Tag Archives: expat life

maroc-o-phile: Pauline de Villiers Brettell

Pauline de Villiers Brettell

Pauline de Villiers Brettellphoto credit: Pauline de Villiers Brettell

is a freelance writer, interior designer and stylist from South Africa who spends an increasing amount of her time on Africa’s most north-western tip at Assilah, near Tangiers. She is the author and curator of the tea in tangiers blog. A lover of textiles, design and colour, she is an an avid poster on instagram and pinner on Pinterest.

MoP: Pauline, what brought you to Morocco and why?

My first trip was many years ago – 18 to be precise and I was heavily pregnant with my eldest daughter. It was a work trip so was a whirlwind affair of photo shoots and interviews, but I knew that one day I had to bring my husband to Marrakech’s Jmaa el Fna! Several years later we returned with 2 children in tow and had a memorable family holiday that ended up with us making an offer on some land just outside of Assilah. We now return as often as possible with a view to eventually making it home. Continue reading

maroc-o-phile: Mandy Sinclair

Mandy and maroc-o-phile at the Maison de la Photographie

Mandy and me at the Maison de la Photographie

Canadian maroc-o-phile Mandy Sinclair is Marrakech-based blogger MandyinMorocco. She came to Morocco for the first time on holiday and promptly went back to Canada, sold her stuff and came back to live. She has now lived in Morocco for 4 years and blogs about her life on Why Morocco? A social media fanatic and PR expert, Mandy has just set up her own communications agency and Marrakech food tours.

MoP: Mandy, what first brought you to Morocco and why?

After watching the film Hideous Kinky in 1999 while in Australia, I knew I had to travel to Morocco.  So I arrived in June 2010 for a three-week holiday. Within four days, in Fes, I knew I was going to come back for a longer-term stay. I just didn’t think that I would still be here nearly four years later.

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Autumn in Essaouira

October sunset in Essaouira The clocks in Morocco went back at the end of October (the change coinciding now with Europe after years of discontingous confusion) and the nights are drawing in. The Islamic year 1436 began on 26 October 2014 and tomorrow in Morocco we will celebrate Achoura, the 10th day of Muharrram, the new year.

Islam is based on a lunar calendar and the festivals and celebrations move through the year in relation to each other but independent of the changing of the seasons and passing of the Gregorian calendar. Muslims number the months (although many Moroccans also refer to them by their French names), meaning that although we are in the first month (of the Hijiri Muslim calendar), we are also now in ch’har hadach (the 11th month, ie November).

Achoura – a festival which in urban areas focuses on children and youth with neighbourhood fires, fireworks, practical jokes and drumming – always falls in the first Muslim month because it is associated with the new year. However, for me – coming from the UK – it somehow ‘fits’ with the short days and chill of autumn. When I see the souks stocked with pumpkins, it is easy to draw parallels to the autumn festivals of my childhood such as Hallowe’en and Guy Fawkes’ Night.

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Relocating to Essaouira

Essaouira is an increasingly attractive destination for those seeking a simpler, cheaper, sunnier or alternative lifestyle and is attracting younger travellers as well as older retirees. It is an inspirational and artistic place and the bohemian lifestyle and incredible light attract many creatives. Read the overview I write for Retirement and Good Living.

I recommend that anyone considering moving to Essaouira come here for an extended period first. Living somewhere is not like being on holiday and you’ll want to ensure that the lifestyle is for you. Although you can find all the mod cons of life elsewhere, basic errands and services take longer to get done in Morocco and the quality of goods and services might not be what you are used to. Life is significantly cheaper in Morocco than in Europe or the US, but you will need to live simply like a local to reduce your living costs. If you seek out foreign foods, entertainment and travel, your cost of living will closely resemble that at home…

Furnished rental accommodation (one or two bedrooms) is available from around 3000 dh (€270 / US$ 360 / £210) per month. Larger properties are more expensive and newcomers will want to consider the benefits of medina (old city), new town or countryside living for their lifestyle. There are plenty of people offering apartments and villas and you will want to weigh up the advantages of using an official estate agent (contract, deposit, guarantee, fees, online selection) over a local “smsar” or intermediary (informal, can be cheaper, but no comeback, fees are not set and there are no guarantees).

Living abroad can be lonely. There are expats of several nationalities in Essaouira (although only a small proportion live here full-time) and while you will probably want to build a network of Moroccans and foreigners, this will be determined by your language skills and you are likely to need either French or Moroccan Arabic language ability to really integrate and make contacts and friends. Get in touch if you want recommendations on language teachers. Wifi, 3G and satellite TV services are widely available and mobile coverage is cheap and widespread, making it easy to keep in touch with news, family and friends from home.

Many people take on staff to help them deal with the day-to-day. The minimum wage in Morocco is around 2,500 dh/month. Responsible employers declare their staff and pay them their worth as well as their taxes and social security contributions. Most people don’t bother for domestic staff.

The French are the largest expat community in Morocco as the legal system, language and general set-up are very familiar to them. There are several schools in Essaouira teaching in French, for example, but currently none which teaches in English (although all schools offer English language tuition at some stage).

You will also need to take the decision about whether to continue officially residing in your own country (in which case you will need to leave Morocco every 3-6 months to renew the tourist stamp in your passport) or to apply for residency in Morocco. You should consider the tax implications of either. The residency application process (for the “carte de séjour”) is relatively straightforward, but you will need to prove your means of supporting yourself in Morocco, eg financially, with property or a business or by marriage to a Moroccan.

Finally, the climate in Essaouira is very particular. It suits some, but not others. For those of us from the north, over 300 days of sunshine a year are a big attraction. However, some people (including many Souiris) find the almost-constant wind unbearable and others find the humidity (particularly in the medina) aggravates joint and muscular conditions such as arthritis. Consider how you will cover any medical emergencies: GPs and dentists are widely available (although few speak English), but if you require hospitalisation, you will probably prefer to use a private clinic in Marrakech or Casablanca. Without insurance, this could be costly.

For more information on expat life in Essaouira, read my post for expatfinder.com

If you have further questions, feel free to get in touch or to join the Essaouira Expats and Friends group on Facebook.

What’s on in Essaouira?

If you are planning a longer stay in Essaouira and want to find out what is on, to make contact with other expats or to seek tips from the locals, the Essaouira Expats and Friends Facebook group was created just for this purpose.

You may also find the Expat Blog of interest, where maroc-o-phile also has a listing.

There are a number of Essaouira information sites in English and French which are mainly run by PR and marketing agencies and are funded through advertising. The best of the bunch is the Essaouira site of the Made in Medina series.

Essaouira, Morocco – holiday destination and much more

essential EssaouiraThink of Morocco and you may think of the mosques and minarets, towering over souks where seasoned hagglers promise carpets that fly and lamps complete with genies. Or perhaps you imagine the sweeping Sahara, traversed by camels led by nomadic tribesmen. For an increasing number of European tourists, expats and retirees, however, Morocco means fast, modern cities and relaxed seaside resorts, such as Essaouira.

By far the majority of Europeans living in Morocco are French, followed by Spanish and Italians. Due to political, linguistic, personal and cultural connections, there are particular benefits for French nationals resident in Morocco. However, due to easier flight connections, improvements in the investment environment, the stability compared to its Arab neighbors and practically year-round sunshine, Morocco has become an important tourist, second home and retirement location for northern Europeans, including from the UK.

Read more of this article for Retirement and Good Living here.

maroc-o-phile: Marlène Pauly

image: Marlene Pauly

image: Marlene Pauly

The next maroc-o-phile in this series is Marlène Pauly, a Belgian architect and designer now based in Essaouira. With her partner, Peter, she runs property search, interior design and architecture services through Mogador Home Resort and exports fair trade Moroccan handicrafts and interior decoration products through Souk Morocco. If you would like to share their Mogador lifestyle on a buying trip or a holiday, they have an apartment for rent in Essaouira.

MoP: Marlène, what first brought you to Morocco and why?
oh la, la! At first, it seemed a coincidence. But when I thought about it, Morocco and the Islamic culture have always been intriguing me. As an architect I was impressed by the beauty of the old Medina houses, the technical skills and the craftsmanship you can find here. So probably it was something that was somehow meant to be and it was only waiting for me to be ready. Continue reading

Yoga in Essaouira

I once offered information about teachers of yoga in Essaouira on TripAdvisor and I have subsequently responded to – on average – 1-2 queries a month in relation to this topic. In an attempt to make this information searchable, I compile it below.

Here are the contact details of those teachers I know of who are teaching yoga in Essaouira. Let me know if you know of others.

Laila: 06 36 55 39 61 (also on Facebook)

Jo: 06 96 94 58 74 

Brynn: 06 91 20 63 32 (ashtanga and vinyasa styles)

Karim: Call/What’sApp +61 405 792 052 (Australian number) or Facebook

Jana: 06 96 63 14 74 (ashtanga style lessons of 1hr20m for individuals or groups)

Maria: contact via Facebook (ashtanga style)

Schedules and venues change and classes may be offered on a group or individual basis, so it’s best to call to get the latest details.

Rachel organises yoga retreats in Essaouira and elsewhere. Contact her on: 06 08 50 37 18 or through her website.

Free yoga is available on the beach in front of the Atlas Hotel on the first Saturday of the month at 10:30 am. See the Mind-Body-Soul Facebook group for further details.

There are also pilates classes available in Essaouira, with Steve (tel: 06 37 82 78 33) and Tai Chi and Chi Gong classes with Yves (on Facebook)

Please note, I have not done classes with any of these yoga teachers, so it’s up to you to go along and see if their style suits you.

First world problems?

camel at Sidi Kaouki

getting to know the locals

Moroccans are either native speakers of either Darija – the Moroccan dialect of Arabic – and/or an Amazigh language, of which there are 4-5 main groupings. I have been learning Darija for about a year now. Darija is an incredibly flexible language: an average speaker mixes in elements of French and classical Arabic with ease and almost without thinking can incorporate elements from other languages, adapting them to the Darija grammatical structure. Although most Moroccans who have attended school can speak and understand classical Arabic and often French, neither is the mother tongue of any Moroccan, as they are not typically spoken in the home.

I studied foreign languages and linguistics and Darija is the 6th or 7th foreign language that I have attempted to learn. Theory and practice suggest that societies only need names (words) for concepts which are known to that society. With its close social and linguistic contact with French and Arabic, Darija is full of loan words, ie words which are borrowed from another language. A bus is a ‘tobus’ (from the French ‘autobus’), a car a ‘tomobil’ and a seat in either is a ‘blasa’ (from French ‘place’ – Darija doesn’t have a ‘p’ sound). However, I am always fascinated by words in one language which don’t have a direct translation in other languages, because this suggests that for one reason or another, a simple one-word expression has not been developed. One such word in Darija is “fawaj”. Continue reading

Achoura in Morocco – reason to celebrate

Todayachoura drums, 15 November 2013, is the Islamic festival of Achoura, from ‘ashara’, the Arabic for ten. It is the tenth day of the month of Muharram, the first month in the Muslim calendar (this year is 1435). The significance of the figure ten is also reflected in the practice of ‘zakat’ – one of the five pillars of Islam – when people offer a tenth of their income to the poor.

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