The ever-growing travel list: lodges to love in Peru, Tanzania, and Brando in French Polynesia

I’ve confessed already to being a list tragic, and now I have yet another new travel list, thanks to National Geographic
Their new Unique Lodges of
the World collection has 24 good reasons to get out of town and head for the wilderness. 
I stayed in Zhiwa Ling Hotel in Paro, at the foot of the Tiger’s Nest  monastery in Bhutan, and it’s absolutely charming, with the most spectacular views from its windows, as you can see. Minimalists would have a hard time in this hotel, which is decorated in wildly colourful Bhutanese motifs, and built in amongst the rooms is a temple made from 450-year-old timbers from the Gangtey Monastery, and its resident monk. It’s also the country’s sole 100 percent locally owned five-star hotel.  
It’s also pleasing to note that Australia is punching well above its weight, with three beautiful properties on board. 

The full list of lodges is:
 

·      
Fogo Island Inn, Canada
·      
Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, South Africa
·      
Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, Peru
·      
Kapari Natural Resort, Greece
·      
Kasbah du Toubkal, Morocco
·      
Lapa Rios Eco Lodge, Costa Rica
·      
Lizard Island, Australia
·      
Longitude 131°, Australia
·      
Mashpi Lodge, Ecuador
·      
Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort, Canada
·      
Pacuare Lodge, Costa Rica
·      
Rosalie Bay Resort, Dominica
·      
Rubondo Island Camp, Tanzania
·      
Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge, South Africa
·      
Sayari Camp, Tanzania
·      
Southern Ocean Lodge, Australia
·      
Sukau Rainforest Lodge, Malaysian Borneo
·      
The Brando, French Polynesia
·      
The Ranch at Rock Creek, Montana, United
States
·      
Three Camel Lodge, Mongolia
·      
Tierra Atacama Hotel & Spa, Chile
·      
Tierra Patagonia Hotel & Spa, Chile
·      
Tswalu Kalahari, South Africa
·      
Zhiwa Ling Hotel, Bhutan

For more
information about National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World, visit www.nationalgeographiclodges.com.  

Travel news: Freewheeling across the world

Cycling in the German Alps. Photo: Bruce Robertson
Freewheeling
Have bicycle, will travel. But if you’re not sure where
to ride, click on to this serious collection of bike tours from around the
world. At last count, the website listed 7000 tours in 123 countries for all
levels of fitness, for road bikes, mountain bikes and even electronic bikes. Website
founder and keen cyclist Bruce Robertson is currently infatuated with Korea,
where he’s going with friends for a 350km ride from Seoul to Andong. “Korea’s
cycle paths and infrastructure are incredible,” he says. “The paths follow the
rivers, not the roads.” The site also loves a best-of list, including the best
off-road tours and city tours, packing tips and a guide to choosing the best bicycle
tour. To lycra or not to lycra? That’s your call. See cycletoursglobal.com.

APARTMENTS
Sleep easy with
the locals
Dublin city, the heart of Istanbul and the jewel of the
Greek islands, Santorini, are the latest destinations in Tempo Holidays’ 2015 Apartments
& Catering Worldwide brochure. Stay in an Italian condo on Lake Como, a maison
in the Cote des Maures in France or
a villa on the Portuguese Algarve. All properties are researched by Tempo
Holidays, which is owned by the world’s longest established
travel company, Cox & Kings. Many apartments and villas include
hotel facilities such as daily or weekly servicing, but with the freedom of
your own space and 24-hour help. Great for larger families or groups, they are
priced per night, but with discounts for extended stays. Phone 1300 558 987, see tempoholidays.com.
FOOD
Of souks and spices in Morocco
Discover the soul of Morocco on a 10-day gastronomic tour
of the country with TV chef and self-described ‘gastronaut’ Geoff Jansz. The
journey starts in gritty Casablanca and travels through the ancient, regal
cities of Fes, Meknes and Rabat, finishing up in Marrakesh. You’ll taste and
learn about Morocco’s culinary traditions with local experts, shop for spices
in magnificent souks (markets), drink Berber tea in the Atlas Mountains and eat
in restaurants selected by Jansz. There’s also a visit to Roman ruins of
Volubilis, Andalusian gardens and the craziness of Marrakesh’s central square,
Djamma el Fna. The tour will accommodate 24 guests, from November 1-10, 2015.
Costs $6895 a person, twin share. Phone 1300 590 317, see abercrombiekent.com.au.

AIRLINES
Best Fiji cuisine
Taste Fiji before you even get hit the happy isles with Fiji
Airways’ new signature dish for business-class passengers. The airline offers a
charred beef fillet with masala chai tea rub, herb buttered prawns and Fijian
organic vegetables, or seared wild fish with coriander and pineapple rice pilaf
and
red papaya curry sauce. The dishes are designed by Fiji Airways’
Culinary Ambassador chef Lance Seeto, who says the menu is influenced not just
the native iTaukei cuisine but Indian, Chinese and colonial British as well.
Seeto, who is based on Fiji’s Castaway Island resort, says it’s part of a
culinary renaissance taking place across the country. Other business-class menu
additions include a Fijian rum cocktail and mocktail, and the Yadra Vinaka
(good morning) sleeper service. Phone 1800 230
150, see fijiairways.com.

KIDS
Come to mamma
Whoever thought having kids meant giving up seriously
good food and wine? The new La Dolce Vita Wine & Food Festival welcomes
kids with all of its Italian heart. Held at eight wineries in Victoria’s King
Valley, there will be jumping castles and giant sandpits, playgrounds and
circus training, and every winery will offer a kids’ menu. Meanwhile, parents
(and non-parents) can test-drive Prosecco cocktails, turn their hand at gnocchi
making, cruise the market stalls or join a Long Lunch. The festival takes place
on November 15-16. Phone 1800 801 065, see
winesofthekingvalley.com.au
 
GEAR
Clean hands, clear
conscience
If the phrase ‘life-changing hand sanitiser’ sounds a
little far-fetched, log the tracking number on the back of this antibacterial
hand sanitiser and you may find you’ve just helped provide clean water for a
village in Myanmar. These body care products are from Thankyou, a social enterprise
that channels its profits directly into health and hygiene training in
developing nations. The hand sanitiser is a trusty travel companion that comes
in a tasty grapefruit or eucalyptus mint fragrance, and at 50ml, it’s well
under the airlines’ carry-on liquids limit. Other products include hand cream
and soap, all Australian made, all without harsh chemicals and all are
ethically sourced. Available at major supermarkets. See thankyou.co.

Edited by Belinda Jackson, Takeoff is published in the Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section every Sunday.

Colour my world: the textiles of Sri Lanka

Barefoot’s design house, Sri Lanka.

I have fondled hemp throws in Morocco, lusted for
Kashmiri embroidered cushions, gone cammo with Arabic scarves, and when
my husband told me not to buy any carpets in Iran I deduced the man was
obviously delusional: I was going to Persia, home of the rug. He’d given
up by the time I announced the Sri Lanka trip.

In my defence,
textiles are surely the ideal souvenir. They usually pack down easily,
they’re not fragile, they are useful and, importantly, they are a direct
link to a country’s culture.


I showed him photographs of women working on traditional handlooms
and waxed lyrical about the colours of the country: peacock blue, russet
red and saffron yellow.

“You
have to use bright colours in Sri Lanka because of the sunshine,” says
British interior designer George Cooper, who has lived in the southern
seaside town of Galle for the past decade and stamped his mark on a
string of villas along the coastline.

“In England and France, muted colours work, but you have to up your palettes here.

Traditional batik.

“The colours are more primary. They’re simpler.”

The country’s
textiles were born in the time of legend, says Sri Lanka-born,
Melbourne-based textiles artist Cresside Collette. She’s talking way
back: as far as the Ramayana, the Indian epic from 3000BC; in Sri
Lanka’s royal chronicle, the ancient Mahavamsa, even the queen is
spinning yarn.

Cresside, who recently led a new textiles tour
through her home country, says the main industries are weaving,
lacemaking, embroidery, dyeing and batik. Don’t expect the massive
factories of Bangladesh or India: Sri Lanka’s textiles industry is
small, secretive and, in some instances, even dying out. You’ll need a
knowing local on hand to help eke them out.


Luckily, I have Cresside’s tips and my friend Andrea, a writer, guide
and friend of the arts, who has a flair for design. Happily, she’s also
an English-speaking Dutch burgher – an exotic, ethnic blur of of Dutch,
Portuguese and indigenous Sri Lankan: the woman is a strolling atlas.

In
Galle, the Portuguese element is obvious in the southern province’s
reputation for its cotton lace. Intrepid Portuguese were blown off
course from the Maldives and landed here in 1505. “There’s a strong
sense of Lisbon through the lacemaking,” Cooper says.

One morning,
as I leave my hotel, the luxurious Amangalla, a quiet man sells me a
beautiful child’s white cotton nightdress. Strips of handmade lace
decorate the chest, hem and armholes, and although a delicate white
dress is a green light to my rambunctious daughter for wildness, I have
to buy it. I’m undertaking a classic transaction that’s been taking
place for centuries: Amangalla’s own history notes recall local
Sinhalese women sitting tatting on its verandah, making lace to sell to
tourists until the 1970s.

Waxing a batik. Photo: Alamy.

Andrea translates for me the story of
Manikku Badathuruge Priyani – or Priyani, for short – an internationally
recognised lacemaker. Now 53, she first sat down to lacemaking when she
was five, the fourth generation in her family to do so. Her work is
stocked in local handcraft stores including Lanka Hands and Laksala, and
each year, in her tropical home, she tats snowflakes that are exported
to Finland as Christmas ornaments.

Priyani has a cabinet full of
awards for entrepreneurship thanks to her own one-woman campaign to
preserve the craft by visiting stay-at-home women and disabled women,
giving them knowledge and small orders. You’ll spy Galle lacemakers’
work on the silver screen in Jane Austen movies Persuasion and Mansfield
Park, yet she’s not optimistic about the future of lacemaking.

“It’s
hard to sustain and is dying out rapidly because of the lack of
resources to preserve this craft that has survived for hundreds of years
and preserves our Portuguese heritage,” she says, echoing the time-old
complaint: “Young people are not interested.”

In contrast,
handloomed fabric is enjoying a renaissance, as we Westerners fall in
love with the seeming simplicity of design and clarity of the colours
employed by Sri Lankan designers. Treadle looms weave bright tableware,
and rolls of fabric are on sale in the country’s high-chic shops.

In
KK Collection, Cooper’s interiors shop in Galle, I unfurl cotton
handloomed fabric from its roll. The cotton is woven in villages near
the capital, Colombo, hand-dyed into smart stripes using vegetable dyes,
which creates variation that is frowned upon by puritans but loved by
those of us who see humanity in its imperfection.

Loom weavers at work. Photo: Cresside Collette.

On her tour,
Cresside visits the cloth weavers of Dumbara Valley, Sri Lanka’s
indigenous weavers, who draw on the countryside for inspiration. In
little Henawela village, the traditional motifs of elephants, deer,
peacocks and snakes gallivant along agave fibre stained with plant dyes
and woven into mats. All cotton used in Sri Lankan fabrics is imported,
mostly from India. Sri Lanka is about the same size as Tasmania but with
a population of about 20 million, and while its rumpled geography is
fine for delicate tea terraces, it defers to India’s vast plains to
produce raw cotton.

The bright interiors of another indigenous
design house, Barefoot, are a celebration of all that’s wild and lovely
on the island. In 1958, Barefoot’s founder, textiles designer Barbara
Sansoni, began teaching village women weaving and needlecraft. Under
principal designer Marie Gnanaraj, they now create vivid, high-quality,
hand-woven and hand-dyed fabric while earning a living wage, and their
beautiful fabric, toys and fashion are exported all over the world,
including to Australia.

While I love a good shop, show me the
creator and I’m sold. You’re bringing that person’s skills into your
home. Cresside ventures in to the village workshops around Kandy that
specialise in mat weaving, silversmithing and wood carving, and on to
Matale Heritage Centre, between Kandy and Matale.

The centre is at
Aluwihare, the ancestral home of batik and embroidery artist Ena de
Silva, dubbed Sri Lanka’s grand dame of batik. Her signature pieces are a
wild batik ceiling in the Bentota Beach Hotel and a set of banners of
heroic proportions, hanging in front of Sri Lanka’s parliament. De Silva
is widely regarded as one of the major catalysts in Sri Lanka’s craft
revival: her women’s co-operative operates out of Aluwihare, where local
villagers balance wax and dye to create traditional batik. Their
embroidered cushions and toys are for sale and lunch is also available.

The
time is right for such tours, as Sri Lanka itself awakens to its own
riches. The Colombo National Museum has just opened a new textile
gallery, and there’s an international appreciation for the social
consciousness that guides much of Sri Lanka’s home-bound textiles
workforce.

When I finally, regretfully, leave Sri Lanka, Andrea
and I exchange gifts: flowers and wine for my friend, while she presses a
handmade paper bag into my hands. Inside is a long scarf, dyed strong
fuchsia, grassy green, blood red and a deep royal purple. It is
hand-block-printed with a black motif of stylised flowers and bordered
with strips of gold.

The scarf encapsulates all that is Sri Lanka:
its blazing palette, ebullient nature and the rich embellishment worthy
of a culture of tradition and vivacity.

The writer was a guest of Banyan Lanka Tours and Sri Lanka Tourism.

TRIP NOTES

MORE INFORMATION
banyanlanka.com; srilanka.travel

GETTING THERE: Singapore
Airlines has a fare to Colombo for about $1125 low-season return from
Sydney and Melbourne including taxes. Fly to Singapore (about 8hr) and
then to Colombo (3hr 40min); see singaporeair.com. Malaysia Airlines
flies via KL from $975 return including tax; see malaysiaairlines.com.

TOURING THERE: Cresside
Collette will lead Active Travel’s next Sri Lanka Textiles & Crafts
tour July/Aug 2014. From $4842, 15 days. 1300 783 188, see activetravel.com.au.
Her next tour is a 20-day tapestry tour of Europe, from London, September 2, priced from $5950. See tapestrytour.blogspot.com.

FIVE MORE TEXTILES TOURS

Burmese Lun-taya acheik, globetrottinggourmet.com

MYANMAR: Join
textile designer and weaver Morrison Polkinghorne from Yangon to Bagan
and Mandalay, where handloomers create weaves at an inch (2.5
centimetres) a day. The tour coincides with Waterfestival. Departs April
next year, from $4500, 14 days, see globetrottinggourmet.com.

LAOS: The
20th-anniversary Laos Textile & Culture tour is escorted by the
head of textiles at the ANU, Valerie Kirk. From Hanoi into Laos’
mountainous villages, the birthplace of Lao weaving, to Luang Prabang
and Vientiane. Departs January 15, next year, from $4375, 17 days, see activetravel.com.au.

INDIA: Gujarat
Tribals + Textiles is a five-star tour through western India exploring
the clothing, jewellery and fabrics of Gujarat’s indigenous people.
Departs January 26, next year, from $US7250 ($8095), 15 days, see mariekesartofliving.com.

MOROCCO: From
Marrakesh to the imperial cities of Rabat and Fez,through museums and
palaces, experiencing Amazigh (Berber) food and hospitality. Departs
September 28, next year, from $3180, 15 days, see culturaltours morocco.com.

BHUTAN
With
textiles artist Barbara Mullan, travel from Paro to the annual Thimphu
Festival, pausing to admire striking architecture and the view from high
mountain passes. Departs each September, from $4290, nine days, see worldexpeditions.com.


This article was published in the Sydney Morning Herald & The Age newspapers (Australia)
Belinda Jackson

Tasting tradition: Ramadan kareem

Cairo at sunset. Photo: Belinda Jackson
Today is the first day of Ramadan 2013, which for me is about the scent of almonds, the sweetness of fresh dates and the call to prayer. 
If you’re shaky on the whole Ramadan thing, it’s Islam’s holy month, where Muslims take time to
reflect on themselves and their lives. 
The most
obvious part of Ramadan is fasting: followers don’t let anything pass their
lips from first light to sunset. At the moment, wintery Australia is considered a cushy place to be for Ramadan 2013: first light this morning was around 6am and the sun set at 5.15.
In comparison, it’s high summer in the Middle East, which sees 14-hour days,
with 5am sunrise and sunset not until 7pm.
That
means no food, no water, no cigarettes (a tough one for countries such as
Egypt, where smoking is rated a profession). Some people don’t use
toothpaste in the daylight hours…mmm.
Of all
the Muslim countries I’ve visited during Ramadan, I had the most fun in Egypt.
Egyptians like to joke that they actually put on weight in Ramadan, sunset
is the time for feasting, and feast they do. In a city where you can hit a
traffic jam at 1am, the streets are empty at sunset: you can cross town in 20 minutes,
normally a two-hour journey, as everyone’s sitting down to drink sweet drinks
such as tamrhindy (tamarind) or qamardeen, a thick, sweet apricot juice, and taste elaborate dishes and desserts made
only in this month.
Ben Youssef madrasa, Marrakech.
Photo: some helpful, random tourist
who didn’t run away with my camera.
The five-star hotels and the streets are lined with Ramadan ‘tents’ that serve banquets from sundown to sun-up, elaborate low lounges designed for smoking shisha and nibbling sweets, drinking tea and catching up with old friends. Music tends toward the traditional, though I spotted plenty of glam actors and smoking hot MTV stars (Amr Diab, people!). During Ramadan, TV shows tend toward swords-and-sandals dramas with strong moral punchlines.
I also
like the solidarity of Egypt’s citizens: around 10 percent of the population is
Christian, yet they will never smoke, eat or drink on the street. It’s
considered poor form, and most tourists get the picture.
In far
more liberal Morocco, where tourists amble around in hot pants, wining and
dining on street cafes during Ramadan, it must be tough not to have a tiny
touch of resentment when you’re hot, thirsty and hanging for a fag. But the locals I know are proud of their country’s
tolerance of all cultures, and they have some pretty fabulous Ramadan sweets, including honey and sesame cookies, halwa chebakia
I rate my favourite fitar or iftar (the meal you take when breaking fast at sunset) as the cool almond milk and dates stuffed with almond paste served at Marrakech’s sublime La Mamounia hotel.  
In
comparison, in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, we foreigners were ushered into makeshift
restaurants in the five-star hotels’ basements for lunch, and the bars were
shrouded affairs, if open at all. We were instructed sternly by hotel staff to dress even more modestly than usual, and our attire scanned before we left the hotel in case a rogue knee or shoulder should present itself to daylight.
Wherever you find yourself, Ramadan mubarak (Happy Ramadan)!

Making sense of Marrakech

If you love nothing more than to be lost in an open-air market for days at a time, then Marrakech is your soul town. Markets aside, there’s also fabulous food, tiny riads (hotels) and – importantly if you happen to be in Melbourne at the moment – balmy temps. Which can only mean no need for saggy grey trakkies and thick, knobbly socks.

It’s the world’s ultimate market: Djemaa al-Fna pumps from morning to night, with snake charmers, fortune tellers, monkey pimps and men dressed like female belly dancers, with scarves across their stubbled faces, shimmying to a crazy band, money in the tambourine, please.

On sale is everything from fake sunglasses to spices: rule of thumb is the closer to the main square, the higher the prices. Light, brightly coloured throws of fabric woven from aloe vera are a good buy but beware, most tagines are either sealed with a lead glaze or unsealed, so they leak.

The Sex in the City girls were mooching around there at the same time as I was doing the research, apparently banned from filming in their preferred location, Dubai, for being too raunchy. Dirty bints. more

Sold on Marrakech

Marrakech’s streets are so full of markets and shops you hyperventilate with the desire to buy everything, all at once.

Long strips of brightly coloured woven fabric made from aloe vera plant. Nomad’s carpets. Natty leather slippers, babouches, in a rainbow of colours. Leather bags, cushions, belts. Spices. Kaftans.

What do you want?

Oil from rare argan bushes? Saffron stamens? Fragrant amber? Sandalwood beads? The finest kohl?

Or perhaps wax scented with jasmine, to smear on your warm wrists and scent the air? Antique bracelets, Berber amulets, the protection of Fatima’s hand. A monkey. A chameleon. A snake to dance for your pleasure. What’s your purse, a few dirhams or a prince’s bank balance? Your past or your future. It’s on sale: name your price.

Luxury trademarked:La Mamounia


Hotel porn: I’m sorry, there’s no other way to describe the new La Mamounia. It is an absolute privilege to be able to test drive a hotel before it opens to the public – there are just 20 or 30 of us staying in this hotel of about 200 rooms.

The staff are there before you can say, “Can I have…” I have been spoilt rotten, test driving the three restaurants – French, Italian and last night, notably, the Moroccan, with its OTT entrée of Moroccan salads. Don’t be fooled, this is a 12-dish extravaganza. Who thought salads could run to so many dishes? Lamb brains, people, are back (tho they never went in Egypt).

The champagne is always on ice, the guest relations people appear to need no sleep, and the pool boys are constantly combing the 28x28m pool outside, seemingly day and night, waiting for me to swim up an appetite.

The signature scents drawn from cinnamon, cloves and dates steal through the hotel, the bar staff are playing with the same ingredients for a series of Marrakechi cocktails and orange blossom water is sprinkled about with gay abandon.

They’re still ironing out the minor details such as the music in the rooms, though the iPod docks are working fine, the spa has yet to open (yes, devastated, but I’m living with it) and Mssrs Gucci, Fendi and Chopard have yet to unpack their bags in the shopping gallery.

The only thing that hasn’t worked is the weather – at this time of year, apparently, it’s rare to see the High Atlas mountains without heavy cloud, and in fact this morning there was a rare glimpse of their outline but now, half an hour later, they’ve disappeared behind white cloud again, so that iconic Marrakech shot of palm trees and snow-capped peaks eludes me. But it’s sunny and a temperate mid-20s, and the best time to visit Marrakech.

This is not a hotel for everyone: to wit the E600 price tag, which peaks at E8000 a night for the self-contained three bedroom riads down the back of the gardens. But with a sensitive and lavish restoration that’s taken three years to get off the ground (do you really want to know how much it cost?), La Mamounia has been restored to iconic status.

PS Egyptians please note: the E600 is euros. Euros.

An update: here’s the piece in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Sunday papers
http://www.smh.com.au/travel/accommodation-reviews/this-lady-loves-her-facelift-20091030-hoko.html

The beating heart of Marrakech

Djamma El Fna is pumping. Smoke from the grill of stand 29 pumps out across the square, putting a mystical haze across the snake charmers, fortune tellers, monkey pimps and men who are dressed like lumpy women, with a scarf across their faces, bellydancing to a crazy band, money in the tambourine, please.

I take a seat at Number 29 and order tehan. For 12 dirhams ($2) I get a thick round of bread on paper, and two aluminum bowls. One is filled with bright red pureed tomato sauce, the other with tehan, chopped and sautéed with onions and fat. It’s the first time I’ve knowingly eaten spleen. Hopefully it doesn’t result later in venting my spleen.

Walking home, I collect my landmarks. The fruit market with its barrows of bright yellow melons. The crazy display of taps and pipes with a badly handwritten sign advertising a ‘plomber’. The mosque with the dicey-looking WC beside it. The neon flashing telephone shop. And finally I take the turn down the chopped up laneway that, every time I do it, makes me feel like a local.

I know where I’m going. I’m going home. To the white cat that sleeps at the door, so still I could assume he was dead if I didn’t see his scarred ears twitch occasionally. To the jasmine-scented courtyard. To the hum of the staff in the warm, friendly kitchen and the slice of tart apple flan they have left out for my late-night snack. It’s good night from me…

First look at Morocco’s revamped La Mamounia

The orange Hermes everywhere! The brass chandeliers! The bed that could fit a football team! The incessant petit fours at every turn! The pillows, the linen, the Dedon furniture on the extended balcony, the views over palm trees and the High Atlas mountains – Morocco (and North Africa’s) most famous hotel, La Mamounia, is nearly open.

We’re one of the first to flounce through the hotel in its soft opening, before it all becomes official and splashed about the world’s press on 29 Sept. So here’s a sneak peak, about to do an official tour of the glorious gardens and the beautiful bars and restaurants – will report back. It’s a job…

Villas Fawakay

Doris the pregnant donkey wanders past, going home to her corral, the peacocks, Frank and Stein, sleep on the thatch roof of the bar, the two long little dogs, Woof and Whatsit, are sitting at our feet while we have a glass of wine as the sun sets over the pool. The villas are all open, just curtains drawn against the elements.

Set up by a British couple who moved their family of four young children to Morocco four years ago – in a record five months – Villas Fawakay are three villas 20 minutes from the heart of Marrakesh. Each has its own little plunge pool, as well as a long, luscious main pool. The gardens are a rich green thanks to recent rains, which the pet goats and Doris attack with gay abandon.

It’s no hardship to hang out here. I napped in the afternoon on my fluffy bed, to awake to the peahen, Stein, staring in the window at me. She and her husband, Frank, had been napping in the shade on the rattan loungers outside my window.

The sounds of traffic horns and revving buses are long gone. All I can hear is Doris’ steady munch and the adaan from a nearby mosque. Each meal is prepared in the main kitchens and brought to my villa, and at the end of the day, I join the family for dinner by the pool. But this idyllic time must end, and it’s into the fray of Marrakech today…