Thursday, 15 November 2012

Most Moroccan's seem to hold the desert close to their hearts. Maybe it's because life out here is life in its most profound form. You need to be strong, not only physically to endure the harsh environment, but also mentally you need to be comfortable with yourself as there are very few superficial distractions.

I'm sure that these are only but a few of many reasons why an Aussie (originally a Pomme...) named Karen Hadfield had decided to set up her own desert camp. We had heard a story that Karen had spontaneously decided to set it up after just her first (and short) trip to Morocco and it wasn't until we arrived that we realised that we were also actually amongst her first group of guests. A single foreign woman running a business on her own in one of the most rugged environments in Morocco, actually the world. This seemed to be taking spontaneity to a new level. This couldn't possibly work could it?... Or could it?

Cafe Tissardmine, is set in a small oasis out near one of Morocco's most famous landmarks, the Erg Chebbi Dune. Karen's camp is set up as an artist's retreat and guesthouse giving you the choice of accommodation of either the traditional mud brick home or  Berber style tents both of which contain comfortable beds carefully made up in clean, crisp white linen. The solar power runs a small fridge in the camp's kitchen and pumps the water from a nearby well. You will only find one tap in the showers but the hot tap is not something you need out here! There's no internet and your phone probably won't work, but who cares, this really is a place that you come to relax and be still for a little while.

Conversation with Karen is easy and she is happy to share her story and the story of Cafe Tissardmine. As it turns out, while we may be her first official guests, Karen bought the camp in a state of ruin over a year ago and has been out here rebuilding since and there's nothing like building in a remote desert area to give you a real understanding of how a country works. I now have no doubt that Karen is well aware of what she's in for out here.

But she's not doing it all on her own as I originally thought, Karen has a business partner named Youssef. Youssef is a Berber who grew up locally in a nomadic family. When we head out to take camels to the top of the Erg Chebbi dune or visit the animal markets in the nearby town of Rissani, it is Youssef who guides the way across the unmarked hot and dusty plains. Youssef has also allowed Karen to form an amazing connection with the tiny village surrounding her camp. They know her well and enjoy her presence, appreciating her newly developed understanding and passion for the environment they share.

The more I spoke Karen and spent time with her, the more I began to realise how much admiration I had for this woman, buying the camp may have been a spontaneous decision but it was done only because she had the courage to realise she'd met her soulmate- Morocco.

Karen and Youssef.
Comfort in the desert.
Sophia slouching.
Rob and the boys.

Sophia and her new mate.

Karen and Sophia are both at home in the deserts of Morocco.

Helping the Princess up the dune.
The desert view.
What we all came for!
Road rules? I guess you need a road before you can have rules.

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