Following our promise to shine a light on sustainability, we at Mushmina, mindful fashion are delighted to share the whimsical story of British-born Linsey Taylor Auad and her unexpected vision to create a naturally organic sanctuary; one that focuses on female travel and empowerment. And one that encourages people to visit enchanting Morocco.
Humor, Hammans, & Humanity
Just over the rolling green hills of the quiet oasis of Assilah, Northern Morocco, lies a wee paradise of sorts, Assilah Eco Village.
We traveled to delve into the muddy puddles of wintery Assilah and into the story of this charming responsible eco-tourism haven. We were inspired to discover why and how Linsey was encouraged to dream her bold dream. And how she has brought this incredible refuge to life.
Years ago, this fire was sparked when Linsey was drawn to the quiet, haunting slopes of Assilah. She had lived many lives already, as so many of us do. Having called Morocco her home for years with her then-Moroccan husband, Linsey had her aha moment at 50 years when she courageously beat a brain tumor. Always self-deprecating and able to poke fun at herself, she tells me that this was the moment she ‘lost a tumor, gained a humor.’ She affirmed this bravery when she stood on the rugged slopes of Northern Morocco and said to herself, ‘I am going to live here.’ And she did.
Experienced already as a long-term community developer, Linsey’s experience in planning guides her when it comes to preparing the layout and building the eco-savvy structures.
She hires local artisans, masons, and carpenters to do the manual work. She also uses the highly-vetted ‘Work Away’ website to find the skilled labor force that she needs to bring the Eco Village to life. But of course, not without humor. She tells me earnestly, ‘I have high standards. For building and for cooking. I don’t want people who can’t cook.’ Her vision clearly meshes with many, as she has workers booking months in advance. Ironically (and fabulously!), the majority (64% to 34%) of her workforce has been female. She goes on and I burst out laughing as she says firmly, ‘The adobe walls are the hand-plastered with fresh cow dung as a finish; it’s extremely efficient as a protectant. But you do have smelly hands for a couple days. Bit of a passion killer.’
When I ask Linsey curiously what the challenges are that she faces, she answers with her ever-present sense of authentic comedy and poignancy. She tells me with a hearty laugh, ‘I try not to create problems before I have problems.’ Her let-it-roll attitude is pure epiphany and fate combined.
Creating a sustainable sanctuary for travelers started from day one for Linsey, who upcycles, recycles, and uses remnants and/or repurposed materials for the structures. The building walls are carefully made with adobe; a clever mix of local sand, mud, straw and water. She also sources from the local community for her food in and around the surrounding lush green terrain for her project. As she puts it, ‘The locals here grow fruit and vegetables so well, why wouldn’t I use them?’
Linsey’s vision includes an eco-friendly hammam, a yoga/mediation room and a ‘community hub’, which will be the center of the retreat. There is even a solar shower on the property, as well as two repurposed boats that have been ingeniously and beautifully converted into one of the guesthouses. You almost have to see it to believe it.
Linsey plans to welcome visitors who have the same philosophy regarding responsible tourism, offering custom-made visits that include options from cooking Moroccan cuisine with local ingredients to hiking to wellness, particularly concentrating on women’s travel and wellbeing.
So what next? While the Eco Village is currently still under construction, Linsey is determined to have the retreat up and running for visitors in the late spring. She explains, ‘My idea is to create a rural experience in an environmentally-friendly, hassle-free space.’
From the looks of the charming, unique space that Linsey has created, serendipity is in her future.
By Tara Fraiture, Director of Social Engagement, Mushmina. www.mushmina.com