When I close my eyes and try to remember, all I can see is pink, gold and amber. Deep red rose petals. Cool marble tiles. Hidden spiral staircases. Secret alcoves strewn with luscious bright cushions. Palm trees in the courtyards. Cool blue pools. Tranquilty. Silence, Safety, Sleep….
We’d been engulfed by Serenity. Just a few metres away, Marrakech was buzzing with life. Here in this Riad, we’d found a cocoon.
A cocoon with a a very nice tall man with smiling eyes in it, who managed to herd our somewhat disorientated and fraught quartet up to our rooms. The beds were strewn with rose-petals, the bathrooms were terracotta and gold, the lighting was soft. Peace.
But I was still hungry. It was too late to go out. So, as I was the most voiciferous about my stomach, I was sent downstairs to scavenge for food. Surely the kitchen has something…
“No,” said the nice tall man with the smiling eyes. “The kitchen is closed. We buy everything fresh every day..”
“Do you have any bread?” I pleaded.
No bread.” he said. “But we have oranges.”
“Oranges, ” I sighed. “Oranges?”
“That is all we have…”
“I’ll take the oranges.”
“Come,” he said.
So, I did. To the kitchen. Were we hunted for oranges. I got ten..
As we walked to the staircase together, I asked what time breakfast was in the morning.
He paused and looked down at me, eyes smiling.
“From 5 am.”
“”From 5 AM?”
“Yes”, he said.
“What time till?
For a nanosecond I wondered how this man had worked out how easy I was to wind up in the space between our party falling into his riad, and this particular moment, which was approximately half an hour. Some things really can transcend continents, cultures and language.
Then he laughed. And I laughed. Well I snorted. I was tired.
Oranges for supper. Blissful sleep.
I did not want to leave this haven. No, I mean it. I didn’t want to leave.
So, there we were in our little haven of tranquillity, waking to the morning light shining through the roof, illuminating the courtyard below. People were at work in the kitchens, their laughter and voices muted, absorbed by the walls and the stone floors.
I eased myself out of bed slowly and somewhat reluctantly, knowing that today we would actually have to leave the building and venture into the medina. And without a ball of string to tie to the door handle, or a fully functioning satnav, I feared we would never find our way back again. But we were here to see Marrakech. And my friends were no way going to allow me to laze around the riad, so I brushed myself off, showered myself down (in the gorgeous peach and gold bathroom. More rose petals), and got dressed.
Breakfast was served on the roof terrace, a riot of turrets, flowers and secret alcoves. And it was pink. All the roof terraces beyond were pink. And in the distance, puncturing the clear, light, blue sky was the minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque. When we returned to the terrace at dusk, the sky turning from blue to pink, yellow lights illuminating the minaret from within, I felt I was bathing in a mist of rose petals. But that was later, a calm end to an “interesting” day.
After breakfast we gathered in the courtyard to be given given directions to the outside world by a rather beautiful young man. He reappears later. …. “Left, left, right”, he said. That’s how you get out onto the road. Repeat after me, “Left, left, right.” We did. “To go to the suuk, turn right here…to go to the main Square, past Bar Arabe, and straight.” He’d frankly lost me on left, left right. Perhaps I could just go and stand on the road and let Marrakech go past me, rather than me dive into it..?
He smiled encouragingly as he opened the big oak door to the outside world. Remember, “left here, left, then right…Enjoy Marrakech.” Then it banged shut behind us and we were alone in the derb – a grey, shadowy place, designed for shade, not for beauty. Left…good so far…left….then did he mean right here? Did he? Or was it that? It was like being a pinball in a very slow machine.., until, suddenly, we were out onto the main stretch. Blazing sunlight and life..
We turned left, searching for Djemma el Fna. The Square that must, must, must, must be experienced. By everyone. Everywhere .But first we had to buy teapots.