I’m sure I’m not alone when I say, I cannot believe another year has come to a close. And who’s with me when I say, what a year it’s been?! A year of incredible highs and lows, but I’m so incredibly grateful for what 2018 has taught me as we move in to 2019. So I’m reflecting on some of the highlights from the year that was 2018 that lead me to some decisions I’ve made going in to 2019.
#5 A week in Krakow, Poland
With an increase in direct flights to European cities from Marrakech, I took advantage and flew off to Krakow for a week. Typically the type of tourist who sits in a cafe and wanders through the art galleries, joins a street food tour (I do own Tasting Marrakech after all), I was beyond delighted to discover how much there was to explore. I woke up at my standard 7 a.m. each morning to smash out my emails so I could spend the day exploring the amazing restaurant scene in the Jewish quarter, unexpected art galleries (don’t miss the Museum of Contemporary Art in Kraków (MOCAK) for fab art, great bookshop and wonderful cafe, the cafe at the Bunkier Gallery and the National Museum in Krakow), wandering through independent book shops and meeting locals on private tours I arranged. Don’t miss a tour to the Nowa Huta district with Crazy Guides. A sombre visit to Auschwitz was absolutely fascinating and round out my week filled with history and contemporary food and art scene.
#4 Summer in Canada
There were tears, and lots of them, when it was time to say goodbye to summer in Canada, and hello to work in Marrakech in August. You see, when I moved to Morocco, spending summers in Canada were non-negotiable. So I built the life I love now spend about six weeks by the lake each summer. In true Canadian style, I spent two weeks cottaging in North Hatley, Quebec with my girlfriends and another weekend at a private lake in western Quebec with a visit to Ottawa in between. There were endless bottles of bubbles, chats on the dock and laughs with some of the best friends a girl could ask for.
Then it was off to “the cottage” for family time. While days spent at the beach were minimal as I geared up to launch Why Morocco podcast and also met with key individuals with the prospect of expanding my love of tourism PR in Canada, weekends were lived to the max. Food and wine tours through my county as the food scene kicks in to high gear with my parents, friends visiting from Ottawa where we wandered at the farmer’s market and BBQ’d in between eating the famous cream puff donuts from the region, and time with my sisters packed the weekends. Then in December, I registered Mandy Sinclair PR and plan to expand consulting services to Canadian and international clients.
#3 Loving life in the country I call home
The launch of the first Marrakech edition of 1:54 Contemporary Art Fair provided an opportunity to not only attend amazing art events (and drink champagne for a few days), but I left the event with several new friends who not only share my love of art,but also Morocco. The next edition takes place on 23-24 February 2019, with VIP access on 21 and 22 February.
In April, my friend Cris and I headed off to Casablanca for two days of concerts as part of Jazzablanca, one of my favourite festivals in Morocco. We danced to Beth Ditto and Tom O’Dell along with a few private shows in the VIP lounge. If you’re looking for a city break with a bit of festival vibes, plan to attend the 2019 edition. While festival organizers have not yet released the dates, the event typically takes place in April.
In May I had the pleasure of heading back to Casablanca to attend the Journées des Patrimoines, an annual event organized by Casamemoire whereby visitors are invited to step inside buildings not typically open to the public, learn more about the history of the country’s economic capital, and meet extremely passionate volunteers. I was fortunate enough to meet some of them in advance, including architect Lahbib El Moumni, for a private tour as part of the research for an article I wrote about the need for architectural heritage conservation in Casablanca for The Independent leading up to the event. Lahbib and I later caught up for a chat about brutalist architecture in Morocco for episode 007 of Why Morocco and cannot wait to hear about further developments about promoting modern architecture in Casablanca. The next edition takes place in June and organizers have announced new tours of Ain Chock and Hay Hassani.
And given my love of my Marrakech neighbourhood Gueliz, I wrote about my ‘hood for the Evening Standard and also launched a Tasting Marrakech Gueliz tour of the neighbourhood with a focus not only on street food, but contemporary art, fashion and design, street art and architecture. Because there is so much more to Marrakech than just the Marrakech medina.
#2 Meeting and reconnecting with amazing people
As I flew off to Canada for the summer, I knew I was going to be meeting up with friends from the past. You know, the types of friends you lose touch with, but pick exactly where you left off? And while so much had changed, it was like nothing had changed between us despite me living in Morocco for eight years. It made summer so much fun as old friends came to visit, new relationships blossomed and bonds deepened.
But some new people came in to my life as well. Shiraz Ksaiba is one of them. Shiraz got in touch to discuss handling the PR for Tamazirt by Amayour, the yoga retreat centre she launched in October 2018. As a yogi, I was delighted to discuss. But then when I saw the space and met the person behind it, I was blown away. Inspiring, go-getter and all-around fabulous Shiraz made working together a dream, one of those working relationships where both parties are engaged and inspired. Then when she snagged the fifth spot in the Guardian’s roundup of 20 best yoga destinations in the world (the only yoga retreat centre in Morocco to make the cut), I was beyond delighted!
It was also during the summer that I prepared for the launch of Why Morocco, a bi-weekly podcast dedicated to spotlighting the creative and inspiring people I meet while living in Marrakech. And as the host of the show, I was able to not only meet new people, like the lovely Mrs. Alaoui at the musée Yves Saint Laurent marrakech, but sit down for a chat with long-time friend Dana Elemara from Arganic, one of my favourite street artists in Morocco Hendrik Beikirch, and the always insightful architect Lahbib El Moumni.
#1 Sharing our love of Marrakech during our private Tasting Marrakech tours
After a couple of years in the making, I finally launched my Tasting Marrakech Gueliz tour, a half-day daytime tour dedicated to showing guests another side of Marrakech: Protectorate-era architecture and history, religion, contemporary art and design, and of course street food. Just a few of my favourite things.
With new tours (we also launched Hidden Marrakech, a tasting-trail-meets-historical tour) and an increase in demands for our daytime tours and nightly Tasting Marrakech Jemaa el Fna, I had the opportunity to meet some of the most interesting guests. But a growing business meant a growing team and I was delighted to welcome new members to bring a new energy and share their love of their homeland with guests who are keen to gain a more deeper understanding of the local culture. And to my delight, we snagged the seventh spot on Condé Nast Traveller’s 10 Cool Things to do in Marrakech and Tasting Marrakech was mentioned in the top tip on Wall Street Journal’s Choosy Shopper’s Guide to Marrakech.
So as we head in to 2019, I hope to meet more readers, more inspiring personalities and contribute to more interesting projects. If you’re coming to Marrakech, please get in touch, as I’d love to meet you! Or if you have any other ideas to share or discuss, send me an email. I always love hearing from readers and prospective collaborators.
Happy New Year | Bonne Année | Sana Saida