A look back on 2014

It’s that time of the year.   A time for reflection on the year past:  How far I’ve come, what I’ve learned, and where to go based on the experiences I have had and the friends I’ve made along the way.

The year started out positive, I was filled with energy.  Ready to take on the world.

You see, in 2013 I contemplated leaving Morocco. *gasp*  I was in a slump, a depression.  My self-esteem had sunk and I had been let down by people I trusted.

But thankfully I returned to Marrakech.  And I reunited with and rebuilt my tribe, the people who share my outlook on life.  And I got down to business.  Literally.

2014 was the year I started my own company in Morocco, Say Something Communications and have been providing public relations, writing, social media and event support to some pretty cool clients.   I’ve been lucky enough to count the following projects as some of my favourite:

– reporting from the opening weekend of the Marrakech Biennale for Made in Marrakech and interviewing the strong woman behind the organization

– providing guest relations and logistic support to a leading events company in Marrakech on great weddings and super fun events

– contributing to shopping and riads section of the TimeOut Marrakech guide released in Autumn 2014

– meeting new artists and designers to promote and work with on business development and public/media relations.  Stay tuned for more, we’re in the early days!

– launching Tasting Marrakech which will allow me to meet even more people and share my love of Marrakech and Jemaa el Fna

But it wasn’t all business.  Nope. I was busy getting back to Mandy and rebuilding my self-esteem after all I had been through in 2013.  So it was the year I learned to take time for myself and rediscover my passions: travel, discovering up-and-coming fashion designers, heading out to festivals, enjoying cool music, spending time outdoors.

But also taking care of me because, after all, these things contribute to maintaining healthy self-esteem levels.  Weekly manicures.  Working out with a personal trainer.  Regular coffee breaks. Taking myself out for lunch.  A new dress or handbag to celebrate an accomplishment. Dressing up, just because.

While I wasn’t able to travel as much as I would’ve liked, I did take some time out.  After all, one of the most important things I learned this year was the value of spending time alone. Not only does it provide me with some time for reflection on business and personal matters, it allows me a chance to explore new interests and become more and more comfortable being by myself.

Discovering Girona Spain, summering in Canada and a weekend in London were some of the highlights.  Oh and let’s not forget about Essaouira on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast where I seemed to be every chance I got, wandering through the medina and discovering the food scene between lounging by the pool wine in hand and squeezing in festivals and events.

But it wasn’t always fun assignments an afternoons by the pool enjoying a bottle of wine. I had moments where I felt my life just wasn’t complete despite all that I had achieved and believed. Loneliness was something I discussed a great lengths with friends around the world.

Thankfully I had a dear tribe to support me.  And readers who wrote kind emails of thanks which provided encouragement throughout the year, so thank you from the bottom of my heart.

As we look to 2015, I will be focusing on a different aspect of life and will certainly keep you posted with any updates.  In the meantime, what was the highlight of your year?  How will you look back on 2014?

xo Mandy

New Year’s Eve in Marrakech

With just days to go before its time to bid 2014 farewell and ring in 2015, Marrakech will become a hot spot over New Year as the leading clubs, restaurants and hotels prepare to host party-goers from around the world.  And with several celebrations taking place around town, I’ve narrowed down my list of top places to ring in 2015.

Intimate yet elegant
Top choice: La Table du Riad

Innovative cuisine, an elegant dining room and refined entertainment make this my top pick for a low-key yet stylish New Year’s Eve celebration. For more information: Riad Living

Cost: 990.00MAD per person

Reservations: contact@riad72.com

Hip night out
Top choice: El Fenn

Head on over to El Fenn from 8 p.m. for a welcome drink before dinner in the newly renovated dining room where guests will a enjoy a three-course dinner before a DJ takes to the turntables and gets the crowd moving in to the early hours of 2015.

Cost: 1375.00MAD per person

Reservations: contact@el-fenn.com (required as this party regularly sells out)

Top choice: La Mamounia

It was one of Churchill’s favourite venues when he was in Marrakech, so we wouldn’t expect anything but the best. Each of the restaurant has prepared a special menu at 3500.00MAD per person followed by entertainment to ring in the New Year. The rich seven-course menu in the Italian restaurant sounds most appetizing.

Cost: 3500.00MAD per person

Reservations: 0524 38 86 00 

Party time!
Top choice: Bo&Zin

It’s the place to in Marrakech on weekends and on New Year’s Eve, the party atmosphere at Bo&Zin turns up with live music between DJ sets.  Fresh seafood from Oualidia and foie gras are just some of the menu options.

Cost: 2000.00MAD

Reservations: 0524 38 80 12 

Traditional Moroccan
Top choice: Dar Zellij

Start the evening off with a cocktail on the terrace while enjoying the sounds of Gnaoua music. Then head down to the dining romo for a five-course Moroccan meal as the Andalusian musicians provide the background music.  Get ready to party from 11 p.m.  as the belly dancers take to the floor at Dar Zellij and get the crowd ready to ring in 2015!

Cost: 1700.00MAD per person

Reservations: 0524 38 26 27


The 14th edition of the Marrakech International Film Festival (FIFM) kicks off

It’s that time of year.  The time when leading film stars and directors head to Marrakech for the eight-day Marrakech International Film Festival (FIFM).  It’s a time to explore subjects outside of our daily lives and watch amazing art documentaries with friends.  It’s also a great opportunity to explore the rich and diverse Moroccan cinema as local films are shown in the various categories.

This year Isabelle Huppert will preside over the jury determining the top prize from the 15 competition films while tributes to Japanese cinema, Jeremy Irons, Viggo Mortensen and Adel Imam will round out the film screening selection.

Top picks (competition, non-competition and coup de coeur)

While my diary is packed preparing for an upcoming trip to Canada for the holidays, I’ve noted the following films in hopes that I may sneak them in:

This film about the life of an older peasant women trying to support her dying husband by earning money from the sale of milk from her one cow, all the while a war if raging through her country.   My interest in peering in to the lives of others is certainly peaked.

Showtimes: Sunday 7 December at 11 a.m. at the Congress Centre’s Salle des Ministres (pass holders only) and  Monday 8 December at 6:30 p.m. at Cinema Colisee (tickets available at the box office).

Everything We Loved
The reviews of this film have me sold as does the fact that the film is set in one of the most beautiful countries on Earth, New Zealand.  Everything We Loved is writer/director Max Currie’s debut film.

Showtimes: Saturday 6 December at 3 p.m. at Congress Centre’s Salle des Ministres (pass holders only) and Sunday 7 December at 8:30 p.m. at Cinema Colisee (tickets available at the box office).

Because it’s Moroccan, and the only Moroccan film in the competition line-up, I can’t help but want to see L’Orchestre des Aveugles, a story about love, hope, and of course tradition in Morocco.

Showtimes:  Wednesday 10 December at 11 a.m. at Congress Centre’s Salle des Ministres (pass holders only) and Thursday 11 December at 7:30 p.m. at Cinema Colisee (tickets available at the box office).

I can’t wait to see A Most Violent Year, a non-competition film, about one’s man’s struggle to protect both his family and his business in the most violent and corrupt year in New York City.  The film is part of the closing ceremonies at the Palais Congres (Congress Centre) on Saturday 13 December at 6 p.m.

My top coup de coeur pick goes to The Narrow Frame of Midnight, to be screened on Monday 8 December at 5:30 p.m. at the Palais Congres (Congress Centre) and at 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday 9 December at the Cinema Colisee (tickets available at the box office). The film debuted at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival and tells the story of three intersecting lives.

Norya aryoN’s boutique inside Le Jardin was a popular shopping destination for stars including Sharon Stone in town during the film festival in 2013.  Grab a table near the staircase leading up to the boutique for best star-spotting.  Be sure to do a bit of shopping as well – her stuff is amazing and I rarely leave empty-handed.

La Mamounia is always popular with the stars and a great place to have a glamourous drink while trying to catch a glimpse of the famous!

With the new Starbucks in central Gueliz, and the only Starbucks in town, this may be a familiar place for stars to grab a coffee between films and parties.

Competition films will premier at the Palais de Congres (Congress Centre) on Mohamed VI Avenue in Hivernage and are for festival pass holders only.

For access to competition, non-competition and coup de coeur films, head on over to Cinema Colisee just off Mohamed V Avenue to catch a show.  Tickets can be purchased at the door.

Films will screened in Jemaa el Fna including the Bollywood film Happy New Year at 7 p.m. on Saturday 6 December and is sure to be a hit with the locals who tend to love Bollywood cinema.  Other films include Far From Men will be screened as part of the hommage to Viggo Mortensen who will attend the screening in the popular square and Die Hard: 3 in the presence of Jeremy Irons.