Living in a riad, an unusal experience for us….Artifacts and decor at Dar Aicha…

Today, we’re posting the 17 mirrors in Dar Aicha which we believe may be used to enhance the appearance of the narrow sizes of some of the rooms surrounding the central courtyard.
Living in a riad, such as Dar Aicha, a house with an open-to-the-sky center courtyard surrounded by all of the rooms of the house, is unusual for many from other parts of the world. 
This and the above photo may look identical, but they aren’t. There is a mirror at each end of the salon one, rectangular as this one and the other arched as in the above photo. These two mirrors are showing reflections of each other. There’s a working TV in front of this mirror in the salon, which we use on occasion to watch world news.
Here’s why we consider a riad to be different from traditional homes in many other countries:
1. When it rains, it rains into the courtyard, leaving puddles at times. It’s necessary to walk through the courtyard when going from room to room. To avoid getting wet we can walk under the second-floor balcony around the edges of the courtyard.
2. During high winds, one feels the wind swirling around the courtyard which at night may be a little intimidating.
3.  Although a riad is constructed to stay cool in hot weather, during cold weather, the interior temperature matches the outdoor temperature.
4. There are literally no exterior windows. Most of the rooms surrounding the courtyard have colored glass windows facing the courtyard.
5.  As is a Moroccan tradition, the doorways to the living areas all have drapes for privacy as opposed to doors that close. As a result, privacy is reduced.
6.  Based on the design of a riad and to prevent water from entering the living areas in heavy rains, there are short steps of varying heights and depths, sometimes one, sometimes two, to navigate when entering and exiting the rooms surrounding the courtyard and all the other areas including the bathrooms. This could be a tripping hazard. We’ve had to remind ourselves to carefully navigate those steps to avoid tripping and flying over the second-story railing to the stone courtyard below. Scary.
7.  A riad is not suitable for disabled individuals for navigating these shorter steps or the steep stone steps to the second level or the third-floor rooftop.
8.  Birds are always flying into the courtyard. This morning there were two pigeons in my dressing room (I wasn’t in the room) which Tom saw fly out. With spring here now, the birds are in abundance, many walking on the courtyard floor during the day. Yesterday, two birds walked into the salon while we were there.
9.  The walls are one meter thick, (approximately 3 feet) impeding the WiFi signal. We’ve found it necessary to position ourselves close to an opening in order to get a decent connection.
The aged mirror in the center courtyard.
 Aged mirror on the second-floor balcony.
 One of the mirrors in our master bedroom.
Another ornate mirror in the master bedroom.
One of two mirrors in the master bathroom.
The mirror over the brass sink in the master bathroom.
Other than reminding ourselves not to trip on the steps between rooms, none of these differences bother us at all. Actually, we find the design of the riad charming and at times entertaining, especially when we can look up from inside the house and see the blue sky during the day and the stars and moon at night.
Mirror in the second bedroom that I use for showering and dressing in the mornings to avoid awakening Tom.

 

Mirror over the bathroom sink in the bathroom I use in the mornings. The water bottle in the lower left if used for brushing our teeth.
And, of course, we love the birds. I remember how we’d all freak out when a bird flew into our house in our old lives. Now, we simply smile occasionally taking a photo as shown here today.
Taking photos of these fast-moving little birds makes me crazy when don’t sit still long enough for me to get a good shot. This bird was standing on the second-floor railing overlooking the center courtyard.
It is these types of experiences, living as the locals do, that shape our world travels. At times, we experience challenges and frustrations that somehow we manage to work through to our satisfaction. At other times, we pinch ourselves, asking, “How in the world did we end up here?” 
As for Morocco, we have a partial roof over our heads, we’re comfortable, we’re feeling well, we’re well-fed, we love our riad and it’s wonderful staff, and for the next 48 days, at Dar Aicha, we’re “home.”
                                                     ________________________________________________
Photo from one year ago today, March 28, 2013:
With no photos posted on this exact date, one year ago, we selected this photo from earlier in March, 2013.  Please click here for the link.

 

Good morning, Marrakesh! With open arms, you welcome us into your enchanting world…

 

Here’s the guy with the wheeling cart hauling our luggage through the Medina with Adile at his right. When checking our bags in Johannesburg, it was required to have all of our luggage was wrapped in plastic for security reasons.

Entering the Medina with our luggage, where motorized vehicles are not allowed.

Where do we begin?  We won’t bore you with too many details of the misinformation we were given by the gate agent in Johannesburg that we’d have to collect our luggage in Casablanca, take it through customs, and recheck it for the final flight to Marrakesh. 
 The views from the plane became more and more interesting the closer we flew to the city of Marrakesh, Morocco.

The city of Marrakesh presented an awesome sight as we approached the airport.

When the four bags didn’t appear in Casablanca, we imagined they were lost. Trying to stay as calm as possible, which we did rather well during the entire 29 hours of travel time, we tried to get answers. We couldn’t find anyone who spoke English well enough to explain our dilemma. 
 Most of the eight ascents and descents in the 29 hours, required Tom breaking down six pieces of hand luggage including the cart when we had to use to steep outdoor steps when the planes are parked on the tarmac. Rarely, are the tubes used in many countries. On two occasions we had to board a bus in order to get to the tarmac to access the steep steps. Cumbersome.
Honesty, with our worldly possessions well insured, we were more worried about the time and inconvenience it would cost us than the loss of our stuff. We had all the important electronics, documents, and prescriptions in our carry on. Finally, we found am English-speaking agent at the counter for our final flight to Marrakesh that said, “No worry. Your bags have gone on to Marrakesh.”

The man with the car and Adile (pronounced “Agile”) as they began to enter the Medina.

After an hour of worry, we were able to make it to the final gate and breathe a sigh of relief. Oh well, if that was the only thing that happened in 29 hours, we were happy. Yes, there were other incidents of misinformation but, we’ve learned that it goes with the territory.

 As Samir explained when we asked about the customs of Morocco, we are not to take photos of the faces of locals without their permission.  his is a custom we’ve experienced in other Muslim countries which we will honor and respect. Going forward, we’ll make a point of capturing the many sites, with more time to stage the photos.
Tom, a former hothead, amazes me in his commitment to avoid ever being viewed as the “ugly American.” In doing so, he stays calm and unruffled in the worst of situations. I’m the eternal optimist avoiding ruffled feathers at all costs.  Practicing calmness actually has made us calm. It’s funny how that works.
 Adile, as he opened the front door of our new home.
Upon picking up our luggage at the Marrakesh airport using the “free” luggage trolley (we have yet to pay for a cart at any airport outside the US), we made our way to the entrance of the airport to look for Samir, our houseman for our new home, Dar Aicha. (Residences have names in Africa as you may have noticed from our past posts). 
 Upon entering the door to Dar Aicha, our private home for the next two and a half months, we were taken aback by its majestic charm. This center courtyard is surrounding by the many rooms of the house and is open to the sky. 
In no less than 30 seconds, there stood a tall, handsome young man with our names on a white sign. Samir immediately took charge, loading a new SUV with all of our belongings. The driver, Hamouda (spelling?), will be at our service as needed, having worked for Dar Aicha for many years. 

 With three floors of living space at our disposal, we have to choose where to lounge as we write here today. 
Once we arrived at the Medina, another 20 something male house employee, Adile, guarded the cart as it was traversed by the man in the above photo, for the 15 minutes it took to work our way through the crowded Medina, through the souk, to the house situated amid the awe-inspiring activity of the old city. 
 This morning I caught Tom off guard as he exited the bedroom to join me to begin our day. Many more house photos will be posted in the near future as we settle in.
As we made this walk, the exhaustion flew away while the adrenalin was pumping with our excitement. We couldn’t get enough as our eyes were flying from left to right, our nostrils flaring with the mouth-watering aromas, and my fingers itching to touch the gorgeous silks and fabrics.
 In Dar Aicha, birds are free to come and go into the house at their leisure.
Unfortunately, we were on a mission to keep up with the guy with the cart and didn’t want to detain the three of them with our tourist-like gawking. We’ll soon go out on our own, anytime we want. The photos shown here today, taken of the Medina and the souk were done in haste while moving quickly through the crowded narrow vehicle-free streets. I promise many more will follow.
 Last evening, candles were lit to add to the already inviting ambiance.
Once we entered Dar Aicha, considered a small palace on three levels with a staff of four overseeing to all of our needs, we were in awe. Oh, good grief! Our needs are few: meals, bottled water, clean towels and bedding, clean house, and clean laundry. 
 This sideboard displayed a series of lit candles in the dining room, specifically for our enjoyment.
There are multiple buzzers for us to ring, on each level if we want something. We can’t imagine ever pressing it. But, one must consider the customs and the fact that service help is standard in much of Africa providing jobs for many of its citizens, from what we’ve experienced in the three countries in which we’ve lived thus far; Kenya, South Africa, and now Morocco. 
With the original intent of dining out frequently now down to perhaps once a week, we’ll be more than happy to dine in, content that Madame Zahra knows how to cook for me. Tom, bless his heart, is totally on board with dining in, after last night’s fabulous dinner. Tonight, fish is on the menu which Tom rarely eats but after last night’s dinner he’s prepared to try anything.
We’ve decided we’d like dinner at 6:30 pm as opposed to 7:00 pm for a few reasons; one, we don’t eat much during the day and two, Madame Zahra will be able to leave earlier.
The vegetable first course, served to us by Madame Zahra last night. More food than we could eat, we stuffed ourselves, delighted when everything presented except the bread in the upper left corner, was befitting my restrictive diet.  
 
With the language barrier and the crowds, it will be difficult to inquire about my way of eating from food vendors on the streets. I’m here in yet another country having the time of my life rather than living in a wheelchair constantly in excruciating pain. Do I complain or even think about what I’m missing in foods? Never! I’m grateful for every moment of my life. 
Madame Zahra, Dar Aicha’s resident cook for many years, arrives before 9:00 am each morning and stays until after she serves dinner and cleans up. This morning only minutes after arriving, she delivered a tray with fresh grounds-free French pressed hot coffee to the salon (the living room) where most likely we’ll spend most of our time when not out and about or sleeping.
Last night, with a little trepidation, we were seated at the table in the dining room at precisely 7:00 pm, Madame Zahra’s usual serving time. Worried that Tom wouldn’t like the spicy foods and that food befitting my way of eating would be difficult to prepare, within minutes our worries wafted away when plate after plate of delicious foods was presented at our table; the varied vegetable dishes first and later, the grilled seasoned chicken which she cooked over an open fire on the rooftop.
Last night’s dinner clearly illustrated that living in Dar Aicha with Madame Zahra in the kitchen will only add to the joy of our experiences in Marrakesh. When we read the many five star reviews on Dar Aicha, we observed how other guests also preferred to dine in, after trying her delicious meals.
This grilled chicken was perfectly cooked and seasoned to perfection.
After a great night’s sleep in the 50F, 10C, cool to us weather, bundled under a fluffy down comforter and blankets, it was hard to stay in bed long.  With a two hour time difference from South Africa, I was up and about at 5:00 am and Tom shortly after, both of us anxious to begin the day.  

 

By 6:00 am this morning, I finished unpacking and Tom, a borderline procrastinator, will be done by the end of the day.  Now, at 10:30 am, our laundry is being washed, our bathrooms are cleaned with the smell of pine, and our bed is neatly remade. (I always keep my clothing and toiletries in another bedroom to avoid waking Tom when invariably I arise earlier). 

And yes, once again we had to decide as to which room we’d sleep in and which one I’d use for my things. Once again, it took us a half-hour to make a decision, especially considering yesterday’s tired state of being when our brains weren’t fully operational in our tired state.
This morning, on the rooftop, our first glimpse daybreak.
What’s my excuse for asking Tom where certain rooms are in this spacious home, invariably starting out in the wrong directions? I never had a sense of direction anyway. Why would that change now?
Soon, we’ll get out to explore this culture-rich diverse city, much of which begins at our doorstep. Also, we need to locate an ATM and a pharmacy since all of the shampoo and conditioner were squeezed out of the bottles in my suitcase when it was tightly plastic-wrapped at the Johannesburg airport.
There is no way that living in Marrakesh will ever result in a boring day, unsure of what to do with ourselves. Then again, we’ve haven’t had a dull day in the 16 months since leaving Minnesota on Halloween, 2012. Actually, to be more specific, we haven’t had a dull day in almost 23 years.

 

Note: The WiFi in Marrakesh is inconsistent and slow at times. On occasion, as shown today, we’ll have formatting issues over which we have no control. We apologize for the inconvenience and kindly ask you bear with us. Thank you!