I can't believe it's been so long since I last wrote anything here. Given that I am not yet in Marrakech I suppose it is slightly understandable but still...
I have found some great blogs and articles on Morocco which I have added to the links on the side of the page. One in particular is Maryams blog 'My Marrakech'. Very poetic and great pictures. It appears that she may have two young children at the American School as well. You never know, we might meet.
I am gearing up to start some work whilst in Marrakech. My accountant is helping me to prepare my tourist license so that I can take people out on photography trips as well as giving tours of the Medina. My first challenge in Marrakech - get to know the Medina like the back of my hand. I intend on being the number one authority on best spots for photography.
All our furniture is being shipped on the 29th of March. The villa is nearly complete. We are nearly there.
Yeah! Coming out to Marrakesh next week for a visit. Very much looking forward to seeing how our villa is coming along. My expectations are not so high. I have always found it is better to underestimate and then be impressed rather than have high expectations and be disappointed.
We will be moving out permanently in March so this really is a final recce. We need to see if all our furniture is going to fit in the various rooms. Buy a car. Check that all our documents are in order at the local consul and a million other things. Lots to fit into 5 days, especially with a 5 year old and a baby in tow.
The weather forecast is looking good. Low 20's and sunny. It is always bloody sunny in Marrakesh - what is wrong with it?? I really wish it would be cold and rainy sometimes....
Not much hope of taking many pictures this time as too much to do but not to worry, will have plenty of time soon.
I have been doing so much research into Morocco the last few weeks. Apologies for not posting too much. Just have not had the time. It is all book marked though and will get put on here in good time.
For the time being though, here are a couple more pics from my last visit.
On our second, or perhaps it was our third visit to Marrakech, I cannot quite remember, I could no longer hold back the urge to do a trek in the Atlas. We were staying with some friends who had a guest room in their garden, Heather and Abdul. Abdul runs a tourism business and sorted everything out for me.
I left very early in the morning in my rental car. I remember being able to make my way through the centre of Marrakech with no traffic at all. It was wonderful. Only a few taxis still around.
Once out of Marrakech the roads were pitch black. I had to be careful of the odd early riser making their way to work on their bike or the various groups of people just wandering along the road seemingly going nowhere. Had I been going too fast I would surely have run them down.
I made it to Imlil which is really as far as you can go on the road into the Toubkal National Park. En route I passed Richard Branson's Kasbah Tamadot, a beautiful old Kasbah set in the foothills of the Atlas. More of a palace than a hotel, it has some splendid views and impeccable rooms. Well worth a stop of if you have the time.
Imlil is a lovely little village. Very touristy during the day but blissful at this early hour. Apart from one Berber lad and his donkey I was the only person around. The views were magnificent. I could not wait to get started on the trek.
My guide arrived very shortly along with a mule and a mule driver. I would spend the day hiking with the guide. The mule and it's driver would follow not far behind, loaded with all our things.
I wondered why there was a need for a mule. I had a rucksack which I was more than happy to carry on my back and my guide had only a small bag. It turned out the mule was carrying a small kitchen and groceries for a regal lunch.
It was bitterly cold at the start of the day but as the morning progressed layers came off and went in my bag. I knew I had to keep at bay my urge to stop all the time and take pictures if we were to get through the day. At the top of the first big ascent I felt fabulous. It was just me and the guide and all the Atlas mountains. I felt like a real adventurer. A moment later my feelings of greatness were shattered when two twentysomething girls came puffing around the corner wearing shorts and t-shirts and not much more than ballet shoes with their own guide. They were from Manchester. I had thought I was in the middle of nowhere being an intrepid explorer! Higher and deeper into the mountains next time I promised myself!
We passed through several Berber villages before lunch. My guide spoke brilliant English and he was able to explain that these Berbers were still living the lives they have always lived. No roads go to the villages, there is no electricity. They exist by working hard at their land and trading with the other villages in the foothills. There is a market somewhere in the mountains everyday and the villagers walk for miles to trade their goods. I was inspired by their resilience and strength.
We stopped for lunch on the edge of one of these villages at about 1:00pm. I still didn't know what to expect. In 20 minutes a fire was going and a tagine was being made. A salad of tomatoes and mint was served for starters with some berber bread to mop it up - delicious. I had had this several times on the Jemma El Fna and it is a firm favourite. The tagine was one of the best I had had. The setting at the foot of a snow capped mountain with a crystal clear river flowing a meter from me and a Berber village just behind may have had something to do with it!
We were half way round a circular route and although I realise now that this is quite a common tourist trek, I felt like I was a million miles from my normal life. It was the easiest thing in the world to organise and not particularly difficult to do. Hard enough to make me feel like I had achieved something but not so bad that I can't take my wife along next time. I will probably even take my 5 year old daughter!
The rest of the route was equally exhilirating with the same breathtaking views. Going down one hill we were invited by a Berber farmer to go and have tea. We had to decline as the sun was getting low and our guide probably had a date back in Marrakech. The farmer was a toothlesss chap with wrinkles around his eyes that showed his charm and age. I would have loved to have gone and heard his story. Next time.
Back at the guest house by 7:00pm having negotiated Marrakech traffic I felt a little closer to my adventurous spirit.
This is why we are moving to Marrakech I thought. Experiences. Discoveries. To find a world that is fast dissapearing in England.
Popping my SD card into my computer I gazed upon the scenes of the day with delight.
Since starting this blog I have spent a bit of time trying to work out the direction I would like to take it. The honest answer is I don't really know. It will be a little bit of everything. I really need more than one blog but certainly don't have the time to do that. My interests lie in everything Moroccon - food, culture, history, tradition, fashion, events, tourism you name it so this blog will cover it all. It will be very photo based but this won't develop a great deal until I get there as my portfolio of pictures is currently quite small.
I have discovered the Moroccan Foundation which is a charitable organisation devoted to helping the underpriveledged. One particular arm of it that I am interested in is for the small villages that are too far from anywhere to be able to register themselves as citizens. These are Moroccos forgotten people. They have no hospital or local office - nothing. Here is a link which gives a little more information: forgotten by the Moroccan state
It quite surprised me to watch this video but it has also inspired me to try and help. I have contacted the foundation and hope that they may be able to use me in some way to document these forgotten people photographically. By photographing them in B & W and in an artistically interesting way it is possible that their plight may be taken to a wider audience.
In this period of waiting to get to Marrakech I cannot help but keep going back to the pictures It took whilst there. Funny how it is not home yet but I feel homesick looking at them!
The picture above is the entrance to Ksar Char Bagh on the edge of the Palmerai. It is a splendid piece of architecture and is very much based on Alhambra in Grenada, Spain. We stayed for one night on one of our trips and were looked after amazingly. We had one of the best meals we have had in Marrakech although it was very French and not at all a Marrakech experience. The pool here is very long and narrow and great for actually having a swim. The gardens are huge and they have a very cool hamman/spa. The bedrooms are huge and most have large terraces. We thought the rooms were very cool but others have commented that they are quite sparce and lacking in cosy places to sit which I suppose is true. We will definitely go back there again.
The restaurant manager is worth a little mention as well as he was fantastic. But not only that we had mutual friends. Every year we go to a little village called Pegairolles in Languedoc, South of France. A tiny little village that no-one has ever heard of let alone been there. On the edge of Pegairolles there is fabulous little restaurant called Le Temps de Vivre. It was opened a couple of years ago by the ex head chef of Le Jardin des Sans in Montpellier France. Well, this chap from Ksar Char used to be the restaurant manager at Le Jardin in Montpellier and therefore is good friends with the family who now own Temps de Vivre. It was strange to turn up at Ksar Char and talk with mutual fondness about a small restaurant in the back of beyond. A small world.
I was born in Yorkshire but moved abroad with my parents in my early teens. Initially Japan and then Taiwan and Hong Kong. Met my now wife Jane whilst traveling around the world for a year and moved to London to be with her. In September 2000 we bought a 14 bedroom hotel in the Cotswolds and converted it into a high quality boutique hotel (The Dial House Hotel). We sold that in January 2008 and are now planning our move to Morocco in March 2009 where we will develop property and spend some good quality family time together.