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An Irishwoman in Marrakesh: ‘Many Moroccans are obsessed by Riverdance’

Down woman set up travel company Boutique Souk, then moved to Marrakesh and, with her French husband, transformed a rundown farm

I left Northern Ireland in 1999 to complete my MBA at the Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School in Dublin and then moved to London in 2000. I fell in love with Marrakesh in 1999 when UTV invited a group of guests to Morocco on a day trip; that was my first experience and it was love at first sight.

Living in London from 2000 to 2005, I went back and forth to Marrakesh and set up a private travel and events company, Boutique Souk. I finally moved there permanently in 2005, thinking I would learn French and Arabic in a grown-up gap year, but nearly 20 years later I am still here.

Marrakesh is such a vibrant place. It has a really interesting cultural and arts scene, architecture, great nightlife and, of course, the artisans and souk shopping are world renowned. In a world where the shopping experiences are so homogenised, Marrakesh is full of interesting and unique finds in both fashion and homewares.

Of course, the year-round sunshine makes for a lovely quality of life.


There are lots of similarities between Moroccan and Irish people, which helped me immediately feel at home here. Moroccans are very family orientated and are very well known for their warmth, generosity and hospitality as we are.

Moroccans are very positive towards Irish people – many are surprisingly obsessed by Riverdance and there are a lot of similarities between our folk music and theirs. Our support for Palestinian people enduring war in Gaza has also been widely recognised locally.

I met my husband, who is French, during my early years in Marrakesh. Initially, we were work colleagues, but one thing led to another and we got married in 2008 and bought our home together, a very peaceful villa in the Palmeraie, a palm oasis just outside the city. Since then, we have planned thousands of parties for private clients and companies from all nationalities. It has been a very fun and creative experience, but it all came to a halt with the pandemic when Morocco firmly closed its borders for most of two years.

Every cloud has a silver lining, as this hiatus gave us the time and energy to pursue the dream of finding and building a farm-to-table guest house.

My husband, Fred, had a traditional riad guest house when we met and he has a background in the hotel business in Paris. We both like to eat well and I think there is nothing like having your own eggs and vegetables and salads in the kitchen. My mother is from Roscommon and we come from a farming background, so it must be in the DNA.

We found a very run-down farm with 350 olive trees on it and set about regenerating the land and building the farmhouse. The hotel launched in September, just two years after we bought it, and we have had lots of visitors from around the world already.

It has been great to have support from people from home including Belfast chef and restaurateur Niall McKenna and music producer David Holmes, who have been giving us great support on the restaurant and music side.

Our own kitchen team is headed by a very talented young Moroccan chef, Aniss Meski, who is married to a Canadian from an Irish family, Stacy O’Neill. They have the most beautiful Moroccan son with a big head of ginger hair on him like myself.

We had a big Samhain-themed party to celebrate the opening, with Celtic poetry and spells throughout and a symbolic tree-planting ceremony in Gaelic by meditation coach Chris Connors, who is also advising on our wellbeing programme.

My brother Joe works in wellbeing and teaches yoga too, and he has hosted retreats to Marrakesh from Holywood. We have a constant stream of family and friends coming out as it is so easy with the direct Ryanair flight from Dublin.

It helps alleviate the homesickness to have lots of visitors and I do come home as often as I can.

Rosena Charmoy lives in Marrakesh with her French husband, Fred. They run Farasha Farmhouse hotel.

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