Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Photo of the house 04/28/08

The terrace

... and unfortunately the birdsong isn't pictured.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

A House that Breathes

I live in a house made of mud. There is straw in the walls, earth under my feet, reeds above my head.

But I’m very lucky. The house is as beautiful as the landscape in which it was born.

And my kitchen window opens in the middle of a wheat field.

I have to keep an open mind though. Strange things happen. Wheat grows on the roof. Birds make their nests under the beams. In fact, the whole house is a big nest, and the song of the birds wakes us every day, which is very nice. Earthworms, yes it happens, make holes in the soil of the bathroom. Well, it happened once, and it’s happening again, because the floor is too wet. It rained a lot this winter, and it seems that certain parts of the house just can’t get over it. I guess the Moroccan summer should definitely solve the problem of earthworms.

The house has a lot of inhabitants, besides me and Fred, I mean. Lots of insects. It was a little scary at first – although the spiders here aren’t too big don’t worry. But now when I see some strange insect that don’t exist in Europe, I just run and get my camera.

Some animals are not welcomed at all. Mice of course. They make their home in the roofs and in the walls and love the pasta we bought from the supermarket in Fez The walls are made of mud bricks, remember, and it can become a maze for the mice. We told Bachir about that and he said it was mushkil (a problem, you guessed). We asked him what to do. Get a cat of course. So we got two of them. Mice should relocate very soon, we hope.

An adobe house, it’s alive. It moves a little. It gets older and changes every day. And that’s good, because here you can’t get bored. Noticing the smallest changes, new animals, new plants. When you’ve spent your life in houses made of concrete, - like most of us – it’s an endless amazement. And when there are problems –the above mentioned mice, a leak in the roof, something that collapses a little, it’s so easy to fix. No need for any carpenter, or mason. The kids of our neighbors know how to do it. In fact, everybody here know how to build a house, because everybody does it all the time. That how life goes here. A fourteen-year-old can build his own house.

We moved here to feel more alive. I guess it’s working !

Thursday, 24 April 2008

The Story of the Olive Trees

The house is surrounded by olives trees. And we are lucky. Because, you see, there was a massacre.

It happened in the 1980s. A terrible drought took place in Morocco. The watermelons, the zucchinis, the wheat that used to grow in the fields couldn’t grow anymore. People began to flee the countryside to live in the cities. Fez, Meknes, and Casablanca, gained tens of thousands of inhabitants. Those who stayed in the country had to find a way to eat. Their fields were dry. No water, no wheat, no watermelons, no zucchinis. So they cut up their trees, to sell the wood. Their nourishing trees, their olives trees. It probably was very sad. The hills, which were covered with trees, became all empty.

But the trees continue to feed the people. From breakfast to dinner, the trees are in the plates. No great meal without the tree in it. It something I had to learn here. Eggs are not good if they aren’t covered by one inch of olive oil. The vegetables in any tajine also have to soak into olive oil. So if you plan to come and see us, you'd better like olives!

So, back to our house. A few trees were left. Survivors of the big drought. Fortunately, there are some by our house. But they are not our own. They belong to the granddaughter of some pasha. Rich people who were never hungry and didn’t have to cut their trees. As you can see, those old trees are really beautiful:

We also planted some olive trees, from old branches. Well, they grew. Now they’re two years old. And there are flowers on them. So, potentially, olives. Except that… weather has been exceptionally windy lately, and it’s not good for the olive trees. Flowers fall on the ground, and there will be fewer olives.

It’s very cute though, it looks like stars in the dirt :

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Photo of the house 04/19/08

From that point of view our house looks like a strange fortress, or a boat - with a clothes line as a sail.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

A Mudbrick House that Loved Animals

All at once the house of Ouled Mgatel was invaded by animals.

First, we spotted a strange insect in the kitchen.

Since we had built the water treatment ponds, a lot of toads -African toads, that cannot live in water - a little depressive maybe, were diving in the tanks. We fished them, and let them dry under the sun.

The little turtle had disappeared, and we were waiting for her return. Meanwhile, we had bought a big one at the market in Fez. It had a good appetite - it especially loved the fava beans of our garden - and was accompanied by a friend.

Some animals even seemed to be born just to live in our little white house.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Friday, 11 April 2008

A rainy day in Ouled Mgatel

The big gray clouds were threatening Ouled Mgatel.

And then it was pouring with rain. Don't worry, a house made of adobe doesn't melt that easily.

Soon animals found refuge under the covered terrace.

As for the dog Lisa, she didn't like this at all.

Thursday, 10 April 2008


I needed to get some books in English, and, it was exceptional, Fred didn't work that morning.
So we were en route to Ifrane, in the mountains, where apparently you could find a lot of books.
Numerous e-mails had been exchanged with a responsible of the library. Passports were left at the entrance of the university. Here, there were only Americans and rich Moroccans. It was nothing like Ouled Mgatel.

We were kind of lost. Where were we? In Switzerland...

... or somewhere in North America?

Oh, a mosque with green tiles. So it was still Morocco.

Big houses were buried in the trees.

In the library, there were young Americans studying, Moroccan girls laughing in three languages, and beautiful computers.

The carpet was very nice and soft, and there were colored Moroccan rugs on the walls.

We even saw Gandhi.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Photo of the house 04/06/08

The house and the water-treatment tanks

Friday, 4 April 2008

The eyes in the sky

We're so happy to live by those very old olive trees.

On the ground, it's not bad either at this period of the year.

OK, we've planted these ones.

But not these ones, they were born in the middle of our field of fava beans.

Sometimes beauty falls from the sky (yeah, and sometimes we put some dirty plastic gloves, without thinking that it will spoil the photo)

Thursday, 3 April 2008

It grows really fast - thanks to the Moroccan sun

There's no TV in Ouled Mgatel - well, actually, our neighbors do have televisions... and they watch it a lot. But there's something which is a thousand times better than watching tv: watching our plants grow - as for our neighbors, they've done this every day since they were born, so I understand that TV is fun to them.

We know everything by heart, and we detect the smallest change, like the arrival of this little squash:

Let's go check that the baby cucumbers are doing fine under the morning sun...

... and look how much they've grown, on the evening of the same day ! They've even been joined by a third seedling.

Wow, all this makes us a little dizzy...

Let's go see the zucchinis. There's one that already grown up, and stylish.

It looks down on the coriander, that can't wait to get some height too.