Friday, 24 June 2011

Expat Excellence with Giorgina Cattaneo

Massimo Tumiotto, Italian, and Giorgina Cattaneo, Swiss, are a married couple who have lived in Marrakech, Morocco for the last two years, where they own and manage a small Maison d’Hotes, the “Riad le Clos des Arts”. However their expat life started a long time ago ….

The Art of Dreaming

Massimo, my husband, is a logistician by profession who left his home country at the age of 22. He had travelled with his family to East Africa when he was 10, a trip that had a strong impact on his dreams and ambitions for his adult life. Therefore as soon as he was offered the opportunity to work in “Africa”, he joined an Italian construction company that was building several kinds of infrastructures in Algeria, and instead of the elephants and forests he had in mind from his youth, he instead found himself sent to the desert. What had to be a 3 months experience soon became a long-term life style ending with the logistic support given to a team participating in the Paris-Dakar rally. After 4 years in Algeria he accepted a contract for 3 years with the same construction company in Tanzania. At this point of his life he was offered the opportunity by his government to work as a consultant in managing the logistics of several children refugee camps in Angola, which at that time was in a war situation. This experience touched him a lot, as he was faced with the hard conditions of life of a population in great need of all kind of basic services, which led him to consider completely changing his work environment.

He then decided to move back to Tanzania and establish himself as an entrepreneur in the tourist business opening a small tour operator company based in Dar es Salaam. With a partner he took over a tented camp in one of the biggest and most beautiful natural reserves in the country, which he managed for 14 years. In between, he also opened the first advertising company in Tanzania, which nowadays is a broadly established publishing company, which also delivers distributions services of educational materials in the country. Over the years he also undertook short missions to various other countries such as South Africa, Burkina Faso, Oman and Ethiopia.

On my side, I’m a trained architect, with work experience in Switzerland, Argentina and Peru, where I participated in archaeological excavations. After initiating my own activity as an architect, I never gave up on my dream to work in development cooperation, an interest I developed during my architecture studies. For this reason I pursued further postgraduate studies in Switzerland and then in India, where I also volunteered for a swiss-indian Ngo. On my return home I started job hunting and was given an opportunity to work in Tanzania, coordinating first a project with an association of women micro-credit cooperatives, followed then by a larger project aimed at improving the quality of the agro-food production in Tanzania for the UN agency for industrial development.

And finally, back in 2004 in Dar es Salaam, Massimo and Giorgina’s paths crossed each other … and they started dreaming together!
When we got married, we invited our friends and relatives to contribute to our social initiatives in Tanzania, in support of the local community instead of giving us piles of presents that we could hardly enjoy.

Whilst in Tanzania we began looking for a new challenge we could achieve together. We wanted to get closer to Europe so we decided to make Morocco our new home. The idea of having a Riad was a natural decision. In Tanzania, we were used to having a big house where friends, colleagues or travellers passing by would find a seat at the large table and a bed for the night.

At “Riad le Clos des Arts,” located in the old Medina of Marrakech, we now welcome guests that want to discover a different culture, dense of history and traditions. We love our life in Morocco, and our previous experiences have helped us settle in a new environment. We had already earned a lot of knowledge of the local habits, which we are happy to share with our guests. The new work gives us a lot of satisfaction, the biggest one being the fact of harmoniously working together!

We haven’t stopped dreaming though… but that is another story!

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