25 September 2012

Settling in

We've been back in Tahannaout for just over a week now and are settling back into life very quickly. There's been the usual household tasks to do of cleaning, washing, cooking and ironing - and, of course, not forgetting food shopping, all the things that need to be done when you are living in a house - but a fact which people seem surprised to hear that we do - I'm sure lots of people think we are on a permanently holiday and someone else does all the dirty work for us. Well I can tell you that really is not the case. My role here is very much as a housewife - though I do concede I have a husband who is a great cook so I do get out of that one where main meals are concerned!
Of course it would be very remiss of us not to enjoy the beautiful country we have made our temporary home at the same time!

To give us an even nicer view from our lounge, Said has offered to cut the monstrous hedge back - using traditional methods. This evidently means he climbs a ladder, jumps into the middle of the hedge and begins to hack away at the branches using a scythe that has seen better days. Martin holds the ladder :)

Cutting the hedge

Said with his scythe

So far we have spent time wandering around the souks of Marrakech, drinking copious amounts of coffee as we play 'guess the nationality' of tourists passing by. We have stumbled upon a Norwegian student male choir (Pirum) who spontaneously burst into song as we emerge from one of the ornate archways, much to the amusement of local kids and shopkeepers alike. We have enjoyed a scenic drive to Amizmiz, about 50km from Tahannaout, driving along mountainous roads, barely meeting another car en route. And we have just enjoyed the prospect of this being our home for another eleven weeks. Not to mention of course the antics of 'our' pets. 

The Norwegian choir

Bemused onlookers

Our scenic drive

Crossing the Oued N'Fis

Ouirgane reservoir -very atmospheric in the early evening light

The kittens have proved to be a great source of amusement. If they are not chasing each other, rolling over and play fighting, they are being played with as a toy by Scruffy, the youngest dog here. He picks them up carefully in his mouth and delivers them to the middle of the courtyard where he proceeds to 'paw' them, roll them over and playfully gnaw at them. They try to escape but he's too quick for their little legs and soon he ensnares them again, showing them who's boss. At other times, as I mentioned before, he acts as mother to them, allowing them to cuddle up to him and suckle the pimples on his belly, obviously a great comfort to them. It really is a delight to see such tenderness shown by a dog to two tiny kittens. The other dogs tend to ignore them - though will put up with these tiny, squeaking things that get in their way and try to eat their dog biscuits!

Cat in a hat

Double trouble - Cat tagine anyone?

As we drive along the 500m track to our house on the way back from Amizmiz, I suddenly spy movement out of the corner of my eye - not unusual as there is always an array of birds, sheep and donkeys moving about in the fields. But this is different. Animals, bigger than cats but smaller than sheep or donkeys are walking through the field right beside us. My husband is convinced they are just wild cats, but equally I'm convinced they're not as I've caught a glimpse of their cute, grey rounded faces. I pass him the camera as quickly as possible to try to capture an image of these creatures which I'm sure I've never laid eyes on before. He manages to take a picture as they disappear over the brow of the hill. We ponder what they could be, searching the internet for any clues. Finally a friend confirms that they are mongooses. How amazing to spot these elusive animals right beside our house!


Our eyes will definitely be more alert from now on as we walk or drive around the area - who would've thought we'd casually stumble across such amazing creatures.  Apparently, mongooses are good at killing snakes - a skill that might come in handy!

This morning, after yesterday's rain, we awake to see a fresh dusting of snow on Toubkal, the highest peak of North Africa...can't wait to see more - as long as it remains in the mountains and makes them look so spectacular!

First glimpse of snow in the mountains

20 September 2012

A Welcome with Surprises!

Arriving at our London hotel the night before our flight to Marrakech is such a relief. We've only been back in the UK for seven weeks, but the last four of those have been spent meticulously trying to get our house in order so as to rent it out - not that we intended for this to happen; as far as we are concerned, our time in Morocco is unfortunately over - but other plans are afoot unbeknownst to us which will give us the opportunity to return...it just so happens that a lovely Hungarian couple are desperately looking for somewhere to stay for 3 months at the exact same time that we are wishing we had the means to return to Tahannaout. Our paths cross and the rest is history...so here we are...back at 'home' in Tahannaout for a further 3 months...and loving it.

The welcoming committee is here at the house to meet us...Said, the guardian, five dogs and a new addition of two tiny kittens to the family who are so small they really are like skin and bone; apparently Said's nephew, Zachariah, found them on the roundabout in Tahannaout and brought them home to his uncle, knowing that he would take them in - softie that he is. They are beautiful and have been given the names Scrawny and Fluffy. We've only been back four days but already they are beginning to resemble real cats rather than just bags of bones - thanks to eating the dog biscuits before the dogs get hold of them!

Some of the Welcoming Committee
Fluffy & Scrawny
Fluffy's favourite place - our bread basket!
A sleep Scrawny

You are correct in reading that five dogs meet us on arrival. Many of you will know that during the last nine months we lost three puppies due to poisoning, another three puppies were still-born due to their mother being given an injection to abort them (whilst we were not around) and finally we lost Mr Dog who had a major genital infection; it was surmised by the vet that he had been attacked by a wild boar and this left him in a very bad state. Mr Dog spent three weeks in a clinic where the vet tried very hard to save him...until finally he decided there was no more he could do for him as he wasn't responding to treatment. Permission was given to put him to sleep. We were very sad...and returned to the UK with a heavy heart. It is now seven weeks later...and Mr Dog greets us on arrival...he is very much alive!! Apparently the vet realised that this was not just any old working dog that you find everywhere in Morocco, but rather he'd become a much-loved pet to us - that was evident by us helping the vet to perform emergency surgery on Mr Dog on our tiled garden table when we called him out to the house. He had therefore decided to give the treatment a few more days before putting the dog to sleep - and it worked! Oh the joy at seeing the dog alive - he bounds up to us with such affection...and to think for seven weeks we thought he was dead! Now we have to try to keep him away from any future enemies - especially wild boar!

Beautiful Mr Dog

'How do the dogs and cats get on?' I hear you ask. 'Wonderfully' is the answer. In fact Scruffy, the  puppy who arrived most recently, has adopted the kittens and looks out for them constantly, becoming anxious if he cannot see them. He playfully picks them up and carries them around in his mouth and lets them snuggle up to him. They seem to think he is their mother as he allows them to suckle on tiny pimples he has on his belly which to them must appear like teats. It is indeed a heart-melting sight.

Suckling up to 'mommy'

It's fair to say that the animals play a large part in my life here in Tahannaout, but in addition of course there is the beautiful scenery, culture and way of life that we find ourselves part of. There's also a downside - from the moment we arrived on Sunday right through to Wednesday evening we had very little access to the internet and at times none at all. Not a good situation to be in for my husband who relies on the internet for his work (web design) - or for me who is an avid Facebooker! Dangling your dongle from the rooftop is not exactly the best means of running a business! At the same time we had no electricity for a whole day - serving to remind us of how much we rely on power - even to make a cup of tea! Thankfully all is now well and normality resumes - and with it my blog begins again. Keep an eye on it...neither you nor I know what is in store for us as we embark on our next three month adventure.....