24 May 2012


It is a boiling hot day when we set off towards the Kasbah du Toubkal; it's now 3.30pm and the temperature is 32 degrees - cooler than the 35 degrees it was early afternoon! We wend our way through the zig-zagging mountain roads, air con blowing nicely into my face and cooling my feet. Soon we arrive in Imlil, the village where we park up and prepare for the 20 minute hike up to the Kasbah. It probably should take 15 mins but us old'uns who are slightly unfit need to stop frequently! The locals, on the other hand, are like gazelles as they run up and down the path. Oh to be fit! The mule takes our overnight bag and we follow at a distance. Up and up we go, past the shops, past the 'Hello, my friend' shouted from doorways and 'remember me?' Then we face the killer 'steps' and the final push to the Kasbah. We are greeted warmly as usual by the team there with rosewater sprinkled on our hands and faces and dates dipped in milk to give energy - at least, that's what the Berbers say! Our friend, Lahcen, shows us to our room and invites us to have coffee on the roof terrace. He needn't ask twice. As I've said before, this is my most favourite place to visit in Morocco. Stunning mountain views, a beautiful rustic hotel, great hospitality, fabulous food...and about 8 degrees cooler than Tahannaout. What is there not to like?!

View towards Mount Toubkal from one of the Kasbah terraces

I can see for miles and miles...

After a wash and freshen up it's time for dinner. Mart's boss is here, Mike, and he's told us we're having dinner in the salon with a few other people he wants us to meet. There's Bonnie, an American photographer, with her husband, Woody, closely followed by Jon, a film producer, and a cameraman whose name I didn't quite catch. It turns out that there is part of a film being shot at the Kasbah the very next day and the producer and cameraman are sitting having dinner with us at this very moment - wow, we're in the presence of royalty ;-) As we talk, it transpires that this very same cameraman is the one who recently shot the new advert for TV where the girl is on holiday in Marrakech and runs out of money so she phones home to ask her dad for a bank top-up and obviously Nat West provides. Funny, we've just been watching that advert the other day and recognised some of the Marrakech landmarks we frequent including the Hotel Toulousain. Small world! Jon, the film producer, regales us with tales of past filming and informs us that they are shooting part of a new film tomorrow based on an Ian Rankin novel called 'Doors Open'....and one of the stars of the film is none other than STEPHEN FRY...who at this very moment is in Marrakech and will be filming at the Kasbah tomorrow! Gob-smacked isn't the word! The first thought that enters my head is...how on earth is he going to get up that hill?! My second thought is...how can I camouflage myself in order to get secret photos of him?

A good night's sleep ensues followed by a delicious breakfast of home-made yoghurt, omelette, crusty bread, fresh orange juice and copious cups of coffee. Mart is having business meetings this morning with Mike and Bonnie, so Woody and I make ourselves scarce, cameras in hand, to try and catch a shot of the star himself at some point. I have to explain to Woody who Stephen is...he mustn't be that big in America then!

By 11am Woody has all but given up and borrows a laptop from Reception to check his emails. But I don't give up that easily! I have now stationed myself in the turret, ready for the action to begin. Surely from up here I won't miss a bloke who is 6 foot 3 inches in height and surrounded by a camera crew. Right on cue they arrive. I can see the film producer and cameraman from last night greeting some other men at the end of the path; they all have various bits of equipment strapped to them. That must've been a tough climb for them in this heat. But there's no sign of Stephen Fry. Slowly the men begin to haul a large white screen until it stands upright; ropes are attached to it on each side and the men work together to haul it into position, one of them even clambering onto a low roof to help. It must be something to do with getting the lighting right, I figure. My camera is poised and I click away discretely, hoping that soon I'll see the man himself. How odd to think that Steven Fry is in this very place that I have grown to love over the years - and is in fact the place Mart works for...and that we're here at the same time as him. Indeed he is now filming in one of the rooms Mart and I have stayed in before. At last the time has come...filming of that particular piece is over...and Stephen appears from beyond the screen. He is looking very dapper in a beige linen suit with a scarf draped over his shoulder, much like the ones I've seen in the Marrakech Souk. He does look a tad hot and bothered though - who can blame him?!...And as I snap away, he seems to look up and catch me. Oops, hope he doesn't mind.

The screen is hauled up

The producer, cameraman and some of the entourage

The elegant Mr. Fry

The turret aka my secret paparazzi spot

Have I been caught?

Soon the fuss is all over and the crew have headed back down the hill to finish filming in the village of Imlil. Must watch out for the film now....27th August 2012 is the launch date...I'll be watching....

22 May 2012

Snakes alive...

Aargh....three more snakes have been spotted! One by Said outside his house, one by a man who was helping to dig up the crops growing in the garden and accidentally scythed it to pieces...and a third by me as it popped its head out of the shrubbery just outside the window. Said reckons they are looking for water as it has been so hot here this past week, hence he has filled the fountain...yeah, let's have a party and invite them all to ours, duh! Just another of his strange foibles...maybe I haven't mentioned this before, but he sure does some seemingly eccentric things. One of them is to hose down the patio practically every day just so it looks nice for us. Now it's not exactly a small patio...and actually we quite like to sit out there on deckchairs for work breaks during the day, but often we end up being surrounded by water which we have to wade through to get back to the house. Added to this is the fact that he doesn't ever seem to water the plants in the garden..but skirts around these to get to the patio areas....We haven't the heart to suggest that maybe the plants need water more than the patio....Maybe the water has brought the snakes out to play...now there's a thought!

Ugh, snake alert! We heard a squawking sound outside last night and when we went to investigate we saw, camouflaged in the shrubbery, a long snake squeezing the life out of a tiny sparrow...poor thing. Glad the temperatures have finally cooled down, so hopefully if they're reading this THE SNAKES WILL FLEE...pretty please!


Poor sparrow

Talking of eccentric behaviour, whilst we were in the UK the plumber (remember him from the underfloor heating saga?) has been around and replaced the kitchen mixer tap. Pity he has put it in upside down and in such a way that we now cannot open the kitchen window! Who needs to be able to look out at the beautiful peach trees outside whilst washing up anyway?!

As I write, Said is cooking a tagine for himself in our kitchen - with rabbits he has just bought from the market. The poor things have just been killed and skinned and he's now hung them on a hook in our kitchen to dry out whilst he prepares the other ingredients and spices. I hope he doesn't expect us to eat the tagine too!

Rabbit hung out to dry

Poor lickul bunnies :(

I've just been a big brave girl, hanging the washing out on the line all on my lonesome. No mean feat, you may think, but in order to get that far I've had to walk through shrubbery into a remote laundry room full of rubbish, then take the washing out into the garden, walking through very long grass (I've told Said to get a goat so it will keep the grass down - but he prefers a camel, probably so he can use it to entice people to take camel treks locally and make some money out of it. A goat doesn't quite have so many uses!) And where do snakes live? In shrubbery and long grass! What a brave girl am I!

14 May 2012

First week back

It has been a fairly uneventful week here in Morocco as we begin to settle in once again to our home. However, it is good to be back after just 5 weeks and to see the changes in the surrounding nature as well as to experience once again the lifestyle that beckons here. Wherever you look, there is greenery; the trees are laden with leaves, the fields are a vivid green (instead of parched as they were when we left in March), the crops are growing nicely and all around are signs of fertility. Whilst we endured 3 weeks of rain in the UK, Morocco's prayers for rain were answered and they too had torrential downpours, much to the farmers' delight! Now they will be able to earn a living from their abundant crops.

The sun is hot - an understatement! This past week we have experienced Moroccan summer temperatures, between 38 and 40 degrees centigrade/100 and 104 degrees fahrenheit. Locals say this is unseasonable weather - let's just hope the summer temperatures don't rise in proportion! Fortunately, we have bought 2 floor-standing fans which at least give us some refreshment with their recycled warm air...and in the evenings we sit on the deckchairs on the patio admiring the starry night sky, bats flying all around us, with the occasional glass of Domaine de Sahari gris in hand...well, it's got to be done, just too hot to sit indoors!

Mother and son come inside to escape the intense heat

On Tuesday Said went to the market and brought us back some eggs - white ones, said to be the best eggs you can buy. They didn't arrive in a little cardboard box though as we would purchase them in the UK, these arrived in a small sack nestling on a bed of straw, which only served to add to their appeal. And indeed they taste as good as described!

Beautifully displayed white eggs

Sitting reading my book on the patio on Thursday (as you do), I suddenly heard a great thud. So did the dogs. I hurried towards where the sound came from, dogs at my heels, only to find a large bird had banged into one of the glass windows and had bounced off, landing in the grass stunned. Chunky saw him at the same time as me and was keen to 'play' with this new object that dared to be in his garden. Fending him off, we allowed the bird some space to recuperate in the hope that it would just fly off...but half an hour later it was still there. Scooping it up in our hands gave the bird the shock/momentum it needed to get off the ground...and soon it was flying and landing in the nearest tree. Then it began to sing...and we realised that it is the cuckoo who has been charming us with its song over the last few days. Now it is singing to us again.

Found a lovely restaurant during the week called 'le jardin'. The clue is in the name - this is a restaurant located in the beautiful leafy garden of a seventeenth century house, which itself is located in the heart of the working medina.  There are patios and private terraces where one can enjoy a meal overlooked only by huge shrubs and trees - and, joy of joys, escape the heat of the medina of Marrakech. And I can certainly recommend the salmon and spinach tart - beautiful!

Sunday morning we got up early to go to church in Marrakech as per usual, but this was to be no usual Sunday morning. Mart had his shower and whilst I had mine he took his towel into the courtyard to dry it in the sun on the airer. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a movement in the fountain which had long since been switched off. As he watched, a snake, at least 2 metres in length, slithered out of the fountain and hid behind the nearest plant pot. His day was made - ever since we got here he has wanted to see more wildlife, especially snakes and scorpions (yuk!) so now he proceeded to tear the plant apart to get a closer look. The snake dipped and dived but realised it had to get away from this madman who was chasing it with camera poised, so off it slithered...towards our bedroom door! Mart knew it was more than his life is worth to allow the snake into our bedroom when I am just stepping out of the shower...'Time to call Said,' he thought...very wisely! Said turned up, terror on his face, 'It's okay, Mr Martin, I will kill it' he shouted, whilst retreating. I had no idea what was going on, trying to dress myself hurriedly in the bedroom with all this commotion going on outside the door. After much banging, shouting, scurrying and splashing of water, Martin emerged to tell me the snake was dead. Said had kindly asked if Mrs Kathy wanted to see the slaughtered snake..er, I think not, thank you very much!

The slithering snake

NB: Dreams/nightmares since then of snakes in my bedroom have been very vivid and the slightest noise wakes me up...shudder, shudder....

03 May 2012

Back in Tahannaout again

Having endured five weeks of rain most days in the UK it is a delight to return to sunny Tahannaout. On arrival at the house that we rent we are greeted by Said, the 'guardien', like long-lost buddies. He is eager to show us the crops growing in the garden, the hedge he has cut down so we can have a better view of the mountains, and introduce us once again to the freshly-cleaned house, all ready for us to make our home again for another three months. We are touched by his kindness and thoughtfulness.

Mr Dog, Mrs Dog and Chunky (the male pup who is now so grown-up!) run to greet us excitedly. Sadly, the other three pups have all died during the course of the last two months - most likely from eating poison put down by a local farmer protecting his sheep. Such a trauma for a dog-lover like me, but there's absolutely nothing I can do about it. RIP Tanny, Blackie and Stripe :-(  Mrs Dog is now heavily pregnant again, so let's hope these pups fare better! Will keep you all posted.

A heavily pregnant Mrs Dog getting her beauty sleep

Today we wake up to this stunning view of the mountains as seen from our lounge. As I begin to iron our clothes I wonder 'Is this the most amazing view ever seen from behind an ironing board?'

Old Tahannaout

A minor hissy fit ensues this morning when I discover a reasonably-sized gecko hiding in the bathroom who decides to make a sudden appearance as I emerge from the shower. Momentarily I had forgotten about the beautiful wildlife around here. Hubby to the rescue - quickly!

For lunch we walk up to N'zaha cafe/restaurant situated on the main road at the end of our piste. En route we bump into our friend, Sadik, who again greets us with affection. He invites us to look around his garden; it is a treasure trove of greenery, full of olive trees, pomegranate trees, fig trees and peach trees, all vying with each other to be the tallest. Sadik is excited today - a young man is installing electricity in his house for the first time - Sadik has lived here alone for 20 years without electricity, the young man informs me. It is difficult to comprehend this level of poverty just along the piste from where we are staying in comparative luxury! Yet Sadik states he is happy...we could all learn a few lessons here I think.

For lunch we have chicken kebabs with chips and the local speciality of Tafarnout bread dipped in argan oil, washed down with ice cold water. This bread is delicious; it is cooked on charcoal - and we sure know that today because it still has some charcoal in it :D. An hour later we return from lunch, armed with a massive carrier bag of leftovers for the dogs, given to us by a waiter we've never met before at N'zaha - such is the generosity of the people here.

Tafarnout bread with argan oil - and charcoal!

I'm looking forward to having more to tell you over the coming weeks - not just about the amazing places we will be visiting but also about 'the small stuff' that happens every day and makes our stay here such a wonderful experience as it impacts our lives. So come back and join us on our adventures.....and please comment if something in particular strikes you or you just want to say 'Hello'. Would love to hear from you :D