Hammam having been ticked off our list, we wended our way to Djemma El Fna one last time. On our way, a man tried to persuade us into another hammam thus, “Would you like to try a..? oh, you’ve already had one…” That was after he saw our hair..
But we didn’t care. We were relaxed. Hammam relaxed.
One last leisurely lunch in a terraced cafe overlooking the square.
Knowing that no matter how many times you come back to this place, it will never, ever feel like this.
Then a last drinking in of the beauty and the unique feel of the place.
I was absolutely adamant that there was no way I was getting a henna tattoo. No Sir. It would run anyway, because mine always smudged after five minutes so I looked like I’d rubbed a body part in tar by accident. So No Way.
However, spotting two ladies who were tattooing a smiling Moroccan woman, my friends paused. The tattooists were a mother and daughter, and a grandmother. We chatted to the lady who was having the tattoo and her husband, whilst watching the whole mesmerising process. Artful and precise and quick as a flash. Then my friends looked at the patterns. Then they agreed patterns. Then they sat down. I stood, smiling, but aloof. I thought. But they did look nice, these tattoos…and these ladies seemed very nice…and one of my friends had gold bits in hers…but I wasn’t having one. The older lady beckoned me forward to sit down to rest my weary little legs. Which I did. No harm in that. And I did look through the pattern book. But only out of politeness.
Suddenly, my left leg is in the air and I’m having the biggest, longest, most beautifullest, black henna tattoo of all, from my ankle bone to the top of my calf. I must have indicated a pattern in the book – like you see at those auctions – a slight twitch in a certain direction – and WHAM here I am..
I remember talking and everyone laughing. I wasn’t being funny but that happens a lot.
I still say I had the tattoo by accident.
And it cost the most.
So, hammamed and tattooed, we bought some cream cakes to eat on the roof terrace of the riad and continued to wend, stopping only to buy more jewellery, more scarves and possibly another teapot.
One last relax on the stunning roof enhanced by cakes, and we were ready to have our final showers and leave for the airport.
And of course pay the bill.
The taxi driver was very, very early, waiting patiently in the hall, as penance for taking us to the wrong hotel on the first day, probably.
We asked for the bill and got out our credit cards.
To be told that we needed to tell them in advance that this was how we were paying..
But we’d spent all our cash on henna tattoos and cream cakes and possibly a teapot..
And the driver was in the hall, and we had to get to the airport, and some of us weren’t quite dressed …
We’ll have to go to a cashpoint”, I said.
Gorgeous young man with black curly hair, said, “if you go to the cashpoint, I will have to take you on my motorbike.”
Quick as a flash, knowing there was no time to lose, and wanting a ride on a motorbike in Marrakech with the gorgeous young man I said,
“I will go to the cashpoint with you on your motorbike.”
When something like that is up for grabs, you’ve got to move fast.
My friends trustingly got out their credit cards and wrote down their pin numbers. I dropped them all into my secure bag and followed the man outside.
Not once did I question the sanity of this. I felt instinctively safe. I briefly felt instinctively scared when we took our first turn left into the next alley and I stupidly opened my eyes and saw my bare arm centimetres from the wall.
But I held on tighter and carried on..
Now, anyone who has been to Marrakech will have noted how motorbike passengers sit, calm and relaxed, sometimes with their arms supporting them at the back of the motorbike. Not me. Get the picture?
Left, left, right in the derb, through a group of people, and suddenly onto the cobbled street, at which point I wanted to whooooooooooop…maybe I did…
Past the royal palace and the guards out onto the road with actual cars and stuff…….whoooooooooppp…pulled up too soon (in my opinion) to the cashpoint.
There was no -one at the cashpoint when I started. I took out the first credit card and its pin number and got out a large sum of money, which I dropped carelessly into my bag, then the next, then the next..
Then I looked round and a queue had formed, at the front of which was an English person..
It was at this point that I realised that what I was doing may have not looked quite legal and questions could be asked.
Then I ran towards the motorbike, jumped on it, and we sped off….with the breeze in my hair and the traffic speeding around us, and the sun shining on us, I felt ALIVE..my heart beat faster and my smile grew bigger and I just wanted to laugh with something like happiness..
And suddenly, we were back in the darkness of the alleyway, left, left, right…to the door….we got off.
“That was fun, wasn’t it..” he said.
“Yes, yes…yes….” What I wanted to say was, “can we do it again? Can we speed off into the distance and ride around Marrakech without a care in the world. Can I forget everything for a while and just be me?”
“Thank you, it was,” is what I said.
The door opened and the spell was broken.
The bill was paid, sad farewells were said.
The taxi driver walked us to the taxi which was parked near the palace. A guard nodded and smiled at me, kindly I thought…. but that was before my friend noticed that one of my leggings was still rolled up to let my tattoo dry..so I didn’t leave the city with the most sophisticated of looks. But there you are…
Onto the plane, back to Bristol, Bath, and then home..
When I got home, and took my case to my bedroom I glanced at the photo on my wall of Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck on the moped in Roman Holiday and I realised that I’d had a little Roman Holiday of my own in Marrakech..and I’d found a bit of me that I’d forgotten. A bit that I like having around..
And I still glance at that photo and I still smile. My film would be called Bewitched in Marrakech…or how I learned to stop worrying and learned to live in the moment and laugh instead…
And I loved my tattoo so much that I got a real one..