Into the multi-coloured maze of the souk. Tiny, narrow shops overflowing with gold shoes, blue scarves, silver teapots, amber mirrors, leather bags. Carvings and jewels and lanterns, fabrics of silk, dresses of cotton, jasmine and honey and rosemary and thyme permeating the air. All packed tightly together. Every colour under the sun entwined like climbing ivy on every wall and every window.
Men standing patiently in doorways, bartering good-naturedly, smiling welcomingly.
Shiny slippers bought from a man who told me my shoe size just by looking at my tiny feet.
“Take your time,” said one, “Sit while your friend looks. We like to talk. It is our way.”
I sat and chatted. “I have just the shoes for you,” said the man across the way. “come and look.”
“I already have shoes,” I said.
Other friends busy in a shop that sold smells. I still have my blocks of jasmine. I scrape them with my fingernails and I am back in Marrakech.
Then the shop that sold only tassles. Seduced by a voluptuous pink and gold silken item bulging like a ballgown I bought it. Because I loved it. It is hanging on a door in my bedroom. I brush it lightly with my fingertips as I pass, sensuous as the place it is from.
When it was time to go, we found a boy to guide us. He led us out of the shady maze, almost running, past more shops that sold wrought iron work, multicoloured lamps, deep red fabrics and silver and pink teapots. Passing by so quick it all melted into one. Aladdin’s Cave.
We were in In need of a drink, so he guided us towards Bar Arabe. We paid him, but he lingered. “Hey,” he said. I turned around. “These are my cousins,” pointing to two laughing boys behind him. “Hello,” I said. He ran up to me and shook my hand, “Thank you.” he said. Then they ran off, back to being boys, back to the souk.
And I ran to catch up with my friends, just in case they turned a corner and I lost them, and my way back to the Riad, forever!
Refreshing drinks on seductive cushions gazing at the Koutoubia Mosque in the distance.
A sleepy walk back to the Riad a doze on the terrace, and a sumptuous meal from a table strewn with more rose petals.
A dreamless sleep in a soft bed ready for another day.
Another day: in which my friend mistakes a tortoise for her bag.
So, day two. Breakfasting on mint tea, fresh strawberries and pancakes on the roof terrace of our cool and calm riad. The only sounds were from us, chattering noisily away about our day’s plans; Marrakech and its bustle and noise felt much further than just a few steps away. Surely these riads are soundproofed, even the outside bits…
So, anyway, left, left, right out of the riad, today striding confidently into the narrow streets of the medina, for we had been there one whole day, and new where the cashpoints were and everything. We’d memorised the directions to Djemma El Fna and had managed to get out of the souk, so we were ready to hit the sites, purposefully and more relaxedly (I know this is not a real word, but I like it).
Which is what we did..Bahia Palace – pretty but crowded. Then two small taxi’s to the Majorelle Gardens, restored by Yves St Laurent, just outside the medina walls – all green palms, secret cool nooks and bright blue walls. Sophisticated and simple and rather lovely. One of our party found the thin setting on her camera. We posed happily for photos. This has never happened before. Surveying the results over lunch at the Garden’s restaurant we managed to ruin the cool, calm and sophisticated yet relaxed ambience. The photos were very good. I looked at least 5 ft 8.
Then back into the medina to survey the beautiful tile-work of the Saadininian Tombs, another oasis of calm and beauty, another sanctuary from the dusty heat of the city’s daily life.
Opposite was a cafe called The Stork, so – called, probably, because the top floor was directly opposite several storks nests in an old wall. Like an inner-city high rise for the birds, it also housed pigeons and other feathered wildlife. Bewitched we sat enjoying the storks’ long-limbed graceful swooping and gliding to and from the nests searching for food for their young. Bustle in the sky, bustle in the streets below.
Time to go, we shuffled and gathered our things; my friend accidentally kicked her bag. Actually, she’d kicked the cafe’s pet tortoise. We didn’t know they had one till she kicked it. It was thankfully a gentle kick, and the tortoise continued slowly on its way, probably used to occasionally skidding across the floor as a result of a tap from an oblivious tourists’ shoe.
She picked up her bag instead of the tortoise and back into the throng we went, past men wanting us to go to their cousin’s spice shop, or to this hammam or restaurant. We ambled past, smiling, saying no thankyou, by now rather loving it all.
We were relaxed as hell by now, the calm, chaos, calm, chaos rhythm of the two days having worked its seductive magic till we were powerless in the grasp of the medina. Well, I was anyway. I didn’t know that, at the time, but believe me it had..
An evening meal at Bar Arabe, watching the sunset once again, from a clear blue, to pink to starlit black, the minarat of the Kotoubia Mosque illuminated in the distance. Calm. We decided to visit the square for a nice evening coffee…Not calm…