Monday, 20 June 2016

Barcelona Calling

We sure like our city breaks. After some really hectic weeks with lot's of work for our communications agency Red City PR and several strategy meetings for the boards where Per is the chairman it was time to leave Marrakech for a few days. This time we left for Barcelona to meet up with our brilliant friends Annelie and Stefan for some fun and sun.

We checked into uber-cool luxury Hotel W overlooking the ocean and beach. W is a large design hotel that is a destination in itself featuring several clubs, bars, restaurants and has a very hip lounge vibe. The guests are also very trendy and cool. We felt right at home and enjoyed a long weekend of cava, tapas, lounging, long walks and talks with our friends. It was great fun! 

Of course we went to several amazing restaurants. One night we went to Speak Easy that was a really nice fine-dining-with-a-twist kind of restaurant. Speak Easy is located behind the cool bar Dry Martini (also well worth a visit) and you have to enter through the kitchen to find this totally hidden gem. And yes, reservations are mandatory. 

W Barcelona is a really cool hotel where all the rooms are huge and feature truly amazing views of either the city or the ocean.
Here we are, the Fantastic Four, aka Annelie, Stefan, Per and Patrick. Best friends forever!

W attracts the really cool and hip crowd and your usual mix of models, musicans, artists and jet-set crowd. The location is brilliant and the rooms start from 400 euros/night.
One of the infinity pools at W

The DJ:s make sure the lounge music is just right and pumps up the beats towards the late afternoon.

W - the perfect place to lounge a day away
The hotel has really cool exteriors.
And an excellent beach front location.
All rooms are spacious and feature amazing ocean views.
Cava o'clock with our friends.
A day on the beach
W Barcelona also became fans of us and started following/retweeting our social media content.

Our brilliant and beautiful friends Annelie and Stefan.

Bye for now Barcelona - you were great!

The only downer was that, despite being cautious, a thief managed to steal Per's wallet right out of his bag during a walk. It was a beautiful Louis Vuitton limited edition wallet, with seven credit cards and several hundreds of Euros, that was lost to some Barcelona bad-guy (or in this case, most likley some bad-girl). So be aware when visiting Barcelona, the city has the highest rate of pick pockets in Europe. 

Now we are heading back home to safe Marrakech where (honestly) these sort of crimes very seldom occur. We look forward to see our friends soon again in a few weeks. Next time we will team up in the Stockholm archipelago, where our summer houses are on neighbouring islands.

Hasta La Vista Baby!

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Ramadan is here again!

Ramadan is upon us again! This year the first day of Ramadan was June 6 (also the Swedish national day!) so we are already some days into this special time. Every year since we bought our riad we have spent some time in Marrakech during Ramadan which is always fascinating! It is really interesting to take part of this celebration when the Muslims cannot eat, drink, smoke or have sex during sunlight for 30 days. 

The normally so hectic and pulsating city takes on a slower pace and seems to be on drugs since everybody is tired, hungry and thirsty. And due to the heat, that could go up to 45 degrees, there is low season for tourists. On top of that most ex-pats decide to leave town this month to go on holiday elsewhere in the world. Many restaurants close down completely and even some hotels shut down for the whole period.

So why stay in Marrakech during Ramadan?
Hmm, the description above might not seem very exciting but is in fact a really cool time to be in Marrakech. The energy is so different and every night there is a post apocalypse feeling for a few minutes when the sun sets and people swiftly disappear off the streets to break their fast. You feel you have the whole of Marrakech for yourself for these minutes. It is a really unique experience! And the hours after sunset are filled with joy and laughter with parties everywhere in the streets. Oh, did we mention that during Ramadan Muslims must be honest so this is the best time to bargain in the souks! 

When the cresent moon is seen, Ramadan starts!

When is Ramadan?
To fast during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam and it is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. This year it started in Morocco on the 18th June. The exact starting date is every year a little bit uncertain and is decided just the night before when someone, we don't know who but he must be high up in Moroccan religious circles, decides he can see the new crescent moon after sundown! That night loud canon shots can be heard all over the city and people start to prepare to fast between 3.45 in the morning to 7.45 in the evening.

At approximately 7.45 every night the call for prayer is heard loudly all over Marrakech and everybody runs to get something to drink and something small to eat, like a couple of dates.

Why is Ramadan never on the same date every year? 
Since the Islamic year follows the moon, Ramadan is beginning 11 days earlier than the year before. At the moment Ramadan is during the scorching and difficult summer months but in a few years it will be easier to fast and abstain water when the temperature is cooler. (In 2020 it will start april 24).

Ramadan is a big thing and is to be celebrated joyfully. You greet people this month saying "Ramadan Kareem!" or "Happy Ramadan!". All stores have special Ramadan offers, this window display is from Zara
Can you skip Ramadan?
All muslims must take part of Ramadan but there are some exceptions, the really sick, children before puberty and women who are about to give birth are allowed to skip it. Also women who menstruate or are nursing and if you are on a journey are exceptions but these people must fast the amount of days they missed afterwards. If you are really old you can also be excused provided you feed a poor man for each day you break the fast. Another exception is if the country is at war, then it is ok for the warriors to eat and drink, luckily! (Make sence!)

Even McDonalds celebrates Ramadan!
What should muslims do during Ramadan?
Everybody is encouraged to read the Quran during Ramadan! The goal for the ambitious ones is to read the whole book, back to back, two times during this month which is considered to be the most holy and blessed of them all. You are therefore not allowed to fight and you should donate as much as you can to charity and beggars in the street. 
Ramadan is not for cheating, lying or gossiping and you should also pray more than usual and think about not eat too much during the night or sleep too much during the day. Ironically though during Ramadan the sales for food and groceries increase alot since everybody seems to eat loads after the sun sets every night. And as a consequence, the electric bill is much more expensive than usual this month.
Ramadan was the month when the Quran was first revealed to the profet Mohammed.

When does Ramadan end?
After the 30 days of fast are done and the moon has gone full circle Ramadan is over and a three day feast is held called Eid. This is one of the biggest celebration in Morocco, if not the biggest. (We really look forward to take part of that!!) Afterwards life goes back to normal again for another year.
All sales of wine and spirits are shut down. However, if you can prove you are non-muslim you might be able to purchase some bottles in the supermarket. Or in the more upscale restaurants
So what does a typical day during Ramadan look like?
3.30 am    Get up and eat breakfast (Suhoor) before sunrise.
3.45 am    Sunrise, call for prayer from the mosques. 
4.00 am    Back to bed.
7.30 am    Wake up again and get ready for work.
9.00 am    Work starts (for officials).
Noon        Second prayer of the day.
2.00 pm    Third prayer of the day.
3.00 pm    Work finishes (shorter work days during Ramadan)
4.30 pm    Fourth prayer of the day. 
7.45 pm    The fast is broken by some dates.
7.50 pm    Time for some Harira soup.
8.00 pm    Fifth prayer of the day (the most important one!)
10.00 pm  A big dinner (Iftar or ftour) is served!
11.30 pm   Bedtime!
Mind you, this is the time table if you live in Morocco, if you live in Sweden for example you have two choices, either you follow the Swedish sun and only have a couple of hours every night when you can eat (due to the short nights in the summer) or you can follow the Mekka sun and fast the same hours you do in Saudi Arabia.  
All set for trying Ramadan (one day only)!

Wow that's was lot of information, hope we haven't forgot anything important now. By the way, we've promised Rachida, our housekeeper, to try to fast at least one day during Ramadan. So we will follow the schedule above and see if we can make it! 
RAMADAN MURBAK to all our Moroccan friends! 

Friday, 3 June 2016

Project Soar - Girl Power in Morocco

As you may know we are big supporters of the non-profit organization Project Soar where we are  both board members, financial contributors and active volonteers. The work is to empower underserved Moroccan girls through sports, art and health education so every Sunday we have different activites for them. Our goal is to keep girls aged 9-14 years in school and breaking the cycle of girl marriages and preparing them to have productive and fulfilled futures.

Project Soar is a non-profit organization, registered in the U.S. and in Morocco. The organization was founded in 2012 with the goal to empower Moroccan girls.

Project Soar works one neighborhood and one girl at a time. The organization is currently working in Douar Ladaam, on the outskirts of Marrakesh, serving three villages in this area. We work closely together with the parents and the local administration and have prosperous cooperation.

The girls are getting English lessons a couple of times a week.

Every Sunday Project Soar arranges educational activities such as running classes, chess clubs, English lessons, skateboard training and lessons in public speaking etc. Excursions and summer camps are also part of the Project Soar program and a doctor is visiting Project Soar regularly to teach the girls how to take care of their health and hygiene.

In this year's annual olympics the girls competed in tug-of-war. It looks like the green team won!

The purpose of these activities is primarily to build confidence and self-esteem for the girls but also educate them in areas that are not provided by the Moroccan school system. To participate in Project Soar the girls need to have full attendance in school.

Project Soar also has a running club where the girls run a couple of times a week together.

Project Soar has become a big success in these first villages we have worked wirh so the vision now is to roll out the concept to more villages and girls in Morocco. We have therefore created “Project Soar-in-a-box” that provides content and instructions how to conduct the activities and secure the quality of the education. We are currently looking for cooperation with organizations and individuals who can help us launch Project Soar in new villages across all of Morocco.

It takes teamwork to be successful!

To be able to reach the Project Soar vision and help more Moroccan girls to stay in school funding and support is needed. Together we can make a real difference. So we would be super happy if you follow us on Facebook and Instagram but you could also donate on the web page:

You have to keep the balance in life, some work and some play!
Keep posted on the development and please join the Project Soar Nation and make the world a better place for its girls!

Girl power rocks!