It is a rare and beautiful thing to fall in love. I must confess I have rather fallen for Marrakesh.
Whilst buying a carpet -yes I went to Morocco and brought a carpet I’m a walking cliché- the shop owner, at the end of a lengthy and enjoyable barter, pleaded that when I returned home I portray the beauty of Morocco to my friends and family. So here goes…
It was love at first sight, the pure and simple thunderbolt of devotion. The first night I installed myself in the tourist trap that is any roof-top cafe surrounding Djemaa El-Fna, the main square cum open-air theatre of Marrakesh. I ordered a mint tea, sipped slowly and watched as beauty unfurled itself. Food-stalls readying their stands with billows of heady aromatic smoke, storytellers gathering crowds close with whispered wisdom, street performers dancing up a frenzy while all around them the entrancing call to prayer echoes from the many minarets that swathe the city in a reverent rejoice. Watching the sun beat a speedy retreat as if to give the city it’s night so that it may revel in it, I fell. Completely.
It is it’s friendliness that really came as a surprise not just the warmness towards us travelling folk but to one another, with close hugs and kisses upon cheeks. Smiles with no veiled cynicism. Their friendliness extended so much that one shop owner hearing that I had worked in a shop in India put me to work in his shop attempting to lure in tourists and sell them his wares, a task I failed miserably at but instead of fearing lost trade he made tea, laughed, and talked about his family.
It is a scarce thing for me to feel so at ease and at peace with a place, in fact it hasn’t happened since I arrived in Dharamshala almost ten years ago. The symmetry to my North India home was at sometimes painfully radiant (especially since it has been nearly a year since I was last there) from the kindness of the people to the landscape they live upon. This was truly rammed home when I went to Kasbah Du Toubkal, a North African Shangri-La nestled in the shade of the Atlas Mountains highest peak. An eco guest house with a conscience, providing breathtaking views and comfort for its guests and education and irrigation for the local villagers. I had a foggy sense of déjà vu as I walked around the local area before arriving at the Kasbah. It wasn’t until I arrived at the guest house and was shown a picture of when they filmed arguably the most famous biopic of the Dalai Lama’s life, Kundun, in the area did it strike me that I wasn’t the only one who felt its mirroring.
It is truly a difficult thing to put into words how much this place has struck me. Its intoxicating mix of chaos and beauty, warmness and peace served with a mint tea or two have created in me sheer contentment, a pure and vivid emotion. To help you empathise with me this week I will post a photograph each day that I think might help.