Have you been Marrakeshed? Part 1
Have you been Marrakeshed?
It was late and dark as we stepped out of the aircraft. Covered in his traditional djellaba and holding a wooden torch, our Berber guide slowly lead us through the rather dangerous-looking labyrinth of narrow streets deep into Marrakesh’s medina. Although evocative enough, no literary references like Lawrence of Arabia, A thousand and one nights or even Ali Baba could have prepared us for the magic we were about to witness. Heavy with the promise of a sensorial feast, the air noticeably reduced the speed of our step and we were almost disappointed when after only some minutes walking in the historic old town we had already arrived at our destination. A relic of times long past, and unmistakably hand-carved and painted with natural colour pigments extracted from the mysterious cobalt stone in the Atlas Mountains, an amazing blue door was the gateway to the most stimulating and unforgettable journey into full awareness of my life. Behind that door was the side of us we fight so hard to control in our everyday western lives. The side of us that accepts pleasure without guilt.
Entering the riad, we all looked at each other, nervously laughing at the thought of the multitude of impressions to take in. The house’s architecture, built around an indoor garden, featured elegant arches and columns decorated with a magnificent abundance of zelii, those exquisite small Moroccan tiles. A band of tribal Gnawa were playing traditional music which, with its hypnotically repetitive drumming and chanting, delightfully threw us into a mild trance. The largest lemon tree I’d ever seen was reaching out towards a sky. I looked up and frowned: the branches almost touched the stars which were as big as the Sun. Had we been drugged?
We sat on colourful kilims and leather poufs by a dark pool covered in water lilies and listened on to the musicians. Hundreds of small terracotta dishes containing colourful and highly fragranced food were brought in by a procession of Moroccan women, dressed in intricately embroidered kaftans, the palms painted in henna with sophisticated swirls, their sparkly dark eyes generously contoured with black kohl, their smiles huge with kindness. I could not eat. I was falling under a spell. The drums stopped and a lone Gnawi walked up some stairs playing a sort of snake charming tune. We followed. At the top of the riad, hand-woven rugs and cushions, coloured-glass lanterns, tasselled parasols, small carved wooden tables and engraved brass trays bearing mint tea pots were awaiting us on a large rooftop overlooking the most exotic view I had seen so far.
Incredibly fresh and fragrant Moroccan dishes
The air in Marrakesh is so mild on the rooftops you could sleep there
A Good Night Sleep
Not that much later, we were taken to our respective riads for a good night sleep. I was led into a small room, just big enough to house a four poster bed. I opened the door unto the gallery above the indoor courtyard a mysterious night bird was singing as in a fairy tale. I decided to leave it opened. Lying on the bed I lazily admired the lavish draping of fine cotton falling from the bed posts and smiled. Closing my eyes, I recalled the rooftop view. Something had happened to me. It was not with my eyes only that I had seen it.
It had been with my skin, with my nose, with my mouth, with my ears that I had felt it.