Amanda Ponzio-Mouttaki, aka MarocMama, is a professional writer and world travelling wife and mum of two boys. She is currently an American expat living in Marrakech, Morocco, exploring all that Morocco has to offer.
MoP: Amanda, what first brought you to Morocco?
The first time I heard about Morocco I was probably 12 years old. The TODAY show (an American morning TV show) did a segment called “Where in the World is Matt Lauer” where everyday for a week he’d turn up somewhere else in the world. One day it was Marrakech. I so vividly remember him standing in Djmaa el Fna with a monkey on his shoulder! Maybe two years later, I saw Malika Oufkir on the Oprah Show talking about Morocco and her book. I read the book and Morocco stuck even deeper. When I finished high school, my dad wanted to take my sister and I somewhere, anywhere we wanted in the world, and we eventually settled on Morocco (at my insistence), even though neither of them really even knew where it was. That was 2004. It was on that trip I met my husband in a very chance encounter (you can read about it here) and never looked back.
Our kids. We always thought we wanted to move back to Morocco, but the older our children got the more we realized we need to make a decision quickly. It was important to us that they learn Arabic and French and also really get to know my husband’s family and their Moroccan culture.
MoP: What is your most memorable Moroccan experience?
The first time I spent the night in the Sahara. I got sick en route and was nearly delirious the entire time due to what I think was food poisoning. But I remember the sun setting and seeing the starry dome over the Sahara. There was no other light and it remains one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.
MoP: What are you most excited about for 2015 in Morocco?
Oh so much! I’m really hoping to do some more exploring in northern Morocco; it’s one area where I’ve visited only a few locations. I’m also hoping to organize some blogger tours to come to Morocco and share their experiences. I want to go a lot deeper than the “overview” trips and really bring everyday Morocco to life.
MoP: What else is new for MarocMama and Marrakech Food Tours in 2015?
We’re looking at beginning to organize more children’s activities in Marrakech for people who are visiting with families. There’s really not a lot for children to do in the city and we want to help bring the cultures and traditions of Morocco and Moroccan artisans to little people! We’re lucky to have our own two boys to “test drive” things and help us come up with ideas that we think children and families will love.
MoP: What are your favourite places in Morocco….
…. to sleep
I’m not extremely particular about location however I love the mountains of Morocco. A small riad, cottage or guest house with a fireplace and plenty of good books is perfect for me.
…. to eat
In Marrakech we’re lucky to have a wide variety of restaurants but I’d still prefer eating a meal that a grandma’s cooked at home to the fanciest restaurant. If I have to choose restaurants I love chefs that take traditional Moroccan flavors, styles, and ingredients and create something brand new.
…. to photograph
I really love to photograph day to day life, whether it’s fishermen doing the tasks of their job or someone cooking. I think these simple scenes show the variety and color of life here but also the reality. I really dislike the highly stylized “over the top” romaticized photographs of life in Morocco that just aren’t true for the majority of the population.
MoP: What advice would you give to someone planning their first trip to Morocco?
Don’t overdo it. No, you can’t see Morocco top to bottom in a week, not even in two weeks. Focus on a few places that you really want to experience and leave it at that. Also don’t forget to get out of the cities. I think rural Morocco is really where the gems are.
MoP: What are your hopes for Morocco and for MarocMama over the next 5-10 years?
For Morocco, I hope that there can become a balance between meeting the desires of tourists and maintaining a sense of dignity and quality of life for the Moroccan people. For MarocMama, who knows! I really hope to do much more freelance writing and sharing my experiences and life view with the world, whether that’s on Morocco or elsewhere.
MoP: What is the one thing you never travel without?
My iPhone and charger. Just ask my kids, my phone is like my third child.
MoP: Any last thoughts from one maroc-o-phile to the maroc-o-phile readers?
Morocco is an amazing country but not without its hiccups. Take the good with the bad, slow down and live life instead of rushing through it. If there’s one thing this country has taught me it’s that principle.