Saturday, 29 August 2015

Mirleft Ocean Break and Project Soar

We hit the roads once again, this time to go to the small coastal town of Mirleft in the south of Morocco, to catch some waves and the Atlantic ocean breeze. This trip was actually combining vacation and work since we decided to get deeper involved with the charity organization Project Soar. We packed our cars and off we went, the Mirleft-band: 2 Swedes, 2 Americans, 2 teenagers and 2 dogs.
The Mirleft-band: Patrick, Per, Chris, Skylar, Maryam & Tristan

Mirleft is a very small town with excellent beaches and a nice micro climate.
The main beach in Mirleft
Endless summer
Our ocean front villa
These dramatic cliffs outside our villa attract the locals in the sunset, we don't know if it was for meditation or religious reasons but they came in big numbers every night.

The weather in Mirleft was great, around 25-28c, sun and a nice breeze from the ocean. We rented a very spacious villa with the most amazing ocean front location. It features 3 terraces, a small pool, 3 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms and big salon/dining room. We were super happy and really loved this house.

Our home for a week, this beautiful house

A pool with a view
We got up early every morning to do meditaion, affirmation and inspirational reading with Maryam as our coach.
We also went running on the beach!
Both Per and Disco enjoyed swimming in the ocean! 
Mirleft is a small and beautiful coastal town in the southern parts of Morocco with exactly 7 026 inhabitants. It is a five hour drive from Marrakech, or you fly to Agadir and after that it's two hours by car. 

There are several restaurants in Mirleft but they are all very local and basic. The interiors are simple but nice and they serve mainly grilled very fresh fish caught in the morning or pizza. Alcohol is not available neither in stores nor in most restaurants so make sure you bring your own wine.

We did however find an amazing little restaurant with great reviews and an ambitious menue, Les 3o, and they also served wine! This quickly became our favorite hang out both thanks to the great food as well as the very nice interior design items they had for sale. We bought a new mirror for our bathroom here!

This is the main street in Mirleft, where you find the restaurants, very basic ones serving delish grilled fish and pizza.

Small shops where we got our breakfast supplies
Mirleft city center

Les 3o was a very nice experience, great food for both lunch and dinner as well as an exciting interior design shop.

Restaurant Les 3 o - we will be back!

Partners in crime, Scout and Disco. The dogs quickly became best friends and had lots of fun during the week chasing both waves and each other.
Patrick & Maryam
During the week we also had a board meeting for Project Soar, the organization that is founded by Maryam and empowers girls in Morocco through sports and arts. We have been involved and suporting this great initiative since we came to Morocco and we were super proud to be elected to the board of Project Soar (US registred non-profit charity organisation). Our goal is to find a model to be able to role out Project Soar across Morocco. If you want to know how YOU can support Project Soar and the girls of Morocco please contact us for more information!

Project Soar - doing good and empowering girls in Morocco.

Beautiful sunsets and one evening we saw whales! (we think!)

Disco was happy about the carpets we found
What to do in Mirleft:
Surf and swim
Meditate and do yoga
Run along the beach
Relax and read 
Buy gorgeous carpets

Where to stay in Mirleft:
Rent an ocean front villa (there are no luxury hotels here)

Where to eat in Mirleft:
Les 3o (fine dining)
Hotel du Sud (pizza)
Hotel Atlas (fresh fish)

Now we are back in Marrakech for a week and will start to study Arabic, we have really been looking forward to this! Knowing some basic Arabic will bring us even closer to our local community we hope. But soon we are off to the waves again when we leave for beautiful Famara on Lanzarote to team up with pals Annelie & Stefan for a week of surfing in their beautiful Beach Side Villa. Stay tuned.

Bye Bye Mirleft, see you soon!

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Movies & Morocco

Movies and Morocco have been the perfect match for decades with so many blockbusters produced in this country due to the exceptional light, the diversity of the landscapes and the overall low costs. The list includes films like Lawrence of Arabia, Star Wars, The Mummy, Alexander, Indiana Jones, Babel, Kingdom of Heaven, Arn, The Bourne Ultimatum, Gladiator, Inception, Mission Impossible and several Bond-movies.

Daniel Craig exploing the souks as 007

Most of these movies were produced in Ouarzazate in western Morocco that has the largest film studio in the world! We went past there on our desert adventure earlier this year and it was indeed an amazing city with with sceneries and film references everywhere. If you're a film buff like us you have to visit this place!

The film city of Ouarzazate is also nicknamed The Door of the Desert due to its location just next to the Sahara.

Some productions are filmed right here in Marrakech though like Sex and the City II and The Man Who Knew Too Much. They actually had a production this spring at our gym for a new BBC-series called The Night ManagerIt is based on a John le CarrĂ© novel, directed by Susanne Bier and starring Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston. We managed to catch glimps of the cast in the hall ways for several weeks and we even had a little chat with Hugh Laurie who was very nice.

The film production took over the whole hotel for several weeks.

They changed the hotel name everywhere from "Es Saadi" to "Nefertiti" and placed it in Cairo. This must have confused a lot of guests!

They built up a big set in front of the hotel that was supposed to be the souks.

Also, the Marrakech International Film Festival is soon coming up and we really look forward to this year's edition with the iconic director Francis Ford Coppola as head of the jury! The festival was founded in 2001 by the Moroccan king and during the years a lot of great directors and actors have attended. The 15th birthday will be held between 5 and 13 December and we can't wait to get our hands on some VIP-tickets!

The Marrakech Film Festival has grown for each year and had almost 100 000 admissions in 2013 including 50 000 spectators at the big square Jemaa El-Fna.

Since we just love movies and Patrick worked in the industry for some years, we have tried to see everything that has any connection to Morocco. We thought we'd share some of the best ones that we've found:
Several Moroccan movie nights ahead! Here we go!

A favourite movie of all time is "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (1956) by Alfred Hitchcock and with James Stewart and Doris Day in the leads. The couple chech in to La Mamounia Hotel and witness a murder at the famous square Jemaa El-Fna.
"Casablanca" (1942) with Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart is our favourite moroccan film of all time. However the whole production was shot at Warner Studios in Burbank, Hollywood.
"Morocco" (1930) with Marlene Dietrich is another favourite film, most famous for the scene when Marlene sings in men's clothes and kisses another girl. It received 4 Academy Award nominations.
"Sex And The City II" (2010) was filmed in Marrakech, but was supposed to be Abu Dhabi. This shop where Carrie is buying shoes is just a couple of streets from our riad!
"Hideous Kinky" (1998) with Kate Winslet in the lead is based on Ester Freud's autobiographic novel and has many beautiful sceneries from Marrakech and all over Morocco.

"Our Man in Marrakech" (1966) is a spy film with a confusing plot but you get to see alot of tourist sites in Marrakech. Like the end scene when they have a big fist fight at Palace El Badi.
"Road to Morocco" (1942) is a comedy with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. It is a simple love story with sheiks, ship wrecks and arabian princesses but it received three Academy Award nominations.
"Absolutely Fabulous" (1994), the British TV-series, made a classic episode when Edina, Patsy and Saffy visit Marrakech for a photo shoot. Patsy sells Saffy for 2000 Dirhams and Edina's dress sence is worse than ever! We can never get tired of re-watching this episode! 
"Yves Saint Laurent" (2014) is a biographical drama film about the designer who fell in love with Marrakech and owned several homes here. This is where the designer found peace and inspiration for his collections. This film includes several beautiful scenes from Marrakech.
"The Sheltering Sky" (1990) is based on a novel by Paul Bowles starring Debra Winger and John Malkovich. It starts out in Tangier and continues in the Saharian desert. The whole film is like a drug fueled hazy dream.
"- Tunner, we're not tourists. We're travelers! 
- Oh. What's the difference? 
- A tourist is someone who thinks about going home the moment they arrive, Tunner. Whereas a traveler might not come back at all."
    -- Dialogue from the opening scene of "The Sheltering Sky". (We are travellers for sure.)

So, hope we have been able to set you up for a few magic movie nights in your home cinemas! 
That's a wrap and here's looking at you kid!

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Historical Marrakech

The magical city of Marrakech really has it all! Amazing architecture, friendly people, great shopping, a colourful medina, excellent restaurants, luxurious hotels and on top of all of that - a very rich history! The red city is almost a thousand years old, founded in 1070, and you can feel the tide of history everywhere. There are several impressive buildings; the most notable is of course Koutoubia Mosque with its classic minaret. But there are lots of others one has to see, here is our top-10-list:

1) The Koutoubia Mosque
2) The City Wall
3) Ben Youssef Medersa
4) The Almoravid Koubba
5) The El Badi Palace
6) The Saadian Tombs
7) The Royal Palace
8) The Bahia Palace
9) The Seven Saints Tombs
10) The Majorelle Garden

The Koutoubia Mosque, completed in 1190, is the largest mosque in Marrakech and is 70 metre high and 60 metres wide. It is the symbol of the city and can be seen from several kilometres away.

Marrakech was built, destroyed and rebuilt under the first hundreds of years under the rules of the Almoravids, the Almohads, the Merinids and the Saadiens. The Almohad reign was a very successful one, they began in 1140 and they built the Koutoubia mosque, the city walls and the Agdal orchard. They also designed efficient canals to water all the flower gardens scattered throughout the city - this system is actually still in use today!

The city wall was built in the 12th centuary and is 20 km long. The name Marrakush al-Hamra (Marrakech the Red) has been used for centuries becuase of the sandstone that was used for these ancient walls.

Ben Youssef Medersa is the largest islamic school in all of Morocco and was named after the 12th century sultan Ali ibn Yusuf. It was however founded in the 14th century by another sultan. There were around 900 students living here in the 130 student rooms around the beautiful inner courtyard that has carvings of inscriptions and geometric patterns. It was closed down in 1960 and is now open for tourists as an historical site.

Ben Youssef Medersa with its carved cedarwood, exquisite stuccowork and colorful zellij tiles. Some elements of the medersa are remarkably similar to the Alhambra palace in Granada.

The Almoravide Koubba is the oldest building in Marrakech! It's from 1117 but was covered for centuries before the excavation 60 years ago. It can be found just next to the Ben Youssef Medersa.

The Saadians, who ruled Marrakech during the 16th and 17th centuries, are famous today by the El Badi Palace and their magnificient tombs. The tombs were sealed up for centuries until they were rediscovered in 1917 by an airplane, well preserved with their colorful tiles and beautiful carvings.

The El Badi Palace, built by the Saadians, is huge but was only in use for 75 years in the 16th century. Today it is a beautiful ruin.

The Saadian Tombs, built in the 16th century, holds about 60 members of the Saadian dynasty. Some parts are made of cedar wood and italian carrara marble.

Marrakech has been the capital on and off during these historic 1 000 years, often competing with Fez for the title, and is one of the royal cities of Morocco with several royal palaces scattered around the city. The main one is a very large castle in the southern part of the medina, almost like it's own city. It is unfortunately not open to the public.
The Royal Palace was built in the 12th century and rebuilt in the 16th century and was owned by the king up to quite recently. Today it is privately owned by a French businessman.
Another palace worth visiting is the Bahia Palace that was built in the 19th century by the Grand Vizier of Marrakech. He had four wives, 24 concubines and alot of children so he needed a lot of rooms! It was meant to be the greatest palace of its time so no expences was spared building this palace. It took seven years to build it with hundreds of craftsmen working in stucco and zellij. Attached is also an 8 000 square meter large garden.
The Bahia Palace means "Palace of the Beautiful" and has over 160 lavishly decorated rooms.
Did you know that Marrakech has seven Saints who protects the city? These men lived several hundreds of years ago and for along time everyone would visit their tombs that are placed all over the medina. Each Saint has his own special power and his own weekday so you could visit one Saint every day. This tradition is not widely in use anylonger but the Saints are still popular in some circles.
The Seven Saints Monument, symbolising the seven holy men, was built just a few years ago.
The Mausoleum of Sidi Abdel Aziz - one of the seven saints (He is Saturday). He was a silk merchant who died in 1508 and women come here to pray for fertility and safe childbirth. (Photos are from 1912 and today.)

The city of Marrakech is however not just the ancient medina anylonger. In 1912 when Morocco became a French protectorate the architect Henri Prost designed Gueliz, the modern part of the city. The painter Jacques Majorelle chose to build his house in Gueliz which would also become the Majorelle Garden. The designer Yves Saint Laurent later bought the property and after his death his ashes were spread in the garden. Today it is a very popular destination for tourist and the house holds a Berber museum.

The Majorelle Garden, famous for it's blue paint, is one of the most visited sites in Morocco.

There are of course more historical sites in Marrakech but if you at least take time to see these ten fantastic places you get a giant gold star from us!

Historically yours,