Africa – huge, wild, optimistic, beautiful and home. Deep down, Africa has always felt like home. My whole childhood was in sub-Saharan Africa along with my earliest memories and the nightmares which still haunt me.
Eating caterpillars fried on leaves, pulling tails off lizards, learning to swim in a lake which might have crocodiles in it . . . Freedom. As a child, that’s what I experienced, freedom, space, endless sunshine, tropical storms and dirt everywhere. The smell of a storm on a hot summer’s night still makes me want to rush outside with every container I can find, to catch the rain – the precious water falling from heaven at last.
The gentle nuns who eased me into a uniformed and timetabled life, the nanny who looked after me like a mother and friends of every colour imaginable at the melting pot school all had a big impact on me. I used to play schools with the shy boys who worked in our house and garden. Bossily teaching whatever I had learned at school that day, curious and confused that they didn’t know their own age. I still smile whenever an African tells me they don’t know exactly how old they are, only now I’ve realised it’s not in the slightest bit important anyway.
The day I was told that we were leaving – leaving my home and everything I had ever known – I knew it wasn’t forever. Leaving Africa was the first, though not the last time my heart broke and to this day I miss it. The big skies, the smells, the colour and more than anything else, the attitude of the people. Deep down I always relied on the comforting feeling that I would return. But time goes by and life flies past and it was many years before I did. Nothing could have prepared me for the 20ft wave of emotion that hit me the second I stepped off the plane. I could smell it you see, Africa, no matter it was a different country, it smelt the same, the people looked and sounded the same, the sky and the soil were the same colour. Once I managed to stop the tears rolling down my face I realised how big my heart felt, how my feet felt rooted to the ground. I felt like I had come home.
I returned many times, spending more time with local people, new friends and moving further away from mainstream tourism before I took my first trip to Morocco. I knew nothing about Morocco and had never really considered it as Africa – But oh how African it really is. I researched it fully and planned a “see it all” itinerary, never knowing it was to be a turning point in my life. Within a day of being there, I had begun to fall in love. By the end of the trip, Morocco had started to heal me and guide me and fill me with more hope than I remember feeling in a long, long time.
It’s just so ancient, biblical even, yet more forward focussed than many European countries. The religion runs through it like a pulse. It’s impossible to imagine Morocco without Islam – they are one! If you’re looking for something to love about Morocco you will be spoiled for choice, but for me there is no contest. It isn’t the vibrant colours, the warm and welcoming people with their big sense of humour, or the fresh, aromatic food. It isn’t the incredible architecture or the living history lesson. It isn’t the snail slow pace of life and the “opt out” attitude towards time. For me, it’s the landscape. Driving through the mountains that first time – completely filled my spirit. The power and the solitude of the mountains got under my skin, quite literally. It’s still there now, under my skin, inside me. I absorbed the warmth of the colour of the sun on rock and each time I go, I soak up some more like a life force. So when a stranger asked me if I would like to live in the mountains, I didn’t hesitate, given the opportunity I would live and die there.
From tiny seeds, great baobabs and date palms grow…
With a background in Project Management and Corporate Event Coordination, as well as a passion for travelling in Africa, I began arranging safari holidays in Kenya in 2011. Using local guides and independently owned homestays, I created value for money packages that provided a refreshing alternative. When I moved into Moroccan tourism I applied the same principles of building partnerships with suppliers who shared my vision, experts in their field.
From these roots, So Morocco has developed as a boutique business, offering high-end service and creative ideas, because I believe that how you see the world, matters.