EST. 2009

August 16, 2016

That Moroccan Miscellanea

I COULD HEAR THE WATER RUNNING DOWNSTAIRS. Where had that palm branch fallen from? The foliage looks just as lush. At the souks, we found ourselves under a hammam, where a worker paused to chant for us. He plucked a small string instrument, turning his head so that the tassel of his fez spun above it. I thought we would all go into a trance.

Zellige they're called: the enamel-coated terra cotta tilework setting little chips like jewels on the floor. Introduced by the Persians, they manage to be geometric and floral all at once. Our guide took my shoes and hid them in a bush. The Palmeraie was scorching and my camel was slightly unpredictable. Her name was Shakira. The other camel, Beyonce. I rode half an hour barefoot, thinking I had lost my shoes forever. How did he know which bush it was? They all looked the same.

The Bahia Palace was built for the wives and concubines of Ba Ahmed, grand vizier of Marrakech in the 1800s. It took fifteen years to complete, by craftsmen imported from Fez. Stretches of white, intricately dotted with greens, blues and yellows, covered its large courtyards and galleries, contrasting greatly with the strong salmon shades outside. The Saadian Tombs has its fair share of pink walls too, albeit less of a feature than the mausoleum's muqarnas made with pure gold.

We stayed at Riad Due in the Medina, where tall, nondescript walls conceal exquisite interiors. From the roof, you could see the Koutoubia Mosque, the largest Mosque in Marrakech, completed under the reign of the Berber Almohad Caliph Yaqub al-Mansur. Moroccan skies at sunset are on fire.

I'm not in fact intoxicated as I write this, though it might sound like I am. Marrakech was so saturated with heat, scent, sound and color, it was hypnotic. And my memory of it, episodic. As holidays take different forms, enriching its takers in different ways, this particular trip provided an escape from my life's new routines and requirements.

Dehydration may have contributed to the daze. One of our riad's hosts said sugar is good to help you stay hydrated though I did decline sugar in my mint tea a couple of times. I also survived what seemed to be the world's best carpet sales team, who dazzled us with layers upon unfurling layers of fine Berber handicraft. Women weavers from the Atlas Mountains design the carpets from imagination, crafting each one for up to decades at a time.

I've done a myriad of things in the past decades, though nothing nearly as precious as a handmade work of art. There are some whose lifetimes fortunately revolve around something so exquisite and singular. For the rest of us, it's a matter of finding gems in the miscellanea.

Bahia Palace, Palmeraie, Saadian Tombs, the Medina and Riad Due, Marrakech. Photos by Lady San Pedro and Jaime Sese.