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.
MoP: You now live full-time in Morocco. What made you choose Essaouira and what keeps you here?
My choice of Essaouira was because of the climate that is always very moderate, the ocean – I like to live with wide open views which the ocean gives plenty of – and the laid-back atmosphere. I am not sure if I will stay in Essaouira because I think you should live life and love what you are doing. I spent years in Stockholm and my life might look different in a few years. It all is part of this big adventure called living, isn’t it? But for now I love living here and I want to discover more of Morocco.
MoP: What is your most memorable Moroccan experience?
I think it was arriving for the first time in an Islamic country (Morocco) in Tangier. On the first day of Ramadan. I had no idea about what was going on, terraces filled with men, just sitting there not drinking, not eating. Morocco and its traditions take some getting used to, and it is certainly the case when you arrive at the start of their fasting!
MoP: What else is new for you in 2014?
I want to get around and discover some more places. To get my designer business rolling. Both on the local level by styling interiors and on the international level with my export of a range of interior and lifestyle products: Boucherouite carpets, cement tiles, and some products of my own designs like bedding and furniture.
MoP: What are you most excited about for 2014 in Essaouira?
Well I’m quite exited about the total make-over Essaouira is getting. I hope finally it will be as impressive as it is starting to look now… It will be a mix of both worlds: the flashy new town and the old Medina. I hope they will maintain a good balance between both.
MoP: What are your favourite places in Morocco….
…. to sleep
Dar Nour in Tangier, because of the setting, the great hosts and the breathtaking views.
Le Pacha in M’hamid because you get pampered at the edge of the desert. I’m planning on a desert trip and for now this is one of my favorite wannabe places!
…. to eat
L’Italien in Fes. I know it is not a typical Moroccan restaurant, but for me part of the dinner experience is always the architecture, which, together with the great food, is just fantastic there.
Afternoon bubbles in the patio or the club of Palais l’Heure Bleu in Essaouira, just for those special occasions. Lunch at the roof of Dar L’Oussia in Essaouira for the fantastic views over the bay. Sunday afternoons at Beach and Friends to do some working and chilling and get the Souiri vibe.
…. to photograph
If there is a country that can surprise you everyday in a different way, it is Morocco. Just get in a car or on a bus and keep your camera ready. It can be simple things like Berber children playing, cats sleeping beside the freshly baked breads in the local souk, sunset, sunrise – you name it and it is always has a kind of magic.
I love the sun setting in the harbour of Essaouira, but I also love the Atlas mountains and the desert and everything in between!
MoP: What advice would you give to someone planning their first trip to Morocco?
Don’t plan too much, as Moroccans will always help you out if you want it or not. After some days, you will be in the vibe of insha’Allah (literally, if God wills it) and that is the moment when you will find yourself enjoying yourself and mastering ‘Moroccan time’.
MoP: What are your hopes for Essaouira, Morocco and for Living Mogador over the next 5-10 years?
I don’t live so much on hopes. If I hope for something, then it should be that Morocco continues developing and that prosperity will get to the lowest levels in society without the country loosing its uniqueness.
MoP: What is the one thing you never travel without?
To be honest, my passport and my mobile phone *with* adaptor. I have this need to share what I see. I have no idea if anyone is interested in it but travelling here makes such an impression on me that I want to express and share it.
MoP: Any last thoughts from one maroc-o-phile to the maroc-o-phile readers?
Experience Morocco by visiting it. It’s accessible for almost everyone. It’s safe and you really start to believe that carpets can fly…
READER OFFER! Until the end of May 2014, Living Mogador are offering a special week-long apartment rental package with a hammam, excursions and many extras thrown in for maroc-o-phile readers. Further information here. For availability, please contact Living Mogador via their website.
If you have a suggestion of a maroc-o-phile for this interview series, drop us a line on email@example.com!