When my husband returned home after a long career abroad, we decided to take off for Morocco in a camper van! Retirement was never really an option as we felt we needed a little challenge to keep us young in body and spirit, but we had not perhaps bargained for a challenge on quite the scale our project turned out to be!
Morocco appealed to us, as we had experienced life in Arab countries in our younger days, so it was a bit like turning the clock back. We travelled the country extensively, but it was only when we finally arrived in the characterful fishing port of Essaouira, that we knew this was the place that had been calling us!
In 2009, after much searching, many disappointments, and much complicated negotiating (involving drinking several gallons of mint tea!), we bought our land on a wild rugged stretch of the Atlantic coast, forty seven kilometres north of the town. We had a 360 degree view of the ever-changing ocean and the mighty sand dunes.
We built ourselves a little wooden chalet, while a water dowser from a nearby village, located the precise spot to dig our well. After three months of painstaking chipping away by hand, we had water! Now we were ready to start seeing our dream rise up from the ground.
We have such happy memories of those early, Robinson Crusoe days. Our only access to the site was on foot or donkey along a two mile long beach, and it was then that we became aware of the joys of a full moon, and vice versa! All our building materials came along the same sand track, having been offloaded at the nearest fishing village, and finishing their journey on the back of a camel, or a quad - when it worked! We employed men from the local villages for the majority of the groundwork and building, all done by hand, and many of them are still with us today. It has been an incredible, mutual, often hilariously unbelievable learning experience!
Everything was crafted by local artisans using very traditional Moroccan techniques . . . at the traditional Moroccan speed....requiring on our part, huge amounts of tenacity, patience – and a large dollop of humour! Here, there is really no other way, but to go with the flow… which is very often just a trickle!
There is no real concept of time as we know it, but the Moroccan philosophy can be incredibly refreshing and liberating (assuming you´re not trying to build to a deadline!), and is what we, in the Western world, would pay thousands to achieve…the art of living for the moment, and just ‘being’!
It was usually great fun....though often infuriatingly frustrating! We soon came to realise that here, in our remote country location, though everything seems so difficult logistically, nothing is really impossible...though the route to that realisation sometimes seems like a never-ending maze!
Our daughter was just retiring from her career with the Royal Ballet, at around the time we embarked on the building, and so she decided to join us in our mad adventure! We therefore designed the building originally as a residential retreat for ballet, along with art based holiday courses, which would take advantage of the fabulous open-air studio which lies at the heart of our Bubble. This was perhaps an even wilder idea than than the wild waves which are the studio's view, but somehow, miraculously, it worked, and the concept evolved as we realised that lots of other nature loving people wanted to come....... and so Dar Danse became a year round destination for ALL guests wanting to simply step off the world, and rediscover a gentler pace of life!
During our time here, many orphan animals have found their way to us, and there are so many more, desperately in need of care and love. We are now , with the help of a wonderful young English Vet, in the process of setting up a charity, to be able to create a sanctuary for them here at Dar Danse. Another labour of love begins...!
...People often ask me, if knowing what I know now, if I would do it all again...and the answer is always a resounding yes! My husband is not quite so sure - he had rather pictured himself sitting under a palm tree with a glass of chilled wine watching the sun going down over the ocean....this is only now, after six years, occasionally beginning to happen!
Liz , and the Filpi family