One afternoon while I was walking with my wife in the Medina, chatting about this and that, I realized that she was left behind as I continued my soliloquy I became aware of the situation when a boy, politely smiling tapped with a finger my right shoulder and attracted my attention by pointing to Constantina - my wife - who had stopped about ten feet behind me, intent to peer into the entrance of a house where rennovation work was in progress.
Retracing my steps, I looked at that door noting that inside there was a throng of men each occupied with a different building activity.
It must be said that I do not love in any way building sites as they create in me a sense of anxiety and discomfort and remind me of certain scenes of war films in which after endless bombings it is instinctive to ask: will it ever be possible to reconstruct?
Constantina on the contrary, and being an architect, in the context of the "day after" is perfectly at ease, and indeed seems to say: "let's break down that wall and then we can start to have fun!"
On that occasion, as on so many others, she looked curiously at the the men working because according to her they adopted techniques quite different from those in Europe while I tried, albeit with little success, to assume an expression of intelligent interest.
We obtained permission from the site manager to visit the interior and Constantina immediately launched a series of questions so technical that the man, surprised, asked, "Êtes a collègue maçon-vous?" (For those who do not know French ... he asked if she was a mason not a freemason).
After assuring him that she was not a mason but an architect, their speech became so technical that I couldn't do more than keep the doors open while they were passing or to give the time.
Having exited the site I was instinctively impelled to question Costantina: "IWould you like to oversee a job here in Marrakech?" After 34/35 tenths of a second - which she apparently used to examine all the positive and negative aspects of proposal - she replied, "Yes, of course! That would be great "
In truth Constantina was certain that having reached the age of 56 I would be able to prove my maturity by finding a dignified way out of my insane proposal, as I had done so many times before promising her a diamond tiara or a weekend in Australia.
That time, however, Constantina's eyes were illuminated in an unusual light and I thought maybe it was eventually not that great a folly.
After this brief introduction I can now give you the recipe for the purchase of a Riad to be renovated in Marrakech:
25% of unconsciousness, 25% love for Africa, 40% confidence in your wife (which, however, must be an architect if not the percentage changes) and 10% confidence in your neighbour.
The decision was made and we had only to face the adventure.
The first problems were that the houses of the medina are not attested and then that the property would have to first be ascertained through a procedure of Islamic law - the Melkia - similar to our procedure of researching if there was any adverse possessors ...
In fact there were only a few simple incumbents:
- apply for the necessary building permits (but to whom? Where? How much?)
- find a reliable company (the difficulties are definitely higher than those encountered in Italy, with the sole difference that most of the businessmen speak only Berber and the most educated Arabic ...)
to get a quote (here the proverbial love of the Arabs for contracting is absolutely sublime levels and every effort will eventually be frustrated by the inability to quantify in advance the "extras" that include perquisites, gratuities and related absolutely unavoidable and non-quantifiable aspects)
At this point we arrive at the crucial moment when ............... you can start work!
After a year of sacrifice, commitment, and Skype telephone discussions with Adriano (our precious "correspondent on site who followed all the construction work), travelling backwards and forwards with departures at 7am from Milan (and hence the 4am from Turin ) returning from Genoa fin heavy fog, Constantine and Elizabeth began to show signs of fatigue .. but, thanks to their commitment, their professionalism and a lot of imagination: here is the achieved result: La Cigale
La Cigale is a home for friends, it is not a hotel but a starting point for all those who want to spend a few days in Marrakech, pampered and feeling really at home.
We will therefore be happy if you will be our guests for a few days, and who knows what you decide, you too, may eventually construct your own Riad.
There is no denying that it took so much effort, but I guarantee that, in the end, the satisfaction was great and helped to give an answer to a question that, by now all too often was asked: what do you two do to get along afer thirty years? Well, we and our friends John and Elizabeth can tell you that in our recipe for success this experience was definitely an important ingredient.