Welcome to the first post of my Moroccan Diaries!
I promised you to take you to Morocco with me, to write about my experiences and to share all my travel secrets with you. I know, it has taken me quite a while to do so, and I apologise for that. I guess, I felt reluctant and apprehensive to capture my memories in words because I wanted to do justice to the magic of Marrakesh and its wonderful and welcoming people. I started and deleted a sentence more often than not as I felt that what I was about to say would not even remotely reflect the beauty, warmth and hypnotic atmosphere of the Red City. The reason why I decided to try one more time and to attempt to transmit Marrakesh`s vibrant colours, its exotic scent and peaceful beauty through writing is because I made a promise - to you, to myself, but mostly to those people I met on my travels.
What you will find on this page then, is not a travel guide but a series of pictures and impressions gathered along the way. I will keep my word and mention all the places I visited while suggesting a few things to bear in mind should you ever go and see the city for yourself...but I have decided to change things up a little. Browsing through the internet and other blogs made me realise how many travelogues and posts tend to focus on their author, rather than the destination and its inhabitants. My adventure would not have been the same, had I not made the acquaintance of those rare and eccentric minds that made my trip worthwhile. So, my Moroccan friends-turned-into family including poets, artists, nomads, wise souls, survivors, students, mystics, adventurers, thieves and troublemakers: This is for you.
Little did we know about the wonders and adventures that were waiting for us beyond the city gates as we headed towards the centre, accompanied by the Moroccan charts blasting out of the radio.
CHOOSE A RIAD!
The old part of Marrakesh is a wonderland on its own, a maze really, one easily gets lost. Our Riad was at the heart of the medina, which forced our driver to drop us off half way from where we had to continue our journey on foot, meandering our way through tiny, narrow streets and contorted alleyways in order to find our lodging. Stranded, we had absolutely no idea where we were, let alone what direction we were supposed to be going. We should have asked for help at this point but we were too distracted. We could not but marvel at the markets and shops filled with goods of all kind, shimmering, luring and reminding us of the stories told in 1001 Nights.
The entrance to our Riad was inconspicuous. Indecisive of whether we had arrived at the right place we decided to knock. The small door opened before we even got the chance to raise our hands, revealing a group of men cladded in black, chanting "Marhaba! Welcome to Riad Jona, come in!" It was as though those men had disclosed a passage to another world, making us realise that Marrakesh`s true beauty and character is not to be found in its streets but is lying beyond it, slumbering in the city`s hidden patios and secret gardens. There are no words that could describe the magnificence and peace of our little Riad. The place felt like an oasis in the heart of a vibrant and tumultuous city. Tiny fountains filled with rose petals dabbled gently in every room, where gigantic, golden Moroccan lamps were casting oriental patterns on the walls.
We took our time to wander about and explore until we knew each corner of the place and every member of the staff. We were not only treated like princesses during the entirety of our stay, but were addressed as family members by the end of it. Staying in the Riad felt like we were given the key to our uncle`s house. Free to go wherever we wanted to at any point in time, we moved as though it was our home, not once lacking a single thing.
Our mornings were sweetened by culinary surprises and deliciously prepared breakfasts. We were served peppermint tea without even asking for it and got invited to sit in the kitchen for hours, chat and observe the preparation of traditional dishes.
Our nights were spent at the rooftop terrace, sharing stories, knowledge and long conversations with our new friends while sipping on shay and watching the stars. There was something powerful about those moments we all spent together after the sun set, listening to the evening prayers and overlooking the city and its mystic, nocturnal atmosphere.
It may sound trivial to some, perhaps tedious to others but sitting there - together, happy, grateful and in peace - not only brought us closer to one another, but gradually dismantled any stereotypes, prejudices and misconceptions that have existed between our two cultures. Historically, socially and culturally encouraged to clash, we all forgot for those few hours that we did not share the same religion, the same traditions or the same language. Those indoctrinated `differences` ceased to matter, in fact, to exist but turned into sources of knowledge, mutual respect and appreciation instead. As brief as our stay might have been, those few nights were sufficient to teach us more about Marrakesh and its people than any travel guide ever could have.
Check out my instagram @hilaryfierce for more photography and watch this space for the next chapter ! Feel free to leave comments below and do not hesitate to get in touch!