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What if your wanderlust wasn’t limited to a 10 day vacation? In our series My Life Abroad, we ask expats from around the world what it takes to resettle miles and miles away from home, plus how their new city has influenced their style.

Who we are: Rosena and Fred Charmay, founders of Boutique Souk, a private party and events company, and Farasha Farmhouse, a guesthouse with a focus on food, music, design, and art.

Where we used to live:

Fred: I spent my childhood in Burgundy, France. Then I lived in Paris, where I was educated and started my career in the hotel sector.

Rosena: I was born in Northern Ireland. My early career began in Ireland and London, working in marketing and hospitality.

Where we moved: 

Marrakech, Morocco.

How long we’ve lived in our current city: 

Fred: Twenty-four years. 

Rosena: Eighteen years. 

Why we moved: 

Fred: After traveling through India, a country I loved very much, I had a chance to visit Marrakech, where I found a similar feeling. I fell in love with the city. I was ready to start working for myself, and it seemed possible to do that here.

Rosena: I fell in love with the city when I visited back in 1999. After several years of going back and forth between Marrakech and London, I set up Boutique Souk. In 2005, I moved for a year and thankfully never had to leave! We started a business doing private travel and small events, and it evolved and grew as the city did.

The logistics we needed to line up before our move:

Rosena: It’s not very difficult to move to Morocco. Initially, you can stay here as a tourist for up to 90 days. As long as you leave and return, you can extend like this until you decide to really move. Then it’s advisable to apply for a resident’s card. 

How we got our stuff to our new home: 

Fred: When I first arrived, I built my own Riad hotel, where I lived with clothes and a few small items from France. I kept things traditional and used bespoke furnishings all sourced from local artisans. This sounds luxurious, but back in 2000, it was the only way to do things; there was no such thing as a furniture store!

Rosena: I arrived with a suitcase and later organized a truck to bring some furnishings. I lived in a hotel owned by friends, living out of my suitcase for quite some time, partly because I didn’t quite believe I would stay.

Why we decided to buy:

Rosena: Renting a private home is quite expensive in Marrakech, as you are competing with tourist short-term rentals, Airbnb, etc. We bought the farmhouse because we wanted a hospitality space without any restrictions. The investment was quite large, but it’s a long-term regeneration project, so it was important for us to own and invest.

What our house/hotel search was like: 

Fred: We know quite a lot of properties in the city through our events and private-travel work, so we had a sense of the market. We had also been looking at land for our dream project. When this olive farm came up, it was pretty much the only site we looked at seriously. We knew right away on the first visit that it was for us, and the sale went through quite quickly. We got cracking on the planting [of the garden] and then started on the building soon after.

Our advice for anyone who wants to renovate in our city: 

Fred: Everything is possible in Morocco because there is a wealth of artisans who can create anything and everything. Nothing is transactional and everything is bespoke and takes time, but you can be super-creative. It’s always important to ask for samples and photos and regularly visit the artisans, so you really need to be on the ground. (It’s not like in Europe, where you sign off on an architect’s plans and hand them to a contractor.) We were on our construction site five days a week for a year, so it’s a very big time commitment. If you do not have time on your hands, buy something that’s more turnkey.

Rosena: Marrakech is an oasis city, but the climate is still harsh and soil conditions differ a lot. Our farmhouse is built on land that had been a sea bed centuries ago and remains very salty, so we had to be resigned to some trial and error, seeing what works for us in terms of landscaping. Having a very knowledgeable local-based landscaper like Marius Boulesteix, who was our partner, is a very good investment.

Where we found design inspiration for our space: 

Rosena: For Farasha Farmhouse, we mixed our two design-style loves: modern Moroccan with laid-back Balearic. (We live between Marrakech and Ibiza, so both aesthetics have heavily influenced the farmhouse.) We worked with Ibiza-based designer Carmen Straatsma of Studio C to help us meld the two looks. Our local community and friendship group also had a large part in the design, from the carpet collection that we sourced from Beni Rugs to our art collection from Amine El Gotaibi to our own carriage juice bar from LRNCE

Fred: For years we had been collecting vintage pieces from the flea markets and restoring and reupholstering them. We mixed these with bespoke artisanal elements by Soufiane Zaytoune, who created lots of pieces for us such as tables, mirrors, sinks, and fireplaces.

The biggest challenge with moving abroad: 

Rosena: It takes time to build a nourishing friend group, especially in a transient and touristic place. Of course, there’s homesickness, but thankfully we live so close to our countries that we can often visit our friends and have them visit us. 

The biggest joy of moving abroad: 

Fred: Living in a different culture is expansive and very rewarding. The Moroccan people are as warm as the climate. Living here also makes for a lovely quality of life. 

The best piece of decorating advice we’ve learned from living in our city:

Rosena: In Morocco, importation is mostly forbidden or very heavily taxed, and online shopping barely exists, so it forces you to slow down, buy local, buy less, and live sustainably, which is good for all of us. Also, the joy of having bespoke and handmade artisanal things far outweighs store-bought items.

The thing we brought with us from home that brings us comfort:

Fred: Some books and vinyl, but mostly foodstuffs like Irish tea, French cheeses, and pâté!

The moment we felt like locals: 

Rosena: When we got married back in 2008 and moved into our first home together in the Palmeraie, we had a lot of support. It was clear that we were really setting down our roots in Marrakech.

Fred: At the farmhouse, our gardeners and farmers are all our neighbors, and our team has naturally come to us from the local community. There has been a definite sense of belonging from the beginning.