Peter Mercer | Owner, Riad Dar Zaman
‘Go around the corner, you know the main road?’
‘Follow that until it curves around and look to your left. There is a small hole in the wall place, one guy cooking two types of dishes and that’s all. Try that’.
I followed Peter’s advice and besides lamb on my shirt and staining yet another piece of fabric, the lunch was the best food I’d eaten in Morocco thus far. Peter was right.
The Pixel Trade with Peter was a saving grace. I had stayed in his guesthouse with my previous trade and when I couldn’t get in contact with my next long trade for Morocco, he stretched out the invitation to shoot his tranquil, unique and homely guesthouse called Riad Dar Zaman. If you ever get to Marrakech I recommend his place for a thousand reasons and it’s perfectly placed in the old part of the city.
Interview with Peter
Describe your most memorable adventure as a child.
I grew up on a dairy farm in South East England. Every day after school, weekends and school holidays were full of the best kids adventure anyone could wish for. With my brothers and cousins, we built camps in the hay barns, in trees, scoured fields and woods for signs of animals and birds as a kind of nature watch, and in summer, searched hedgerows for caterpillars to take home and rear until they hatched into moths or butterflies. Part of the farm was on a low lying marshland and during the winter months some of the fields would flood, and then freeze over, creating massive skating rinks. One winter there was so much snow that we built igloos. Looking back it was truly a sensational childhood adventure.
How did the whole process of creating a guesthouse in Morocco happen?
I went to Marrakech on holiday to visit a friend who was renovating a riad and was instantly smitten by the architectural style and the rich medieval charm of the Marrakech medina. I bought my riad that same week. My intention was to renovate it, sell it and move to Brazil, but by the time the renovation was complete, I was completely under the spell of the medina. Instead of selling, I moved in and in order to make a living, starting renting rooms. Later I applied for a guest house license and Dar Zaman was born.
What is the hardest part about owning a guesthouse in Marrakech?
The hardest part about owning a riad is finding good staff. I've been incredibly fortunate in finding Hassan, my guest manager, who in turn found Karima, our housekeeper. Together, they make a fantastic team.
If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?
If I were to do it all again, I wouldn't change a thing.
Is there a place that is particularly special in Morocco?
My favourite place to escape to from Marrakech is Essaouira, a medieval fishing town and port on the Atlantic coast. It's calm and enchanting, with a magical medina and gorgeous sandy beach that literally stretches on for ever.
What is your biggest goal in life at the moment?
My biggest goal in life is to appreciate what I already have. It's easy to keep looking ahead for the next best thing; I really try to stop still and appreciate my family, friends and the life I've created.
What was one of the most dangerous situations you’ve been in?
A few years ago I was held at knifepoint by a young man in Rio de Janeiro who told me he would kill me. He seemed to mean it. I saw my life pass in front of me. I escaped the situation by jumping out of a first floor window to the street below... and was then robbed by the police who I called to come and help me.
If there was one thing you could teach the kids in Morocco, what would it be?
The kids in Morocco lack a lot of things, but they've taught me patience and to appreciate what I have. If it were possible I'd teach them to be free thinkers.
Describe your most memorable adventure as an adult.
My most memorable adult adventure is the current one I'm living in Morocco.
If you had to recommend a favourite music album, what would it be?
I like a lot of music, but I never tire of listening to Bebel Gilberto, Tanto Tempo.