Introducing…. Max Lawrence…. maroc-o-phile
For the first in a new series of interviews with maroc-o-philes, I had the opportunity to interview Max Lawrence. His company, Lawrence of Morocco is the latest in a long line of family businesses focused on Morocco and is a Morocco specialist tour operator, a film, TV and photo-shoot production company and an event agency.
Max and his father, Chris, share two generations of passion for this wonderful country and have come a long way since Chris drove in 1966, hot on the heels of the hippes, in a Fiat 500 from London to the Atlas mountains to research skiing holidays. More than 50 years later, their businesses have come and gone and their interests have changed, but their love for Morocco has never ebbed.
MoP: Max, your dad drove a Fiat 500 from the UK to the Atlas Mountains? Tell us about the origins of your interest in Morocco and the birth of Lawrence of Morocco…
Max: I grew up in a family where everything revolved around travel and selling holidays. My parents first took my sister Mischa and I to Morocco when I was 12 years old and it felt a little like India, where they had taken us already, in that it felt very busy, hectic and full of colour and strangeness. I really fell in love with the place when I came to stay with a friend in Marrakech for a week during the school holidays. We rode mopeds around Marrakech at night, smoked lying on the roof looking at the stars and hung out with other young people who were all searching for a way to leave Morocco to go to study in Europe!
I knew then, that I wanted to come here to live and a few years later I did. My father’s then company, Best of Morocco, was the only real Morocco specialist tour operator in the UK and as a 17 year old, I worked in the office selling holidays to Morocco and dreaming of being there permanently. When I was 18 I moved there to run a new local office organising the ground handling for our operations in Marrakech. This was supposed to last a year, but I remained a permanent resident of Marrakech for well over a decade.
MoP: You’ve been a maroc-o-phile for many years, then. What is it that keeps drawing you back to Morocco?
Max: Friends, family, business and the beauty of the country.
MoP: What is your most memorable Moroccan experience?
Max: It’s impossible to answer as I lived there for a very long time and in fact at the age of 30 when I finally moved from Marrakech back to the UK, I had spent all of my adult life there so most of my experiences were Moroccan experiences!
I had some pretty exciting and wild times in Morocco, met many interesting people (including His Majesty King Mohammed VI prior to him becoming king) but I think that some of my favourite moments were spent with a gang of young people in the early days when we did a lot of talking and hanging out on rooftop terraces, drinking all night and laughing endlessly.
I used to also enjoy driving over the Tichka pass at sunrise listening to Supertramp!
MoP: What are you most excited about for 2013 in Morocco?
Max: I am very excited about starting to make films about Morocco.
MoP: What else is new for Lawrence of Morocco in 2013?
New products, new places, new sales techniques. We are growing our staff to cater for the rapidly growing demand for our expertise.
MoP: What are your favourite places in Morocco….
…. to sleep
Max: On the beach in Oualidia under a shade with a gentle breeze on my back!
…. to eat
Max: On the bonnet of my car on an empty road in the desert (bread, tinned sardines and La Vache Qui Rit with a cold Schwepps Citron!)
…. to photograph
Max: The houses of Berber villagers anywhere where tourists don’t go!
MoP: What advice would you give to someone planning their first trip to Morocco?
Max: Don’t plan too much… If you have time, hire a car, travel alone and meet people on your way. Go south of the Atlas Mountains, go to Taghazoute, to Oualidia, go surfing, cook fish on the beach. If you only have a week and need a plan that will run like clockwork, call Lawrence of Morocco!
MoP: What are your hopes for Morocco and for Lawrence of Morocco over the next 5-10 years?
Max: I hope that Morocco remains stable and open to tourism. I hope that Lawrence of Morocco will grow but not too much. We are also starting a new destination or two soon.
MoP: What is the one thing you never travel without?
Max: Paracetamol… & Passport!
MoP: Any last thoughts from one maroc-o-phile to the maroc-o-phile readers?
Max: Living without Morocco in my life would be very hard, but living with only Morocco in my life for over a decade nearly killed me!
Many thanks to Max Lawrence for sharing his time and his thoughts with maroc-o-philes and potential maroc-o-philes. If you are interested in Lawrence of Morocco, visit their website.