How loud can a silent partner shout?
Because I yelled till my voice broke, sobbed huge fat tears and walked off set slamming the door behind me at least once.
Q. Why don’t we build our own desert camp?
Wait! What? Did I hear that right?
A. Errrrrm – because we don’t know how to. Because we don’t have the money. Because we don’t have time. Because there are already too many.
Q. Yes but apart from that?
A. Because it’s a crazy idea.
But aren’t the crazy ideas the best and now the seed was sown and the little roots started to sprout and force their way through all obstacles to provide support and little leaves of hope began to face towards the light.
Build a luxury eco desert camp – part 1
So this is why I was on Face-Time watching them building a well and realising, with a stone in my heart, that the old man with the sticks got it bloody wrong and there was no water at X marks the spot.
I don’t suppose you’ve any idea how much it costs to build a well in the desert? Nor had I. Why would I? But the price had to be doubled because we were about to try again.
At the same time we were scoping out the perfect location.
- high dunes
- right build environment
The Moroccan authorities were threatening to clamp down on all the illegally built camps in Erg Chebbi – rightly so. This is the very ethos behind Tiziri Camp – to be kind to the environment and to manage the pollution and impact in a way that respects rather than destroys this spiritual space.
We knew that we ticked every box and more, to be one of the camps left standing (if we ever got it to it’s feet), nevertheless the uncertainty of how the officials would react was a constant concern while we pushed forward with the plans.
What type of camp?
The type of camp we wanted morphed as we had our first big disagreement. I soon lost count but this was the first.
One of us wanted a luxury camp and one of us wanted a mid-range camp. One wanted hot running water and one didn’t. The only way to win an argument with me is to override me completely and then wait for me to accept that!
But what we never argued about was that this was to be a camp that truly tries its utmost to be eco friendly. I lost count of how many times I said NO! It’s plastic. NO! It’s concrete. NO! It’s imported. NO! It’s not from sustainable forests. NO NO NO! Nobody could have tried harder than Hmad to find eco solutions to every aspect of the build. It doesn’t mean we always succeeded but God knows we tried.
While so many aspects of this build divided us, the principles of the eco emphasis united us. So in unity and back on Face-Time I watched as we tried to throw the man with the bloody sticks down into the second empty well.
Morocco is not an easy country in which to get anything done. There is a completely different perspective to time and deadlines. Everything shifts constantly like the wind-blown sands. It’s enviable that EVERYTHING is handmade (beds, tables, crockery, water filtration system, everything!) but with this comes no quality control, no standardisation and definitely no on-line ordering and instant delivery. Here it takes months & months!!
On one of my recce visits, having had a very tiring meeting with the tent man who was a strong candidate for worst customer service prize 2018, and took no responsibility for having dumped the tents (in the wrong colour) at the site unannounced where they were found in a filthy wet pile a few days later, we stopped outside the home of the wood-craftsman in Erfoud. We picked him up, and with him hanging off the side of the truck, we drove him to his lock-up where he’d built our beds, chairs, tables, kitchen units and more. A silver tray of tea, biscuits and nuts awaited us as Mr Wood kindly accommodated me asking for the table to be shorter, the sideboard to be smaller, the beds to be higher, the wood to be blacker etc etc as I frantically searched Google on the intermittent wifi to find out how high a bed even should be.
Learning on the job
- How to build a waste water filtration system?
- How to calculate the number of solar panels needed?
- How to clean dirty tent fabric?
- How to stop screaming at each other?
- How to find water?
Google became our new silent partner as I was usually to be found with my volume button on high. Whilst Hmad wasn’t easy to work with and was the polar opposite of calm, he was unstoppable and that I admired enormously.
I couldn’t stomach the Face-Time session for well number three. I stayed out of it completely and I felt remote from the heartache experienced by the team on the ground when they dug from 8 to 12 and finally 14 metres before declaring “No Water!”
We moved on with the mantra “Just close your eyes and keep on going” ringing in our ears.
Build a luxury eco desert camp – part 2
Is there a woman on this planet who doesn’t adore the idea of styling the concept for her own luxury desert camp?
The idea – yes! The reality – No! With no budget, no time, no language skills and no experience I felt daunted but I understood that Tiziri was relying on me and I wasn’t ever going to let it down.
What’s in a name?
The name Tiziri came to me during a bubble-bath moment. I was running through the Berber words I knew searching for one that had the right sound and look. From the name would come the concept, so when I got to “T” for Tiziri my heart skipped a beat. I knew before my tongue had finished forming the word in my mouth, and I grabbed the phone to call and say “Our camp is called Tiziri.” At this stage I didn’t care what the response was. When you know, you know. But my heart melted with what I heard next.
Tiziri means moonlight. It is a beautiful word, in sound, sight and meaning. It was in the desert that I had first watched a moonrise over the horizon and it seemed perfect for our camp. But when I gave the name to Hmad, there was a pause. A few silent moments when you know that the air is filled with emotion and memories. I waited quietly while he cleared his throat and told me that as a child he played in a band, entertaining local families outside their homes on moonlit nights. His band was called . . . Tiziri.
I enlisted the help of Burcin Yetim whose style, ethos, work ethic and spirituality made her the perfect choice, and we discussed the concept and style. Within the confines of what is available in Morocco (almost anything) and what can survive in the hostile desert environment (almost nothing) together we produced our mood-boards. There were several, each one detailing the bedrooms, bathrooms, restaurant, lounge and external areas. I swear our hearts and souls went into those boards and they sucked hours and hours of time and research so I was more than apprehensive to show them to Hmad. I told him – stop work, go somewhere quiet, pour a drink, clear your mind and let me talk you through this.
“Well that’s going to be difficult to achieve” was all he said.
It was almost a million miles away from the response I had been hoping for. At this stage I felt almost a million miles away from ever wanting to speak to Hmad again. I was crushed and bored! To be honest I was bored of how energy sapping and impossibly difficult this joint dream had become.
But he was so resourceful and this was our saving grace as we faced a zillion hours of measuring, sourcing, shopping, transporting, planning, researching, staffing, arguing and worrying.
But then there was a tiny light at the end of the stress tunnel. Well number 4 was dug to only a depth of 7m when we hit gold. OMG water was pumping out like oil.
WATER. WATER. WATER.
Fast forward to January 2019.
A Guide To Build An ECO Desert Camp
- Find Water
- Build Camp
- Stick To Your Principles
- Build Website
- Launch Social Media
- Fill Camp With Guests
- Drink Champagne, dig toes in the sand, sit in PJ’s on top of the dunes gazing at your labour of love in the sunset and look each other in the eyes and say – with thanks to the universe – WE DID IT 🙂
Why don’t you come and see for yourselves, everybody is welcome!