Q Michelle, tell us a bit about yourself …..
A My name’s Michelle Hank and I’m the owner of Morocco by Mish in Glenelg North, Adelaide.
Q What is Morocco by Mish?
A Morocco by Mish is a merchant of Moroccan wares and a curator of Moroccan travel.
Q What’s your connection with Morocco?
A I fell in love with Morocco when I visited in my late twenties. I found my ‘heart home’ so I packed up my life in Japan where I had been living for six years and moved to Morocco without a second thought. A few years later I met my husband and our daughter Bahija was born in Marrakesh. Morocco was my home for nearly 20 years. We are now based in Adelaide and I travel back and forth three times a year to source new treasures, host tours and work with my charity Red Goes Faster – that provides wheelchairs for Moroccan kids.
Q How would you describe what’s special about Morocco by Mish?
A Morocco by Mish is a heart-driven story where each arm of the business is intertwined and works hand-in-hand. Giving back is an integral part of our philosophy. I’m passionate about visitors giving back to the host communities they visit and directly supporting local traditional artisans and small operators. Too often we see the bazaar owners (the middle men) benefitting on the back of the maker. On the road, we shop at the source where possible. Meeting the artisans and seeing the products being made adds extra value and meaning to the item. We get off the tourist trail and offer a choice of curated boutique small group tours, bespoke itineraries for the independent traveller and travel for a purpose which is an enriching cultural journey that includes gifting and fitting wheelchairs for Moroccan children.
Q Why did you start your Adelaide business?
A Six years ago we returned to Adelaide. While it was lovely to be home, I missed the ‘exoticness’, the medina, the call to prayer, the sense of community, the vibrancy, the flavours, the souks…… It was then I realised I wanted to share ‘my Morocco’ with others through small group travel and Moroccan style. I have made it my focus to have a foot in both countries so I can make the most of the completely different opportunities and way of life that both worlds offer.
Q What do you sell in your shop?
A Authentic, one of a kind pieces I collect on my journeys including textiles, natural fibre clothing, homewares, Amazigh (Berber) and Touareg jewellery, leather bags and ottomans, new and vintage rugs. Morocco by Mish has ‘the feel-good factor’. We offer conscious, thoughtful and kindly produced handmade products that enrich and empower the artisans. Whether it’s Fatiha who crochets our earrings with her Mum and sisters in a small village outside Marrakesh, or Najib who makes our bags deep in the souk – they are all fairly rewarded and valued for their skills, expertise and friendship. We like to share with our customers the human and background story. For example the intention of the Agdz cross pendant, the meaning behind the Berber symbolism on the carpets or why the rug has tassels only on one end. There is something special that comes with a heartfelt and handmade purchase. Moroccans call it Baraka. Baraka is an Arabic word for divine or holy blessings and good luck. When choosing a handmade rug or piece of jewellery we can all feel those that come with Baraka. Maybe it’s the rug that you can’t stop thinking about or the talisman that gives you goosebumps – this is a sign of a gift with Baraka.
Q What are your favourite things about life in Morocco?
A It’s a country that values community and connection, there is always time for family and friends. Food is always shared around a round table off one plate. Extended families live and socialise together across generations. Mint tea is a ritual, people stop, sip and share. Hammams – Once a week most Moroccans go to a public bath. It’s a place where you can relax, chat, gossip and scrub with olive oil soap. After a couple of hours of steaming, scrubbing and socialising you float out the door! Riads – The traditional home offers peace and serenity. Rooms are built around a central courtyard garden complete with a water feature, citrus trees and Zelij Moroccan tiles. Comfortable banquettes line the walls with cosy corners piled high with cushions. Brass lanterns cast intricate patterns across the rooms and the flat rooftops function as outdoor rooms to entertain and watch the sunset.
Q What is one of your favourite places to visit in Morocco?
A Sahara is my all-time favourite. I have always been fascinated by the Touareg tribes with their indigo dyed robes, turbans and nomadic lifestyle. Now with borders, the Touaregs can’t roam as free but there are still plenty of nomadic families living on the fringe in their open tents made from camel and goat hair. Getting to the Sahara you travel along the old Timbuktu camel caravan trade routes passing kasbahs, mudbrick villages, oases and date palmeries along the Draa valley. When visiting my Sahara friends, we camp out under the sea of stars and enjoy drumming and dancing around the campfire. Sunsets and sunrises over the dunes are incredible! The villages and local country markets on the edge of the Sahara are where I buy hand-embroidered leather shoes and Touareg nomad tassels and scarves.
Q What music are you listening to?
A Two of my favourite Moroccan artists – Hindi Zahra and Oum.
Q Favourite Moroccan dish?
A Definitely Tagine. With combinations like chicken, preserved lemon and olives, or lamb, prunes and almonds… it’s hard to choose!
Morocco by Mish is one of the fabulous destinations we visit on some of our OLIO Tours.