Stories from Marrakech: Part I

A mountainous country, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, home to the Berber people, the Sahara desert, and mint tea. This would be my first trip to Africa. Specifically, the Kingdom of Morocco.

North Africa has always captured my attention. Since I was a child, nothing has been more fascinating than ancient Egypt. Then, I discovered babouches- traditional Moroccan slippers. If slippers igniting my desire to visit a country isn’t bad enough, I won’t explain my desire to see goats climbing trees.

As luck would have it, David surprised me with a trip to Marrakech as an early birthday gift.

It was late January, but we stepped outside of the airport to find a brightly shining sun. We were elated to escape the winter weather of our Swiss home. There was still a briskness to the air, but our heavy coats were taking a break.

Our hotel arranged a taxi to meet us at the airport- an amiable driver and a jalopy of a Mercedes. We weren’t convinced it was an actual Mercedes, or that the car would remain in one piece for much longer. The taxi had zero evidence of ever having seatbelts, and I worried the chassis was made of rubber bands. Marrakech was quickly sprinkling hints of an impending adventure.

Despite its other qualities, the car ride provided a great introduction to the city sights. Palms, olive trees, minarets, and desert colors decorated the landscape. It was as if the city was painted with sand and warm spices. 

The taxi took us as far as possible, but our accommodations were only accessible by  foot. Our driver knew the way, and wasted no time. He kindly snatched up my suitcase and sped down the narrow alleyways- often disappearing from view, making quick turns. I could still hear the clacking of my luggage wheels on the cobbled streets which gave me some solace. After a few minutes of imagining the vanished contents of my suitcase, we arrived at our hotel safe and sound.

By hotel, I mean riad. A riad is a traditional Moroccan home. They’re built around a centralized garden or courtyard, and were intended to house entire families. Thus, the hotel transformation is a perfect fit.

Our room opened directly into the courtyard on the ground floor.  It was lovely to open our doors to the sunshine and a blooming orange tree.

After being welcomed with mint tea by the hotel owner, we were ready to take our first stab at the Medina- the extensive old quarter of Marrakech, labyrinth of wonder.

January 2014