Well here I am enjoying my first day in Marakech, learning new things by the minute. A lunch is put out on the table: a delicious lentil soup followed by a Chicken tagine, spicy rice and a salad of beetroot, carrot and lettuce all pulled from the garden minutes prior to eating and all prepared professionally by Hafida. It lent one to a snoozy afternoon on the terrace beneath a sun that filtered through the bamboo roof of the outside lean-to whilst the progeny earnt themselves a few bob on their computers. After all somebody has to pay for all this munificence.
The afternoon soon meanders into the evening with the prospect of more pastis, more wine and a salad snack whilst the Atlas Mountains at the bottom of the garden frown on our decadence. Early to bed tonight to make up for last night’s frugality of slumber.
Day three of our venture opened in blazing sunshine, the woollen chickens the teachers had told the kids how to make yesterday were in tatters on the floor, the dogs had made mincemeat of them during the night. The kids did not seem to mind, the dogs were happy, the cats looked on unconcerned, the ladies were busy sweeping the mess up. Everybody was a winner, except myself who found the noise levels higher than I was accustomed to in Co Roscommon.
One of the teachers, Raghia, with the Easter chicks the children made
In the brightness of the day the snow covered flanks of the mountains seemed a lot nearer. They appear to rise up like a wall from the flat plains south of Marakech. A fantastic sight if one was not so overwhelmed with the excesses of the previous night. We had sung and danced our way through the entire repertoire of the Dubliners, the Fureys, Paddy Riley and the good bits of my mate Sinead O’Connor.
It is 7.30 am and a meager 14C with the promise of late 20s this afternoon. Breakfasted on eggs, orange juice, flat bread and olives and today is couscous day. It is entirely different from the couscous we make in Western Europe. It is now being put into the couscous pot for a six hour steam and is already looking good. A grand prospect for this afternoon at about 2.00pm when the main meal of the day is generally taken.
All is now quiet, the kids are at school 100 yards away, two of the teachers are preparing their lessons at the other end of the table from me. Quite a combination of girls these three teachers are. Raghia is from the Western Sahara who I spoke about in Part 1. Eva is Dutch and speaks several languages and Sophia is from Rabat, the administrative capital of Morocco. She is a diplomat’s daughter and has travelled the world wherever he was posted and was educated at Birmingham University. She also is a polyglot. They all gel with great personalities and the kids love the three of them and so would you if you saw them. The mix is perfect. So this little community here consists of lots of different characters all living in perfect harmony and all depending on daughter No 2 and son in law for their daily bread. Khalid and Ibrahim outside, the three ladies, Fatimzara, Hafida and Khadija inside, the three teachers Ava, Sophia and Raghia between schoolhouse and house and the painter Yousseff, who at the moment is painting the patio which runs all round the house in a wonderful shade of Moroccan pink. When he finishes that task, he will put the finishing coat on the floor of the swimming pool and tomorrow it will be filled with water again for the oppressive 35-40C temperatures we are expecting next week. I have to say that this place is next to heaven and I am not that easily impressed.
I have just wandered over to the schoolhouse, a splendid two roomed structure, just right for the five kids. What finer educational establishment do you want, five kids, three multi-lingual teachers and two classrooms and perpatetic music teacher, art teacher and Tai Kwondo instructor. The ladies carry over elevenses and late lunches in plastic boxes to the ravenous kids and I sit in luxurious semi-silence with the local arabic radio news tinkering through from the kitchen and with the couscous puffing away on the stove.
As I write an e-mail has just come through. A television company in Brooklyn, New York wanting to know all I know about Charles O’Sullivan and John Fraser, Maureen O’Sullivan’s father and uncle, both officers in the Connaught Rangers in the Great War. John Fraser was killed saving the life of his brother in law, Charles, who was badly wounded at Soupir Farm on the Aisne in September 1914. I have put them off until I return to Boyle but we know an awful lot about these men, Charles from Cork and John from Knockvicar near Boyle but who was born in China. His father was Surgeon General of the British Navy round the turn of the 20th Century. They might invite me over but only if they give me €500,000 and I have to stay only 12 hours.
The couscous with lamb in a wonderful sauce was eaten with relish, the couscous so fluffy and light mixed through with vegetables from the garden and afterwards more much needed relaxation. The evening developed slowly with a marvellous dry chardonnay, followed by a few bottles of gris. I have to say the whites and pinks of this country are of high quality, the reds less so but if you land on a good one it is generally very good. We had some pleasant conversation, a fantastic pork and leek sausage sandwich. Sausages imported specially from Boyle in the Co Roscommon courtesy of the writer. The Moroccan sausage is Merguez, spicy mostly but of undefinable meat, could be horse, goat, lamb or beef or even a cocktail but with two much fat and not enough lean meat. Pork meat is very hard to get with Morocco being a Muslim country, so my sausages go down great with all and sundry.
Another lash of wine to wash down the sausage and early to bed at the end of Day three of our journey.