Location: Marrakech, Morocco
An adventure searching for the perfect derelict Riad, through the constuction itself, to the end result (insha'Allah!)

Sunday, 16 January 2011

A tale of the Moroccan Taxi

There are many tales by tourists of their Moroccan taxi experiences.  In Marrakech, there are two types of taxi: the petit taxi (above) which can be flagged down anywhere is small enough to only carry 3 people; and the grand taxi which is more expensive, usually a very old Mercedes, probably left over from colonial times and held together with string.  Every taxi I've been in has a meter, but I've never seen one working.  Drivers prefer not to use them and unless you agree the price before entering the cab, will make up a price at the end of the journey, probably based upon how rich they think the passenger is.  I have heard of a 3 tier pricing system depending upon where the passengers are from: e.g. Moroccan (low price), French (medium) and anyone else (high)!  The American travel writer, Paul Bowles sums up the mentality of the Moroccan taxi driver in an article he wrote about Casablanca for a newspaper in 1966.
One day he attempted to get one of the drivers to set the meter going.  As he got into the cab he said "How does it happen that you taxi chauffeurs never turn on your meters?"
"The meters don't work" the driver said.
"You mean all the meters are broken?"
"They don't work fast enough!"

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

The Sign

I think I am reasonably practical and generally make decisions based on facts and figures and reasoned justification.  For me, the desire to own a riad in Marrakech is as much a carefully thought through, practical, financial and investment decision, as it is an adventure.  I've read loads of books, websites and blogs and talked to many people who own riads, to form my own opinion of the pros and cons before embarking on this project.  In addition, I do believe that 'gut instinct' can often be reliable if weighed and tested as the gut and brain are linked and sometimes the brain processes complicated options in a microsecond without us having to think things through.  Kind of like how birds know where to migrate to even though they have never been before.  My wife, Laura calls this her 'knower' when she just knows something in her 'knower'.  Since visiting Marrakech for the first time, she has liked the idea of having a house there, but she hasn't known in her 'knower' if it is the right thing for us.  Therefore, for her to be 100% enthusiastic about the project, she wanted a 'sign'.  Here it is!

On the wall in our room at Riad 107, written in Arabic, was the name 'Aya', meaning 'sign' or 'miracle'.  She'd been looking at the sign for a whole week, but not being able to read Arabic, didn't realise!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Moroccan reading list

1. The Spiders House - Paul Bowles
2. The Sheltering Sky - Paul Bowles
3. The Caliphs House - Tahir Shah
4. Morocco that Was - Walter B. Harris
5. Zohra's Ladder - Pamela Windo
6. Cinnamon City - Miranda Innes
7. Arabian Nights - Tahir Shah
8. The Voices of Marrakech - Elias Canetti
9. A Year in Marrakech - Peter Mayne
10. Alleyways of Marrakech - Peter Mayne
11. Hideous Kinky - Esther Freud

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

definitely maybe?

09 Dec 2010: Grant and Aziz took us to view a few more riads this trip and of these the favourite was  in Derb El Boumba (meaning pump or fountain in Arabic), in Douar Graoua, which to us has become 'the pomegranate riad' after the large pomegranate tree in the courtyard.   It is empty and derelict, but ticks all our boxes on price, area, size, etc. The site visit has confirmed it as a knock down and rebuild proposition with only one storey (so more simple to demolish).  With a 123sqm footprint it is big enough to create a decent sized 4 sided riad.  The next day Grant called to say that the owners were increasing the price, but by Saturday morning Grant had the situation back in line.  We went back again that day, taking Simon from Riad Laksiba for his opinion, following which we agreed that Grant speak to the owners, agree the price and get them to take it off the market until our next trip back, in January!
Corner of El Boumba and Rue Laarassi
Derb El Boumba
Corner of El Boumba and Arset el Houta
Derb El Boumba (looking west)
Derb El Boumba (looking west with riad on left)
Derb El Boumba (looking east)
Existing cedarwood ceiling beams (to be salvaged!)
odd window features
ground floor salon (with tajine!)
on the roof terrace (only one storey, so lower than surrounding riads - for now!)
Grant and Laura
Grant and Laura
Grant talking on the roof terrace
neighbours airing their rugs
mint tea anyone?
great windows!

and more interesting features!

Front door!
nice wall features
can these be salvaged?
pomegranate tree
courtyard from roof terrace
©photographs: Laura Hudson Mackay and Simon Hawkesley

"Very Ali Baba!"

07 - 11 Dec 2010: a stay with Simon at Riad Laksiba in the Kasbah, was entertaining as well as informative!  Thanks Simon for all your very helpful advice.  Sunny days of shopping, sight seeing, eating, wandering around the medina, discovering Carrefour just down the road and of course riad hunting.
Aziz and Laura off Riad hunting (Aziz doesn't understand its a video!)

Simon and Laura at the Badii Palace
door at Royal Palace
Kasbah Mosque
former slave market
former slave market
former slave market
former slave market taken from witch doctor's shop
former slave market

Riad Laksiba
Riad Laksiba
Riad Laksiba
Marrakech rooftops
passing cauliflower shop on Derb Ksiba
Abdu and his derb Ksiba mates