Travel | Diary of a Somebody

Anouska Hempel

The start of a big hotel project in Morocco is interrupted by a swan’s egg

Anouska Hempel

February 08 2011
Anouska Hempel

Day: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

I flew late last night into Casablanca, one of the world’s most romantic cities – and immediately drove through the eucalyptus trees into Rabat, Morocco’s capital city and home to the royal family. I’ve visited Morocco on countless occasions before – for both holidays and inspiration. This time I was amazed to see that Rabat was most civilised; calm and beautiful with enormous palm trees everywhere. It has a real sense of a city becoming a very important hub of industry and a bustling business destination.

First thing this morning, I get a phone call from the housekeeper at our country house in England to say that our swan has just laid an egg on one of the lower steps of our moat. Surprise, surprise! By remote control, I instigate and orchestrate for the height of the moat to be lowered by two steps (which means that the dry stone waller has to come in later on in the day to sort out the crumbling walls). Difficult getting dressed to go to an important meeting and trying to find your iPad and phone while worrying about a swan’s egg! Seems my life is continually on the run.

My visit to Rabat on this occasion is very special. I have just been commissioned to design a new flagship luxury hotel, which will open in 2013 as a Baccarat hotel. It will be the world’s first Baccarat hotel – and an incredible chance to create something truly beautiful. Today was our project “kick-off”, and my first opportunity to view the site where the hotel will be built, and meet the rest of the team who I will be working with over the next two years – the local architect, developer, project manager. First impressions have been very positive; however, I’m sure that lots of fiery exchanges will come. An incredible site – wonderful people to work with, and the possibility of becoming the landscape designer as well; huge excitement about the opportunity that awaits. How to go about it?

On the way to dinner, I look up and see two storks happily nesting on top of a lamppost in the middle of town (it seems to be bird day!). Imagine: a huge 1.5m bird’s nest cheerfully perched on top of a lamppost. As I’m watching and the sun is going down in a red rosy sky, the lamppost light comes on and I think, “Well, they’ve got it right” – on a chilly night, they have the heat from the lamp to incubate the egg if they choose to take off somewhere for the evening. Marvellous funny sight that I was fortunate enough to catch – and of course, I thought of our old swan in the country.

Talk to you tomorrow, diary.

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