Karen was born in the UK and discovered the travel bug at the age of 11 when she hopped on a plane and went to Malta on her own for a holiday. At the age of eighteen she was working on a Kibbutz in Israel and then at twenty-one she was working on a cattle station in the Kimberley, Western Australia. She fell in love with horizons and wilderness. She moved to Melbourne though to satisfy her other passion, the Arts and over the years forged herself a career as both performer, with the highly acclaimed theatre group Crying in Public Places, and as a festival director for the Adelaide Fringe and Big West Festivals. It was pure fluke that she found herself on a short holiday in Morocco in 2010 with her cousin. During her week-long holiday she visited the desert and went by camel into Erg Chebbi and on waking the first morning, her future was clear; this was the place to start an artists’ retreat. She spoke with her cousin the next day and to her chamelier, Youssef, who agreed her idea was a good one. After returning to England, and many phone calls to the desert later, she came on a 10 day camp to find her place in this wilderness. She found Tissardmine. She and her business partner, Youssef Bouchedor, bought the place in May 2010 and have slowly built up the place from a ruin to a beautiful oasis within an oasis. She has never been happier.
Youssef Bouchedor. Founder and Director
Youssef is a Berber born 17kms from Tissardmine in the Tafilalet region of Morocco. His first 16 years were spent with his family living a traditional nomadic life, taking some 300 goats, sheep, camels and donkeys from sahara to sahara in search of good feeding ground. From the age of six he learned to lead the goats and sheep and then from the age of 12 he looked after the camels by both day and night, often alone. This early experience has given Youssef an incredible knowledge of the desert and the ways of the camel in particular and makes him today, if there is such a thing, a camel whisperer. In his sixteenth year, at the end of a very long drought, the family was forced to consider an alternative way of supporting themselves. As nomads, they had seen the rise in the number of strangers passing through the area and saw that there was an opportunity in making a living from tourism. There were no hotels nearby so they marked out a plot near the giant dune of Erg Chebbi and started to build a hotel which they still run today. Youssef’s 17 years experience with tourists as head chamelier (camel driver) means that today he speaks 8 languages, as well as his native tashlehiyt, he is fluent in Spanish, French, Italian, English and Arabic and has a good grasp of Japanese, Portuguese and German.