I’ve been home in Tampa for a few days now, but the past few weeks I’ve done a bit of traveling – in London and in Marrakech, Morocco.
Not that I missed much – the market climbed all last month and only now seems to be taking a breather.
The biggest insight of the trip was this: high end real estate in London finally seems to be faltering, as is Singapore, Shanghai, New York and Miami.
But some of the most enjoyable moments were meetings with: Russell Napier, one of my favorite economic analysts; James Cosmo, one of my favorite actors for the “macho” roles he plays; and my favorite cycles guy and close friend, Andy Pancholi and his wife Karen.
I went to Marrakech first to catch the last of its good weather…
Marrakech is a city of contrasts: Arab/Muslim, but very liberal/tolerant with a number of French influences.
The old city and Medina stand in stark contrast to the very modern and quite affluent suburbs in the new city. It’s a near-desert climate, with the Atlas Mountains that supply it with ample water just an hour away, the Atlantic coast two hours, and the Saharan Desert just three.
I had a great guide there given that few people speak English – mostly just Arabic and French. If you ever go there look him up at: firstname.lastname@example.org. (He was also very intelligent and fun to talk to about global and cultural issues. He invited us to his house for a real Moroccan dinner and took us to a traditional Hammam spa where you get scrubbed to death to exfoliate your skin and doused with unbelievable amounts of water. That was my wife’s highlight of the trip.)
There is endless haggling which gets annoying as you never know if you really got a good deal… until you hold out and walk out of the store and they chase you down the street. In the new city and suburbs they have fixed/fair pricing. Haggling there is less common.
I liked the smaller, more quaint hotels there like the funky, artistic El Fenn and the elegant Les Jardins de la Koutoubia, both close to the Medina, and our hotel Les Jardins de la Medina (a bit farther out with great gardens… and quiet!).
I didn’t favor the classic La Mamounia as much. It was too old-fashioned even with a major renovation, and its buffet brunch cost $130 a head.
And though I’m an Aman Resort junkie, I didn’t care for the Amanjena, as it was something like 160 rooms instead of the more typical (and quaint) 40-room ones you can find in other parts of the world. There is a classic Four Seasons in a good location, and a new very elegant and expensive Mandarin Oriental that would be worth considering on the larger and very high end.
The highlight for me was a day trip into the Atlas Mountains (up to 13,000 feet) – a scenic and ancient area where the primitive Berber villages reside.
We also had lunch at Sir Richard Branson’s killer boutique hotel, the Kasbah Tamadot, which was both rustic and extremely elegant. We spent two and a half hours there and were treated like guests and allowed to sit at the pool.
The biggest surprise was they had a great gift store with high-quality items at very reasonable prices. My wife bought half the store.
Then it was off to London. My wife has a longtime friend there, and we are both friends with Andy and Karen Pancholi.
I met with Graham Rowan, a leading wealth creation coach in the UK, at a Dan Kennedy seminar I was invited to. Dan Kennedy is a guru in direct-response marketing, who I speak for and promote in my book. He has a great audience of high-growth entrepreneurial businesses.
Graham has founded the Elite Investor Club with offices in London, Beijing and Singapore, and has a global network – similar to the one we have with Dent Research. He said he had to get me out to his conference in London in early November, and seemed to have the right type of innovative high-net-worth audience for my contrary forecasts.
He had me do six interviews with freelance journalists there and then the one-day seminar with his network members. It was a dynamic and receptive audience given my bearish forecasts. I talked with people from Hungary, Sweden, Russia, Singapore, China, India and more.
According to many of these journalists and Graham Rowan, high-end real estate is clearly stalling and starting to fall as Russians and Middle East buyers are getting hurt in their own economies and currencies. These two groups dominate downtown London now. (Our hotel, Adria Boutique, was Arab-owned and very nice and well located for a small inn.)
The Chinese are the last who are still buying – and as I forecast, that won’t last much longer. But they aren’t as dominant in London or the East coast of the U.S. as they are in Canada, California, Singapore and Australia.
Back at a Tony Robbins Platinum meeting years ago, I heard Russell Napier emphasize how much the commodity collapse cycle was impacting the foreign exchange reserves and currencies of emerging countries. I’d been saying the same thing and credited him on pages 189 – 191 of my book.
Ever since I have focused even more on the vicious cycle of China slowing… commodities collapsing… then emerging countries underperforming – the stealth crisis that most aren’t seeing.
Then I spent a day with Andy Pancholi and his wife Karen, who are among the best of our friends. They have a new six-month-old son. He doesn’t look a day under one year old – mature for his age!
They took us to lunch at Great Fosters, an ancient hunting lodge of Henry the 8th.
After lunch, Andy said he had an actor friend coming over. It took me 20 minutes to get who he was talking about, as he had shaved his beard that makes him so notable: the actor James Cosmo, known for his killer Scottish warrior and general roles in movies ranging from Braveheart to Troy (a personal favorite) and more recently the superb HBO series Game of Thrones. He’s presently shooting a remake of Ben Hur, due out in spring.
For a man who plays such bold characters, he was both modest and fully entertaining.
What a treat to end my two-week trip.
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