I am very lucky as I get to work with wonderful people and in a wonderful place. I get roof top views, a warm sun filled terrace, a swinging office chair like no other , music on some occasions and hot freshly made flat bread if I have skipped breakfast. Bestever working conditions !!
I have had some plumbing issues but not one of the three plumbers here dealing with them today told me I would find my toilet in the entrance hall this morning. I always say expect the unexpected in Morocco.
As my family knows I am pretty ambivalent about Christmas, Christmassed out in fact. I am perfectly happy living in a country where it is not on the calendar. But today I could not resist entering the commercial fray and buying these limited edition Nespresso festive promotions. Luckily they can be enjoyed anywhere and anytime without an onslaught of tinselly trees, red nosed reindeers, jingling bells or partridges holed up in pear trees. And, yes, I can hear the mutterings of "Xmas Grinch" from the other side of the world where everyone will spend the next four weeks in a frenzied countdown till the 25th December dawns.
This beautiful dish of artichokes and fava beans is music to my heart. It is a traditional Moroccan family winter meal recommended to me by a lovely local food loving friend. I recently learned that a fava bean is the same thing as a broadbean, a vegetable I dreaded growing up. And I now know the reason. My mother did not peel them, she made us munch through that bitter hard outer shell that even when cooked was tough and unswallowable. I avoided them like the plague till my culinary expertise improved enough to for me to be tempted to experiment with them. Then I discovered that inside the much loathed shell was a shiny sweet little green bean. This dish is a showcase for them, using artichoke hearts and preserved lemon. It's a one pot dish and the simple list of ingredients are all easy to find. A must try !!
The old medina in Marrakech is enclosed within 12 miles of red clay wall with 20 arched gateways. There are huge traffic snarls with everyone tooting, motorbikes galore in the tiny convoluted alleyways, daunting crowds in the main square, tenacious vendors desperate for your dirham, the echoing call to prayer from the many mosques, enormous buses disgorging tourists at the monuments, donkeys, dogs and cats, school kids, ladies taking bread to the communal bakery....... and on and on I could go !!!! You need to see it to believe it. There is some peace and quiet though, I assure you. Tranquil havens in the form of riads or guesthouses lie behind solid wooden doors and sometimes a wander into a deeper residential area can reveal a rare nothingness with not a soul in sight. Some love Marrakech, some don't but there is always something going on , something to see and something to photograph.
These wonderful wall murals are to encourage people to stop littering and use a rubbish bin. It is a vain hope. There is a lot of rubbish dumped in the streets of Marrakech but having said that there are many hard working street cleaners and an excellent garbage collection service. My sister, who goes to India a couple of times a year, always marvels when she sees my photos as she thinks Morocco looks pristine in comparison to Calcutta and Delhi. Sadly, though, everyday I see kids and adults alike just dropping rubbish where they stand. In time, hopefully education about saving our planet will be taught in the schools, more bins will be installed in the streets and maybe even a recycling program will get underway. All in good time,fingers crossed.
This flat bread called Matlou is served at most Moroccan meals and of course like all things Moroccan is fabulous. It is cooked on the stove top, not in the oven. The ladies make it each day at the riad for our guests. They, like all Moroccan housewives, have been doing it daily since they were very young children, learning from their mothers, grandmas and aunties and need no recipe. Golden and warm, dipped in a locally produced olive oil is a yeasty heaven !!
I love baskets and their use of natural fibres and their vastly different shapes and sizes. I love to smell the warm wheaty grassy smell of the textured woven straw or cane or palm frond. And recently I saw (and wanted) a very cleverly designed basket. It was a multi tasking basket with some sweet scattered glittery trim. This basket, below, has many divisions and holds Moroccan tea glasses and can act as a very lovely serving tray for your Berber whisky. When you and your guests have finished your tea , the glasses are returned to nestle back into their individual cubby holes, the lid is shut and secured and the basket is tied onto the saddle of your horse or camel. As you ride off into the sunset, your glassware is protected, ready for the next tea break.
Well no snakes to be honest, just ladders and many of them in all sizes. The snakes are not far away though, down in the square with the charmers. People here in the Medina often do not have room to store ladders so this is a rent-a-ladder place. You just walk round, choose the right one for your needs and carry it back home. Prices start as low as $2.00 a day. I actually want to buy one use it to drape and hang up my scarf 'collection' !! Make that two perhaps. The scarves seem to be multiplying at a rapid rate.
For 14 years in order to get to my work place I got in my car and sat in peak hour traffic , bleary eyed with the tedium of trams, traffic lights and bumper to bumper vehicles. Now I walk to work, sometimes a challenge in itself, due to hair raising motor bikes literally coming at you from all directions but there is always something to see and think about. My Marrakech commute is poles apart from the old Melbourne one. And I must add that not once in those 14 years did a donkey ever pass me nor did I see a lady baking bread at her street stall. I think all I ever really saw was the brake lights of the car ahead of me. Life is too short for that, surely !!