firstweekinmarrakech

Update: Our Move to Marrakech

In Expat, Morocco by Amanda Mouttaki30 Comments

It has been so great to have many blogging friends offer guest posts for me during the last 10+ days (and there’s more coming this week!) It has given me time to spend settling into our new home, unpacking, and buying things to set up our new home. MarocBaba and I joked with his sisters that it was like we were getting married again..but 10 years later! While we had a wedding party, we never set up a home here so the traditional process of buying things for a new home never happened. It hasn’t quite been a a week yet and so I’m hesitant to offer too many reflections because I think they may be a bit tainted. So many people said they wanted to know everything I would share about our experience and it’s important to me that I try to provide the most honest glimpse into everything.

firstweekinmarrakech

1) I don’t think we realized the extent to which things would need to be purchased when we got here. I would have budgeted a lot more in this department if I would have known. Homes and apartments in Morocco are largely unfurnished. I think that here and in the US that has two different meanings. Here unfurnished means there are not even cupboards, no appliances, nothing.  It’s essentially walls and a ceiling. My in-laws had a bed and matress for MarocBaba and me and for the boys. We’ve had to purchase everything to set up a living room, kitchen, and most importantly fans.  Cooling devices are a must in Marrakech. We have several totes of household goods coming.  We thought they would be here mid-September but it looks like we’ll be lucky to get them in October. I’ve tried to be judicious with what I’ve been buying, knowing that I have my things coming soon but have had to buy a lot.

2) In most large cities public transportation is readily available and accessible.  Where we live we’ve realized we need to have a car.  We had hoped to put off this purchase until the kids got to school, but it’s going to need to be sooner rather than later. It’s not really possible to buy a used car here on credit – cash only, and finding automatics is like finding the holy grail.  I can drive a manual however MarocBaba can’t.  Judging by the traffic here, we both would prefer to have an automatic. A car will also make traveling around Morocco and to Europe easier.

3) 10 years ago Morocco was a cheap destination.  Today not the case. I haven’t been able to really figure out yet how much it will cost us week to week here, because of all the big purchases that have needed to happen. Food remains relatively inexpensive. For example 1 kg of tomatoes here is about $0.75 – in the US I would be paying close to $6 for the equivalent. We bought several bags of fruit and vegetables for under $10, or about 1/6 the price we pay in the US.

4) A lot of people have asked me how it is and expressed how lucky we are to be living here.  I have thought about this almost every day since arriving. Truth be told we’ve found Marrakech not to be the glistening gem many people imagine or we’ve experienced in the past. There are a lot more people (than even 2 years ago), more garbage, more cars, more of everything.  (note: I also may be just a tiny bit disgruntled by the oppressive heat.)The real Marrakech is not what you see a’la Sex in the City.  There are many resorts and tourist spots that ARE that vision of Marrakech. Living here is not like living that life. Well maybe there are some people that live that way but unless you’re wealthy you’re not going to.

5) It’s boring.  Let me just put this out here. We’ve been here a week, and at home I’m very used to working, school with the kids, family events, going places, etc. From what I’ve seen so far my sister in laws lives are in the house.  They clean multiple times a day, top to bottom.  They cook big meals, they nap. Sometimes they go out. I don’t think this is due to any cultural taboo of being required to stay home, it’s just how their lives are. I don’t see myself ever doing that or being content in that kind of life. Just like I wouldn’t be happy working 60 hours a week and never seeing my kids. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just different.

6) I need to speak Arabic – like yesterday.

7) Kids are amazing. I was worried my kids would stick to themselves and be overwhelmed by the language issue. No way! They were playing from the second we got here. They already have mastered going to the hanut (corner shop) to got simple things. They are willing to try saying things even if they aren’t sure what they are saying.  They find a way to play even when they can’t share a conversation. Most of all they find a way to have fun even when everything around them is different.

Amanda MouttakiUpdate: Our Move to Marrakech

Comments

  1. ALC

    Great blog Amanda, thanks very much. I’m currently considering a move to Marrakech so it’s a very interesting read. Although I’d hope to run a small business there, the ‘boredom’ bit worries me – especially when the move would be with my husband and 2 young children (the responsibility weighs heavy!). Having been there a while longer now, do you still feel the same? Thanks again for providing such great insights into Marrakech life.

    1. Author
      Amanda Mouttaki

      Hi – I should write another update post soon. I wish I could say I was bored now! Making friends, working, and preparing for visitors in the coming months has left me much busier! Watch for a full update in the next few weeks!

  2. CC

    Thank you for honestly sharing your experiences with us. I am a Canadian married to a Moroccan man and we have discussed moving to Morocco in the future. I have learned so much from you as well as the other commenters. Look forward to your next posts about your life in Morocco!

  3. Lynn Sheppard

    Congrats on the big move! If you need a bit of an escape, come say hi in Essaouira!! I don’t regret making the move to Morocco, but I am glad I don’t live in Marrakech (although I like to visit from time to time). You’ll get used to it – good luck!

  4. emma watt

    Amanda I have never met you but \i was worrying for you all day! \if you ever need to chat let me know! Or if you are ever going to Essaouria let me know and I’ll let you know my favourite places there. I hope my comments were not too negative – I didn’t want them to come across like that, I just wanted you to know I completely understand! xx

    1. Author
      Amanda Mouttaki

      Thanks so much Emma. My husband and I love Essaouria and are hoping to “get away” soon. Don’t worry – you didn’t come off too negative – I know how hard it is!

  5. Stacy

    I second Rachel’s comments regarding language classes and finding some way to get involved. With every move, I have made a point to seek out the expatriate organizations because, as much as you want to assimilate into the local culture, you will still need friends with whom you can chat in your native tongue and commiserate with on the bad, lonely, feeling lost and put upon days, and rejoice with when milestones are reached and/or you find some item from home everyone has been missing in a local shop. In my experience, all of them have community service sections that will help you feel you are doing something worthwhile, even if you can’t work because of the language issue or other limitations. (Mine was generally the wrong type of visa as the accompanying spouse.) The expat network has been my strongest, most supportive resource these last 26 years. Reach out and connect with them. I look forward to reading your future posts!

  6. emma watt

    Gosh Amanda I am feeling for you right now honey. My husband is from Essaouria and we went back for six weeks in february of this year so that his in-laws could meet our baby daughter, Ameenah and so malika, our eldest could go to school and learn Arabic. By week two I was ready to come home and I love travelling! I lived in china for two years and a huge difference there is that women ‘hold up half the sky.’
    As you know that is not the case in Morocco and it is very hard to adjust to living there as a female because you’ll never be accepted there as a local or be accepted into the ex-pat community because you have a Moroccan family.
    Our eldest Malika loved Morocco for the first couple of weeks but was really keen to come home after; the education system is so underfunded because of corruption and focusses on rote learning. I often stayed with Malika at the school and saw how strict the teachers were, often smacking the kids if they weren’t listening.
    I set up a small book charity called the golden camel, which raises money to take books to Morocco – resouces are so scarce.
    I really concentrated on learning darjia when I was there which was great but yes I was so glad to get home.
    Your comment about the sister in laws really struck a chord….as you know they will be your main female friend in Morocco but it is really hard when their life is soooooo different. Fatimah, my sister in law is the same….mops the house constantly….naps all the time.
    Amanda I really am feeling for you as I have experienced all you have been through. I could never live there permanently.
    If you’re ever in Scotland come for a visit. I’m sure we’d have a lot to talk about! Xxxx

    1. Author
      Amanda Mouttaki

      Thanks so much for the comment and solidarity Emma! It’s a strange position to be in for sure. We’ve found a small private school not too far from our home that we think will be a good fit for our boys, offering them the chance to learn Arabic and French in a smaller setting. We were pointed to public schools but there’s no way I would do that. Right now I’m upstairs working and I think this concept is still a bit strange for my in-laws. They don’t really understand what I do. I don’t think they really get much about me but I’m hoping in time we’ll find a balance.

  7. Rachel

    I can empathize with so much of this, as someone who lived in Morocco for two years when my husband and I first got married. I was there to do research but there was a lot of downtime, way more than in the US, and I also was often bored and experiencing #5 – like there was no way I was interested in just cleaning, cooking, and sitting around all day. My recommendation would be to sign up for a Moroccan Arabic class at a local language institute (I know Marrakech has them, because I did that in Fes- the American Language Centers offer both Arabic and English courses), and start making friends– even if they end up being other foreigners, at least you’ll have people to compare the experiences of being foreign in Morocco. See if there are organizations locally you could get involved with who do something that you’re interested in as well – yoga? nonprofits? cooking? This will be a lot harder with Moroccan NGOs than with expat ones, but there should be a mix of both… and that’s amazing news about your kids – they will be speaking Arabic in no time…

    And the furnishing of apartment thing made me laugh, too, because I remember that so well – not even having a stove or toilet. We bought a washing machine back in 2001 that my mother-in-law still uses several times a week; I was really impressed by how little water the machines used (unlike our big wasteful American ones).

    1. Author
      Amanda Mouttaki

      Rachel – I knew you could provide some insight here! I just talked to a local friend today about Darija classes so I’m hopeful that will happen once my kids are in school. Surprisingly it seems hard to come by in Marrakech. I really should spend some time finding some outlet to keep me busy. I am hopeful that in the next few weeks I’ll begin to be more comfortable on my own and can go and do things without needing a “keeper”.

      Furnishing the apartment…whew I should write a whole post just on this!

  8. Cherie

    Thank you for the honest, yet optimistic view. Moving to Morocco is a longterm dream for me, but my husband often reminds me that living there is not going to be the same as vacationing there. Having nothing to do on vacation seems like a luxury, but having nothing to do day after day ends up becoming boring. Even on our vacations there, by the third week, I start to miss my independence. I once mentioned that I was going to walk to the bakery in the morning to pick up some croissants, and you’d have thought I’d announced that I was going to sprout wings and fly there. My in laws nearly had a heart attack and quickly informed me that it was absolutely not safe for me to leave the house (during daylight hours) and walk 2 blocks by myself to the bakery. I can imagine it will take a lot of adjusting….but hopefully in the long term this will be the best decision you ever made, inshallah.

    1. Author
      Amanda Mouttaki

      Thanks for commenting Cherie! I will echo your husband and say living here is not at all like visiting here. I think the biggest difference is money. You can’t just go blow it in one night! I’ve had to be much more conscious of what we’re doing and buying – just like at “home” lol! I haven’t ventured out alone yet, but my kids will go to the hanut to get small things they know the words for. I think slowly this will disappear, I just need to make sure I can handle myself when it does. I would say if you truly do want to move here you really need to consider the why. Maybe consider a “long” visit like 3-6 months? InshAllah it will be a good decision for us – I’m waiting patiently to see.

  9. Naomi

    Really appreciate your candor as I just read an article in the WSJ on a celebrity’s home in Marrakech. Much different picture. Loved your comment on learning Arabic, made me laugh out loud.

  10. Helene D'souza

    Hi Amanda! I hope you ll be getting all your things from the US soon. It sounds like as if Marrakesh was like India. Women here get up early to prepare big meals for the big family and they clean if they don’t have a maid and of course the afternoon nap is a tradition. We pay about the same for the tomatoes etc. Do you get organic veggies there because that has nearly disappeared here. It must be a touristic place from what I hear so the speed the region is developing is very much visible. Hope you get your AC soon. =)

    1. Author
      Amanda Mouttaki

      Hi Helene — there’s not much labeling as far as what’s organic and what’s not. My inclination is that in the city most of the food comes from bigger farms and so I don’t really trust that it’s not sprayed with pesticides. I do know there are organic chickens – from the country and so I prefer those. I’m exploring more food options to get a feel for what things really are.

  11. Gail Rao

    Congrats on your move.I am married to Indian man. Moving in the next months from Canada to Mumbai, India. Different country, same sort of experience tho. Amanda kind enough to allow me to post and read here. Give it some months. In time you will adjust, find your niche and interests. Learn the language and feel at home. You will come to return back where you came from for a visit and it won’t feel like home.
    I will soon be in your shoes there and setting up house and adjusting. I am a bit luckier in that India is a lot of english speaking. I have visited Mumbai in the past and hopefully that helps. The countries we come from may have more luxuries. However it is a rush pressure life style. I am a freelance accountant/bookkeeper so it will help to be working still. I see you linked to my new site India Elite Treasures.Our fun business..treasure hunting and selling.There are things you can become involved into.However I think you will come to appreciate the luxury of time.

    1. Author
      Amanda Mouttaki

      Thanks for commenting! I think that in time and especially when everything is in place I will be able to relax and settle in more. I had visited Morocco many times before moving here, but visiting is much different than living here. Some days I wake up and think, “oh darn we have to do xyz because we’ll be leaving soon.” Then I remember nope we’re here to stay! I am thankful that I work remotely – it gives me something to do and fill my days, especially when my kids are back in school.

  12. Julie

    I’ve been following your posts with interest. My husband is Moroccan, I’m Australian and we live in London. We often speculate about moving to Morocco as buying a house in London seems to be getting more and more out of our reach. Realistically I think if we did we would move to the north where there seems to be more European influence and some UK expats. As much as I LOVE Marrakesh it’s like any other big touristed city, it has a public face and a private reality. You are so brave and I will be watching with the hope that things fall in place for you and your family. p.s I think number 5 will always take time, one of the most profound traits amongst Moroccans is their hospitality.

    1. Author
      Amanda Mouttaki

      Hi Julie — I do know Marrakech has a decent size expat population and in Casablanca you’ll find tons. I am curious to go north and visit some places, just to get a feel for how different it is. I have been coming here for almost 10 years now and this year I really feel like there are fewer “outsiders”, this might be because I’m spending more time in residential areas but it really feels this way. I am hopeful that I will find something fulfilling to keep me busy in the next few weeks and especially once my kids are in school all day. You’re right Moroccans are very hospitable!

  13. JamieSyed

    Love the update! Really insightful and enlightening. With the SIL’s…you just described my London housewife life.

    Keep ‘em coming!

  14. Fiona Carroll

    Love and appreciate your honesty. I attempt this discussion occasionally but seem to get nowhere , so a big thankyou from this western woman.
    I set up house a few years ago in Marrakech as I spend quite a lot of time there. I’m a bi-urban Sydneysider/Marrakechi I guess?
    The contrast between imagined Marrakech and the reality of life as a resident or for locals is night and day isn’t it? Life for a women is just , well, just extremely different. On so many levels.
    It’s a confronting city with majestic traffic snarls, oppressive heat and bone crunching cold. Where language and cultural barriers abound, but ohhhhhh, it gets under your skin Marocmama. You won’t be sorry.
    So keep up the good work lady! I love it. Every day’s a new adventure. Good or bad. :)
    Bonne journee!
    It’s a glam AND gritty, Islamic city!

    1. Author
      Amanda Mouttaki

      The contrast is extremely different. It’s really hard to come to terms with! Hope you’ll give me a ring next time you’re around!

  15. Pat

    Just back after spending a month in Morocco (some time in Marrakech as well) and I TOTALLY agree
    with #4 and #5 on your list. Good luck with the settling in!!

  16. Maribel Reyes

    I enjoyed reading this so much, yes people think moving to a different country is glamorous and wish it was them. I think it is challenging specially when you come from the U.S. most of all due to all the comforts we have in the U.S. we are truly pampered and don’t realize it.

  17. Naomi

    Your # 6 on the list really struck me. While we Americans often think English is the universal language, it seems to me being able to speak the language where one lives is really helpful. Good job you on all of the things you are learning.
    Really enjoyed your post.

    1. Lori Zouiten

      While English might the universal language in business, it is not so in everyday life. :-) Arabic is a must… but Amanda, will learn it quickly because sheare now immersed in it!

      I look forward to seeing many interesting posts! :-) Now I can officially call her a Maroc Mama!

      -Lori

      1. Author
        Amanda Mouttaki

        I’ve found English to be completely useless here. I have however in the past week used French, Spanish, and German haha

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