Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Presenting “Adventure by Design”

As the masses are shepherded into their pre-designed package tour some are looking for a new adventure, a new experience.

The adventure can be local or further afield, UK based or global. This is the unique provision of Adventure by Design, designing treks around the world (specialising in the UK and Morocco) travelling by 4×4 or trekking on foot tailored to your requirements and aims turning them into memories; visiting places and offering the experience the package tour will not reach.

From the busy streets of Marrakech to the amazing mountain views, the gorges and desert dunes, Morocco offers so many different experiences.
To enrich your visit to Morocco we are able to provide truly bespoke treks to discover the culture and country by either 4×4 or hiking, maybe even a combination of both.

Fully insured 4x4 Vehicles
Although we do provide an English speaking leader with each trek there is a strong ethos of a sustainable and ethical provision respecting the environments and cultures we operate in.

Twisting through the Gorge

Therefore, we use locally sourced skilled and trained people, provisions, accommodation where required and vehicles whenever possible.

Adventures take many forms from day visits to overnight expedition’s dependant on your aims.

We use vehicles based in country all fully insured and checked by our drivers. Each adventure has a qualified expedition first aid trained representative. For environmental reasons we limit 4×4 treks to four vehicles, minimum numbers dependant on location. Hiking can be from one to groups of eight.

To find out more or to discuss your requirements please contact us or take a look at our web site

Saturday, 14 May 2011

The Kasbah On-Line is Launched

14-05-2011: The Kasbah On-Line Magazine has finally been launched via WordPress.

Click here to go to site

Focus: News Reviews Articles Comments

The Kasbah On-Line Magazine has been designed in a newsprint format. No doubt there will be a few early teething issues but I will endeavour to iron them out.

We aim to offer high quality images and regular overviews of Marrakech life.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Portraits of Riad Laksiba Service Providers – NEIGHBOURS

ABDELLAH – NEIGHBOUR Photo: Abdellah by Simon Hawkesley

Today comes as a sad day as I hear of the passing of an Old Friend.

Photo: The Stable and Riad Laksiba 2005 by Simon Hawkesley

Derb Kadi was historically the Royal Stables. All bar one stable has long since gone to be replaced by homes, Riad Laksiba included.

The remaining stable is directly opposite Riad Laksiba’s front door and stands testament to a bygone age.

Photo: Abdellah & Hassan's "Calech" standing opposite Riad Laksiba by Simon Hawkesley
Abdellah, the stable owner; passed away yesterday having reached a grand old age, mid-to-late 80’s, he remained active with his daily visit to the stable to ensure that his legacy was in good running order with Hassan, his son. Hassan keeps the stable in a fine condition and the horses are beautifully looked after. Abdou, Riad Laksiba’s Guardian, spends each afternoon helping in the stable and also prepares tagine meals for the Grooms when they return in the evenings.

Rather than mourn Abdellah’s death; I find myself celebrating his life and his warm neighbourly hospitality. Abdellah showed an active interest in the restoration of Riad Laksiba; he was genuinely courteous and kind toward my family and Laksiba's guests. Abdellah is a sad loss; he provided a truly rich embellishment to the street life of Derb Kadi.

My condolence goes to Hassan.

Photo: Residents of Derb Kadi, Riad Laksiba's neighbours by Simon Hawkesley

All of Riad Laksiba’s neighbours have unique characters offering a diverse mix of personalities; which bring great enjoyment to my frequent returns to Derb Kadi. I feel welcomed and accepted as a neighbour; honoured and rewarded to be allowed to share in the day-to-day interaction of this tight community.

To Abdellah: Our thoughts are with you; May you Rest in Peace 11-05-2011

Friday, 6 May 2011

Portraits of Riad Laksiba Service Providers - FABRICS

BATOUL – TEXTILES & FABRICS Photo: Batoul (Old Slave Market) by Simon Hawkesley & Abdelhamid Bousaadi

Batoul can be found, hidden away in the Old Slave Market in the Marrakech Souks.

A few times each week the Old Slave Market is taken over by Rag Trade Merchants. Unusually they are predominantly women.

Photo: Nordie & Simon (Old Slave Market) after a sucessful Tray purchase by Clare Williams

I have noticed that when I suggest that I am off to the Old Slave Market to see Batoul and the ladies; Abdou and Abdelhamid shudder, back off and argue over who’s turn is to go. The victim, usually Abdou, finally agrees; on the condition that he can sit and chat to Nordie & Zac, the Witch-Doctors, who’s Apothecary is also located in the Old Slave Market, whilst I undertake negotiations and will only assist post sale should I need assistance to carry merchandise back to Riad Laksiba.

Photo: Batoul et al by Simon Hawkesley & Abdelhamid Boussadi

It would be fair to say that negotiations can last a little while longer than anticipated; even if one has anticipated quite some time. On saying that…. I love it and feel privileged to be able to immerse myself into a centuries old culture and loose myself in the gaggle of comment, innuendo and conversation.

I don’t quite know where the politics start and finish, with the ladies chatting to a white, male, non-national, married, infidel but it seems to work; although creating the occasional stare of curiosity from other locals who ostensively end up joining the banter.

Batoul and her colleagues sell everything from single shoes, to beautiful hand woven tapestries, to new pillow covers made of Cactus Silk, to teapots and trays. All the stuff that makes a house a home. Mainly second-hand or; to my daughter Hannah’s generation “Vintage”.

The hours are not necessarily spent sifting through the bulk to find that must-have bargain…. more… sipping mint tea whilst Batoul and her clutch thrust garments in your direction, anticipating and scrutinising your reaction, whilst they sharpen their aim with what they consider “more appropiate choices”. The negotiation starts when a glimmer of interest is sensed; then, apparently, you are staring at the finest article in the arsenal.

Photo: Hannah & Kaitlin donning Tribal Tattoo's by Simon Hawkesley

For respite; Batoul makes a great “Mint Tea” and is a dab-hand at creating Tribal Henna Tattoo’s, much to Hannah & Kaitlin’s delight. Tattoo & Tea over and the negotiations commence.

Finally.... a Fabric deal is struck and Abdou will wander over with Nordie to ensure that I have not paid too much for the hospitality !

Photo: Finally... a Fabric deal by Simon Hawkesley

Portraits of Riad Laksiba Service Providers - GUARDIAN

ABDELGHAFOUR – GUARDIAN Photo: Abdelghafour Jdier Laksiba's Guardian by Simon Hawkesley

Abdelghafour Jdier “Abdou” has been the Guardian of Riad Laksiba since the day we opened the doors in late 2010. However Abdou’s story and association with Riad Laksiba goes a lot further back.

Back in 2005, when Abdou was 12 years old, two English people wandered in a little cul-de-sac called Derb Kadi…. to see where it goes.

Derb Kadi was a strategic consideration as it is the very first street one would find if they accessed the Kasbah via the Bab Ksiba entrance. Fiona and I both decided that it was a cute cul-de-sac and really like the fact that a huge Date-Palm Tree was growing at the end of the street.

No tourist homes, only locals homes and a stable. It felt great, real…. Yes the real Marrakech we were looking for. The rest is history. We purchased the Riad opposite the Stable and next to the big beautiful Date-Palm Tree. Riad Laksiba.

Photo: Derb Kadi Footballers 2005 by Simon Hawkesley
At certain times of the day, after school, Fiona and I could hear a small group of children playing football in Derb Kadi, on the opposite side of the stable. They were around 12 years of age and plying their craft very seriously. Free-kicks, penalties, throw-in’s and corners.
It was so refreshing to see; in comparison to the tethering we give our children in the west. Our fears of interference have denied our children’s generation what we took for granted.
The “team” in Derb Kadi posed for a photo. Again something that we would feel obliged to gain written parental consent for in the UK.

Photo: Not much has changed ..the same..Derb Kadi Footballers Dec 2010 by Scott Mackay

In 2010 Riad Laksiba was being renovated. I was stamping my feet over the amount of rubble and rubbish piling up on the ground-floor and demanded that the builders had a full clear-up before continuing. They agreed and drafted local assistance. As shovels and picks became windmills of toil; a small chap looked up, smiled and winked. Abdou the 12 year old footballer had become a 17 year old labourer. I gave him that look with shrugged shoulders and raised eyebrows to suggest “how come you’re here?” he responded with a similar shrug, the pout of his bottom lip and a down-turned smirk, which I translated as “why not… I’ll get paid !”. I rolled my eyes & laughed quietly; Abdou did the same as a response.

As the end of 2010 approached and Riad Laksiba’s builders were finally gone, I faced a dilemma. Furniture, beds, refrigerator………. well stuff… needed more than 2 hands to deploy around Riad Laksiba. Then there is the question of security of these items and the Riad in general, each time I return to UK. I shared my concern with Hassan who runs the Stable and he concurred that these issues did need addressing. Hassan would see what he could do. An hour or so later there was a knock at the door and there stood Abdou, nearly 18 years old but still quite tiny. He smiled and I acknowledged his greeting and continued, past Abdou, and straight to the stable.
“Who is this?”
“It’s Abdelghafour… Abdou he’s come to help you.”
“Can he speak English?”
“No but he’s a good worker and he’s honest”
“Well how do I communicate with him?”
“Look he’s the only spare Stable Lad… take it or leave it !”

I have found it amazing how pointing at things, mime and looking positively irritated is such a Global Language.

Photo: Abdou Riad Laksiba's Guardian by Simon Hawkesley

As a family we celebrated Abdou’s 18th Birthday which was novel for Abdou as birthdays are not normally celebrated. We have expanded his wardrobe, introduced him to Dentistry and hygiene standards acceptable to Breakfast service etc. at Riad Laksiba. We have accommodated the occasional hiccups associated to the dying embers adolescence and today we are very proud of the loyalty and charisma that Abdou brings to life at Riad Laksiba.

Abdou is shy, funny and genuinely caring. A true asset to the Riad, our Guests and our Family.

Portraits of Riad Laksiba Service Providers - BARBER

ABDELTIF – BARBER Photo: Abdeltif (Barber Rue de la Kasbah) by Simon Hawkesley

Abdeltif is a regular face to spot in Rue de la Kasbah, the main arterial road in the Kasbah district of the Medina; in other words ….. the Kasbah’s High Street.

Having spent roughly 7 months of 2010 and most of 2011 in Marrakech; a regular visit to the Barber has been paramount to my regular activities, especially as I am “folically challenged” and, as such, I look very scruffy, very quickly if I allow what’s left of my mop to sprout.

Years ago I remember braving it out and having my hair cut by a Barber in the Jungles of Sri Lanka, it attracted a large un-expected audience; who chanted a round-of-applause when the process concluded.

As such I hoped that Marrakech life would be a less audience attracting affair and indeed it was. Nobody gave a second thought to my entering Abdeltifs Barber Shop, sitting and waiting my turn and eventually being gowned up in the chair.

Abdelfit has Certificate’s proudly on display for European Barber Competitions he entered back in the 70’s. Thus I felt in good hands.

I see Abdeltif on most days as I wander down Rue de la Kasbah; if I don’t see him I hear “Mr.Salim” echo across the street followed by a generous wave when he has caught my eye.

Abdeltif also Police’s my crop, when he sees me; he rubs his chin, nods knowingly like a doctor considering a course of medication and murmours “2 days….. 3 maximum”. I accommodate accordingly.

Abdeltif’s French is excellent and he is keen to learn English, so I have purchased a Morocan/English English/Moroccan Dictionary to get him started.

Outside the Barber Shop Abdelfit displays an Immobilier sign (Estate Agent) which is very normal in Marrakech. If you want to sell your house….. tell your Barber as he gets to see all of your neighbours over the course of a month or so. He has a static audience in the chair to discuss prices etc. and I cannot think of a better way to discuss property matters than in the Barber Shop.!

Especially a man who has served my head and beard so well since 2005 and a man I class as a friend.

Portraits of Riad Laksiba Service Providers - RUGS

ABDELJALIL – RUGS Photo: Abdeljalil (Tombuktou Rugs) by Simon Hawkesley

Abdeljalil was a chance encounter.
I was out-and-about with Guests buying textiles and felt that we had struck real bargains.
Walking with a swagger in our steps, near Rue Riad Zitoune, we stopped outside the shop owned by Abdeljalil. He had very similar fabrics to what we had just purchased. I asked “typically what should I expect to pay for that fabric?” to my amazement he instantly came up with the same figure; that we had just spent an hour negotiating!

I promised that I would return the next day to discuss rugs for Riad Laksiba.

The meeting turned into a friendship and a great aide-memoire into Abdeljalil’s life.

He had played the Tam-Tam Drums several times at Glastonbury for Robert Plant and Jimmy Page.
Done a session with “The Cars” (Who’s gonna Drive you home Tonight…)
Also a regular visitor to the Essaouira Music Festival and played there with Bob Marley’s bassist

and even hung around with Jean-Paul Gaultier in the Jemaa el-Fna!

It all sounded very elaborate until Abdeljalil produced these photo’s

With such a “back history” how could I resist but to commission Abdeljalil to source rugs for Riad Laksiba.

I am delighted with his products and pricing.

Having spent days, if not weeks, frustrated with rug salesmen’s outrageous prices; the prices from Abdeljalil were less than least half of any past best efforts.

I still need a few more rugs to finish but at least I do not have to look anymore for a quality Rug Merchant when I can afford my next purchases.

Two weeks ago I was wondering around Marrakech with my daughter Hannah. We popped in to say hi to Abdeljalil. Hannah also found him enigmatic and asked of other English Musicians he had played with.
“Do you know The Beatles?”
“YES ! have you played with them?”
“No….. but I did do a session on the square (Djemma el-Fna) with Paul McCartney and another less known musician”
“WOW… that’s cool… who was the lesser known musician?”
“Elton John by you might not have heard of him”……..

Great rugs….. what a find !

If you are looking for Rugs in Marrakech, call into Riad Laksiba and we'll happily make the recommendation and introduction to Abdeljalil