Marrakech away from the Golf
After the glare of a sunlit day, I try to block the evening sun by sitting behind the wrought iron work – just a little, the dust motes dancing in our little space, the cushions plumped behind our backs as we sit sheltered from an evening breeze up on the terrace; a bottle of red wine from Casablanca, fiery olives and breadsticks to soak it up being devoured by us four. Mohammed told of his people, the politics, the poor, the king and we told a little of our land. Shared humanity, shared laughter, breaking the bread.
Back down the marble staircase, polished to a shine with the local ‘black soap’ made from the olive trees, back to the ‘Geranium’ room.
Then I hear the call to prayer and, compelled, I climb again to the rooftop. Against a now lavender and lemon sky four, no, five voices compete in the air across the tiled roofs for attention. Haunting, mystical and timeless, declaring God is great, who can argue with that, on an evening such as this. The swifts feel they can do better, their little cries are drowned but still they swoop, supper on the wing, the cries building to a crescendo and I see the dive bombing as they expel a bird of prey from their piece of sky territory.
I want to tell of the day, the things we have seen, roads leading to the Mosque lined with trees dripping marmalade oranges, the water sellers with their huge bell jingling hats, ornate carvings on the arches and ceilings of the Bahia Palace, the concubine’s quarters, twenty four of them, the square where slaves were traded, the metallic flare and grind from the blacksmiths souk, the four pairs of babouche I haggled for, the pungent smell of spices now tucked away within my clothes. I’ll try to take your hand and lead you through souks and the medina where there is everything for sale that you must have heard of; leather, jewellery, clothes, food, baskets of cactus flowers, bright carpets hanging from wide ropes and slung across stone walls, glaring sun copper and moonshine silver, yarns of dripping wool drying above our heads, an assault and a shaking joy. I’ll lead you swiftly past the snake charmers, the monkeys on chains, the skinny cats, the weary mules pulling heavily laden wagons through the alleyways. I can try to tie a silk pashmina across your nose to reduce the pollution from the hundreds of mopeds skimming our ankles, but then I would be depriving you of this experience which makes us alive. I’m tired, just footsore and weary, so I’ll tell you of it all, the food we’ve eaten, the people we’ve met, the beggars we’ve shed our tears for, the beauty of this place – I’ll tell you all – another time. When my mind is a little stiller, my heart a little less full and when I have yet more to tell, but now I go to slip between crisp white cotton sheets, curling around my newly made memories with my loved ones, and await the call to prayer as the sun rises again above the sandstone rooftops. Sweet dreams.
After the tranquillity of the riad, another mad dangerous taxi ride through the centre of the city where there are no discernible rules, the cars and the motorbikes, the donkeys and the mules, the old man and the sleek black taxis cut across our path, honking, swerving, stopping, starting until we reach the Majorelle gardens where the long queue is made so much shorter by our chat with a globetrotting pair of Canadians. We pass giant massed cacti in every design of nature, some proudly sprouting bright yellow bulbous flowers, past groves of thick bamboo standing next to towering palms and banana plants. We have lunch in the gorgeous courtyard restaurant: thick spicy soup, the ubiquitous bread and sticky almond tarts, bougainvillaea and jasmine spilling over the balustrades. Yves St Lauren once owned this garden and had splashed his colours and design upon the paths, the walls, the rills, and the giant urns outside the stuccoed ‘garden rooms’
As we venture out for an evening meal we crane our necks to watch dozens of vultures circling their supper out on the dusty plains of the low Atlas mountains. We’re just meandering through the dusty alleyways feeding the stray cats along the way, greeting the police and the sellers, – back from a fabulous restaurant where the banana trees rise from the floor where they’d nestled by a lighted pool, – through a skylight to the roof terrace two storeys above. We’ve had coffee and the little sweet honey cakes, tucked beneath a blanket, high above the city with the lighted minarets competing against a clear full moon. We’re sated and chilly, drunk on the atmosphere when a mule comes spinning around the corner, picks up a fast trot, eager for his supper, trailing a huge wooden cart full of the day’s collected garbage. One experience to the other! -Katie and I are quite overwhelmed; it’s taken only two days for us to fall in love with Marrakech!
By now Simon, with the help of Google tracker is confident he can lead us back to the souks, but first, we find The Secret Garden, restored to the original design of over one hundred years ago. Another cacti garden, this time next to jacaranda trees and a pool where terrapins climb upon the stones to sunbathe. A typical Islamic garden with water courses, gurgling colourful tiled water features, draped pavilions and more of those exotic doorways and arches through which one expects to find a belly dancer or sultan on his throne. We drink in the heady scent of the clipped rosemary bushes and the wavy bee soaked lavender before we climb yet another of the smooth staircases that you can’t help but stroke on your way up, and down until we sit with coffee overlooking the peace amidst the bustling city outside its walls.
Two wrong turns, three, then only four before we’re where we want to be: lunch on a high terrace overlooking the ‘slave square’ where young boys and women preside over mountains of knitted hats and baskets of every colour. Handmade wooden kitchen utensils, handmade most things, the square lined with cafes and spice shops spilling their pungency across the dusty street.
Lugging our hard bartered for goods (we were fair, there’s been no aggressive selling here) -we just have time for a rest, a shower and tea of course before we’re collected and driven for thirty minutes outside the city where we see a ‘Berber fort’ against a quickening red horizon. We can’t quite work out what this is, the ‘Fantasia show’ sounding cheap, tacky, but oh no, the tribal music, the dancing, the smoky sandalwood fires roaring in braziers transports us to an older time. I feet the lump in my throat and a smart in my eyes that has nothing to do with the smoke. Marquees made as Berber tents set amid high walls around a hard packed dirt arena. The meal is chunks of oily delicious lamb and towering chicken tagines served by waiters in traditional dress, followed by fresh fruit then mint tea poured from high.
We sit around the vast arena and find we’re holding our breath. We know something special is about to happen. Over three hundred people are quiet and we can hear the horses snorting and stamping, just make out the white of the Berber horsemen’s shirts, the dust spattered shine of their boots as the thunder of the hooves start, racing before us, rifles aloft and with an ear-splitting BANG! they are discharged. The air is thick with blue smoke, some women are screaming, not us. Then in quick succession sleek muscled horses gallop not a meter in front, their riders performing the skills of their ancestors. This night I will never forget.
Some last moments up on the roof in the cold light of a new day, one last stroll past the man turning honey spoons on a hand lathe steadied with his toes, one last haggle for a camel leather backpack, one last goodbye, Stirling changed for Dirham to press into the hands that have welcomed and looked after us before we are collected to make our way through the white and glass modern design of the airport, bathed in sunlight. We turn to each other, my daughter and I know that we will be back.
The resort boasts spacious guest rooms which are beautifully decorated and are all appointed with the amenities and facilities that you would expect from a hotel of this standard. Amenities include free Wi-Fi and a private balcony from which you can enjoy lovely views of the hotel’s surroundings.
During the day, whilst you are not taking on one of the challenging local golf courses, you can spend time relaxing around the hotel’s pool or in the spa.
You can find numerous restaurants within the resort (five to be exact) which all boast fantastic traditional Moroccan and international dishes.