The more observant maroc-o-phile readers will have noticed that I haven’t been posting much on the blog lately. Although I didn’t spend so much time in Essaouira last year, 2015 was quite an eventful year for me and I have a lot to be grateful for.
A few years ago, I met a young artist at Dar Souiri, Essaouira’s cultural centre, who explained to me the concept of “el hamdudlilah” (often shortened to “hamdud’lah”). “Allah phrases” as I call them, such as this, are key in an Islamic society like as Morocco. El hamdudlilah literally means “thanks be to God”, or a more secular expression might be “thank goodness,” and it peppers every conversation between Moroccans. The automatic way in which Moroccans use this phrase, I believe, demonstrates their innate gratitude. They don’t just use it to be grateful for exceptional good fortune; it is used as a reminder of those less fortunate than themselves. In many instances, a better translation would be “thank goodness, it could be worse”. So, when enquiringly of someone’s health, they will alway reply “hamdud’lah,” no matter how they are feeling, and even when disaster has struck, a Moroccan would express gratitude that the situation wasn’t even more disastrous.
Fortunately, I am in good health and I have a great deal to be thankful for. Although I may have a little absent from the Moroccan Musings pages of maroc-o-phile.com, I have been busy nonetheless. During 2015, professionally, I focused on paid writing, links to which you can find on my portfolio page. I am fortunate to have a great bunch of clients who appreciate my work and the years I have spent getting to know the beautiful and occasionally crazy country of Morocco. The highlight was working with The View from Fez and other online media to cover the Essaouira Gnaoua Festival and the Fes Festival of Sacred Music. I was in touch with interesting journalists, musicians, scientists, researchers, travellers and expats seeking to tap into my local knowledge. My maroc-o-phile Facebook page topped 1000 likes and the Twitter and Instagram accounts are also gaining followers. In addition, I extended my freelancing into social media strategy and virtual PA work with a broad range of clients beyond the travel and tourism sector.
2015 was also the year I published my e-guide, The Best of Essaouira, and began writing a longer, more autobiographical work. The e-book has been selling well from this website and Amazon and I am about to update it for 2016. I am really proud of the book, which condenses a whole lot of my specialist local knowledge and some of my best photographs into a brief, easy-to-read guide downloadable onto your phone, tablet or e-reader. If you have suggestions for updates, let me know!
20% of proceeds from the book go towards Bayti Essaouira, a charitable organisation which runs a day centre for kids from disadvantaged backgrounds. These kids receive help to get (back) into formal education and support to take control of their own futures and to become responsible, respectful young adults, despite their challenging home lives. Over the course of a little more than a year, I have raised over £10,000 for these kids through a crowdfunfding campaign. The money has gone towards educational activities, hammam visits, medication and food, ensuring that at least the kids’ basic needs of a square meal a day, good health and hygiene are assured. Donations are still welcome.
2015 was a year of great change in my personal life. We spent most of the year in Scotland, and in August I gave birth there to our son. We are very much looking forward to teaching him about both his Scottish/British and Moroccan roots. For the foreseeable future, I will be sending more of the year in Scotland than Morocco, but we anticipate this balance changing over time.
Now, in January 2016, I am back in Essaouira for the first time in more than half a year. Much is changing, but a lot stays the same. Our friends and family are still here offering us – now we are three – a warm welcome, and filling us in on the news and gossip of the past months. Watch this space for an update on new openings, closures and the rest of the news from Essaouira. The second edition of the Best of Essaouira will be available soon here and on Amazon.
Through the support of my friends and family and a good dose of old fashioned hard work and a wee bit of good fortune perhaps, I have much about which to say “el hamdudlilah”. In the West, gratitude and mindfulness have become an expensive currency, the latest self-help trend. I think we could all learn a little from our Muslim friends and neighbours in this respect. El hamdudlilah, 2015 was a great year for me. Whatever your plans for 2016 – maybe they include Essaouira – have a good year ahead!