Groupe MENARA. It is worth noting that the Marrakech circuit will be the only FIA World Championship circuit in Africa. Its location, along Mohammed VI and Ourika Avenues, an exotic backdrop between the red city’s legendary wall and snow-capped Atlas Mountains in the distance, will quickly make it one of the most attractive circuits in the world.

The circuit layout will allow for fast and challenging driving, giving fans and TV audiences an exciting performance.

In terms of what opportunities the circuit will provide morocco:

Thousands of direct and indirect jobs will be created;

-1.2 million man-hours over 100 days in construction

-2550 FIA-standard impact blocks weighing 4 tons each

- 10,2 km of heavy-duty debris fencing installed by specialized teams

- 8 km of security fencing - 5 pedestrian bridges

- 14 hard-wall portable buildings

- 19 temporary structures for teams and garages, equipments, media centers and press, medical sites, emergency and security

- Jumbo screens and hi-fi positions all along the circuit -

Length: 4540m (in track axis) • Width: 5.6 18.4m

Zamzam Riad will be following the organisation of this event carefully. If you would like help organising your holiday and accomodation around the event we will be happy to help.

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The sand pit, Morocco

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Photos Maroc - the life of a 4 year old in Marrakech

I found these photos on my camera when I last down loaded and think they are fabulous. My 4 year old often goes off on a shoot with my camera and I think it is such fun seeing life through a 4 year old eyes. I hope you enjoy them too. Annoyingly she seems to get far clearer shots than I do!
The lavender actually looking very well after all the rain we have had I'm not surprised.
One of my lovely Beni Ouarain carpets - available for sale at the Zamzam Boutique.
Her beloved Gerald. I bought this for her this year when she had a terrifying eye infection. They have been inseparable ever since.

This winter has been a really hard one weather wise and I know the rest of the world has and is having it much worse, but the rain we have had, the winds we have had (our beautiful new bach has been ripped off in the wind) and the frosts we have had. I have never known it before. I have a feeling it might mean we are in for a dirty hot summer. Watch this space!

I hope you are all keeping warm and well.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Vintage Beni Ouarain Berber Carpets - Zamzam Boutique

I have just bought two new carpets for the Zamzam Boutique. I added the sizes and photos for the Zamzam albumn last night. The first carpet is unusual in that the pile is very short for a Beni and the weave is much tighter and smaller.

This carpet is 4mx2m. This carpet is incredibly soft and the weaving has been done with much smaller wool than the traditional Beni Ouarains. I love the box hatch and the patterns up the sides. It also has a really pretty kilim weave at the ends.

It is getting hard to find these nice Berber carpets now, so as and when I see pieces that speak to me I buy them. If you would like to look at the full range of my Beni Ouarain and Azilal carpets just click on the Zamzam Boutique in the left hand table.

This carpet is also unusual in that it has a very long chunky pile. This carpet with tons of character measures 3x2m. The hatch is very very dark brown looking black in areas with cream wool. Lots of these pieces were used for the Berbers to sleep on and I can see why with this Berber carpet. It is just wonderful to walk on!

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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!