Catalans Abroad

Land of kindness

Why did you leave Catalonia?

I left Catalonia 35 years ago in fact. I first went to Andorra where I lived for over 20 years and then 11 years ago I came to Essaouira. I left Catalonia after finishing my military service and went out in search of work and adventure.

Why did you choose Morocco?

Morocco is a country that I knew, as every year my wife and my son and I had travelled here with our four-wheel-drive and the city of Essaouira was special for us, the people, the weather, the fishing harbour. Little by little Andorra ceased to be what it had been and Morocco offered many possibilities as a new tourist destination that needed a lot of new facilities. I chose Essaouira, a city which was then completely unknown and yet one that offered many possibilities. We threw everything into a suitcase, sold up shop and here we are.

Are you happy with the job opportunities you found in your adoptive country?

Yes, very. It’s very easy to start a business, whatever. You need patience, because here you can not ask for things today, nor tomorrow. A few years ago we opened the Riad Zahra.

What do you think is the best thing about living in Morocco?

The proximity of the people, the kindness and human contact.

What do you see as highlights for a brief first-time visit?

I would recommend the area around Essaouira with a quick trip to Marrakesh.

And if visitors have more time or make a return visit?

With a week or 10 days I would recommend a circuit through the Draa Valley with oases and villages made of clay and straw dried in the sun in the traditional way, the desert of Erg Chebbi with the Merzouga dunes sleeping one night under the stars in ’Khaimas’ (traditional nomadic tents in the desert), and the beaches of Marrakesh and Essaouira.

Do you plan to go back to Catalonia?

You can never say what you will do, but if I can avoid it, I have no intention of returning.

Xavier Panedés is from Barcelona. He lives in Essaouira with his wife. Their company, Groupe Riad Zahra Essaouira (Morocco), is dedicated to the tourist industry.

Some suggestions

M.Àngels Ribas

Can you recommend a place to have lunch with friends?

To eat good seafood go to Zahra’s Grill Restaurant

Where would you have a special dinner for two?

A romantic dinner at La Table de Madada.

When is the best time of year to plan a visit?

The best month to visit Morocco in general is the October. It’s neither hot nor cold.

What is the best kept secret about the area?

What most people on holiday never see here is the genuine welcome that locals offer people from outside, that it is a safe country and you can go everywhere. A lot of people find that hard to believe, but it is true.

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