Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Oh bliss, oh joy!

I am sitting in our secret room in Jardins de la Koutoubia, our friendly neighbourhood five star hotel with the free wifi, with my *own* computer! At last! The poor dear had to be left in Ireland for a repair which it only chose to demand the night before we came here so I had to leave it with my father, who had it fixed and Fedexed it to me. Even though it is a little older and smaller than my husband's mac, it is *mine* and I love it. I have just treated it to .mac to welcome it to its new life in Morocco.

Rather belatedly, John and I have also just discovered the joys of bluetooth and that our macs can talk to each other! This was a very exciting development in our marriage, and instigated by me, I might add.

Our Moroccan life has been a little quiet in the last 24 hours due to an earache on my part. A childish complaint, I know, but there you have it. It seems to be going away on its own though... because of this I was cranky and slow yesterday and spent most of the day curled up on the bed reading Greenery Street and occasionally looking blearily at the article I'm supposed to be writing. I know that many of my readers are lofty PhD holders already, so I must ask - is it acceptable to divulge the whole point of your PhD in an article complete with an illustration of said point, or are you supposed to coyly skirt around it, saving the big secret until after submission?

But back to Marrakech - we did venture out in the end yesterday, as John had formed an inexplicable desire to have dinner at the rooftop buffet of the Hotel Ali. I was somewhat less enthusiastic, but went, and then afterwards allowed John the disctinctly Marrakshi masculine experience of grumpily striding through the Djemma el Fna with a wife trotting alongside, eating an icecream from Patisserie des Princes (Marrakech's answer to Laduree) and grinning from ear to ear.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


Last night as we sat on our terrace, drinking wine and watching the stars, we became aware of a commotion in the adjoining riad, a very small one, behind which our own future house is tucked. We crept closer to investigate and discovered that it was the sound of many women passionately weeping. The sound rose and fell, eventually trailing off, and we crept away to bed, knowing that somebody had died.

This morning the lane outside our front door is full of people, talking and crying, and a solemn recording of Arabic singing is playing. Moulaida, our housekeeper, tells us that the recording is of the Koran and that our neighbours' four year old child has died; she doesn't know how. We ask her, in our inadequate French, if there is anything one does here when neighbours or friends suffer a bereavment, but she tells us no.

It is frustrating not to be able to express our sympathy in any way. In Ireland it is very straightforward - you go to your parish church and get a mass card, or if for whatever reason that isn't possible, you send a sympathy card. But not here, apparently, or at least, not if you are foreign.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Houses, reading and hijacked performances

Deepest apologies for my silence of the last few days. You see, our life here has been rather quiet here in our beautiful temporary home (pictures of which we keep finding in interiors magazines and coffee table books about Marrakech). Heavenly as this house is, we are beside ourselves with excitement about moving into our real home on the first of July. As it happens, we keep finding pictures of that house in interiors magazines too – it seems that our host and landlord is a well-known interiors stylist whose taste is widely admired:

The mornings of the last few days have been blissfully cool, but we have spent them sitting on the roof drinking pot after pot of lapsang souching (all our other teas are still packed away) and reading. I have been reading Tudor England (John Guy) and The Heroic Temper: A Study of Sophoclean Tragedy. John has been reading Proust and Husserl. My bedtime reading has been They Were Divided, the final part of the Transylvanian Trilogy by Miklos Banffy, but I must confess that it is growing slightly wearing, although it is probably just my mood. The first two volumes were tremendously exciting, but the combination of fatalism and ominous politics in the third makes for gloomy reading, so I have temporarily set it aside in favour of… The Return of the Native. Hmmm. Not many people would seek Thomas Hardy when in need of a literary lift, but I have not yet read TRoTN and have been saving it for here.

But here – what about here, you ask? Well, my shyness of the Djemma el Fna on my first trip to Marrakech in 2001 is a dim and distant memory and John and I have been slipping out in the late evening after dinner to roam the stall, boxing matches and folk bands. The other night we were sitting in the front row of a crowd around a band which had been building up to play another song for quite a while (they are essentially buskers, but unlike the minstrels of Grafton Street, refuse to play until the crowd has coughed up a certain minimum fee) when a middle-aged woman with two young daughters burst in on the crowd with a dramatic flourish – the daughters began to do back-flips and cartwheels – we had been hijacked! There was nothing the band could do as they could hardly expect to keep their audience if they caused a scene by bodily removing the woman and her two girls from the circle, so all they could do was sit in misery while their hard-won crowd drifted away in boredom and embarassment.

(Images from Maisons du Maroc)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

In bliss, may die from ecstasy at any moment.

Oh how heavenly our life has suddenly become! After all the running around from one side of the Medina to the other (and discovering the difference between nice areas and not-so-nice areas at the same time) we are reasonably settled in our temporary home in the Mouassine district and life is heavenly. Doves cooing and swooping over the courtyard, other birds constantly singing and squabbling, tall cypresses all along one side and palms and orange trees everywhere else - you wouldn't even suspect that you are in a major city, until the call to prayer reminds you that you have not indeed been transported to a remote Tuscan hillside.

Our day was spent in idle bliss - we have dug out our teas from the cases and had Lapsang Souchong for breakfast, followed by some reading on the bougainvillea-clad roof terrace, then nap, then cherries, now a bottle of wine in Jardins de la Koutoubia (among their other attributes as the most central five-star hotel in the Medina, they have wireless internet). Life is serene.

I have taken some pictures, but they won't upload! The connection here must be too slow, I'm afraid - I will try again at the internet cafe tomorrow, which seems to be a little faster than here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Orange trees and gommage

John and I are still sweltering in Marrakech but now we have a house! It is odd and modern but in the Marra equivalent of Merrion Square and built right up against the walls of the royal palace HOWEVER it is not available until the 1st of July so the owner of the house has put us for the time being in the house next door; which he also owns and oh my - it's the most amazing house in the world! It is a truly traditional riad, complete with fountain and - my loves - orange trees! It is vacant at the moment except for a housekeeper granny so we are going to ring our new landlord tomorrow and ask if he would let us live there instead. I shudder to think what the rent will be, but we'll see what he says... if nothing is doing, we have the other house at least. The granny doesn't speak any English so if we get to keep her we will be chattering away in French in no time - she doesn't really believe it to be possible that we don't speak French so she still chats away to us in French, although I can understand enough to follow the conversation.

I went to a spa today called Les Bains de Marrakech and had a gommage and massage - the gommage, or traditional Morrocan exfoliation, was one of the best things ever to happen to me! Vigorous doesn't come close and I had this wonderful granny doing it (they're a feature here) and I swear I haven't been this clean in years - she even washed behind my ears!

I apologise for the continuing lack of pictures but I will endeavour to rectify this tomorrow.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sitting well inside cafes...


1. Unless you plan to hand over all of your money to beggars of varying credibility, touts, watch or hat salesmen, or street performers, one should make a point of sitting well inside the cafe of your choice.

2. Noel Coward was right about mad dogs and Englishmen, although he might have extended it to include Americans and Germans.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

We're here!

But unfortunately with an arabic keyboard so typing is taking about three times as long as it ought, whch, as you might imagine; somewhat dampens my enthusiasm for long posts.

Suffice to say for now that I think we have a house! It is a three bedroom riad, fully furnished, with a gorgeous canopy on the terrace and its own hammam. It doesn't appear to have a telephone line yet but that will be the first improvement we make, and indeed perhaps the only one as it apears to be quite perfect! Today we ventured into Gueliz, in the Ville Nouvelle, which was horrible, and we have vowed to add any necessary trips there to our future housekeeper's (otherwise short) list of duties. It is a mystery to me how some tourists are afraid of the Medina and love the Ville Nouvelle when for us it is quite the other way around. From what we can gather, the VN is full of nasty wide boulevards and broadly spaced shops, with the whole obscured by pollution and oppressive heat, whereas the Medina is narrow and sheltered, free from cars and lined with exciting shops and interesting cafes.

Alas, this computer is a little too primitive for me to show you pictures just yet but Reader, have patience! I will show you all very soon!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

The day has come!

It is a quarter to seven in the morning, and just under five hours from now we will be boarding a one way flight to Marrakech! I'm not particularly anxious, I must say (except about potentially staggering excess baggage charges) as we are being collected from the airport and brought to our riad for the next few nights and I have worked out exactly where our estate agent's office is for our appointment tomorrow morning. Please hope and pray for us that he has actually done what he said he would and found some houses for us to look at immediately and that the process of renting and moving in to a house in Marrakech is not a lengthy one as although the Hotel Ali would cost the same for a month as renting a house (tra-la-laaa for the Ali!), it would be much nicer to be all settled and cosy in our new home.

I will bring my camera with me tomorrow and, if possible, take photographs of the houses he brings us to so that you can share my horror or delight, as the case may be!