Friday, May 30, 2008

from Marrakech: reconsidered

Marrakech. Can’t get it out of my mind. I’m on the train now, speeding back (well, with long pauses) to Casa, where a flight will take us back to Paris. But I’m still in Marrakech. I’m still tossing and turning over it.

A commenter wrote that not everyone is so consumed by the Marrakech chaos that I write about so constantly here in my posts. I suppose you can leave it behind for a while. We did: early in the day, we turned our backs on it -- walking away from the intersection so close to our riad (now, imagine trying to get to the other side!)…

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...heading (at least at first) toward the Majorelle Gardens – created by Jacques Majorelle, restored by Yves Saint Laurent, now open to the public. They are intimate, worldly (plants from every continent) and colorful (with an emphasis on incorporating into the design a deep blue, that has come to be nicknamed majorelle blue). And did I mention that they are breathtakingly beautiful?

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majorelle et moi

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Is there any chaos here, in the gardens? No. Like the rooftop of our riad, their noise is the noise of birds at play. Am I really in the same Marrakech that I described here yesterday?

Yes and no. One foot in each place. Outside the Gardens, the new Marrakech has the new eateries, but the colors are the same. Pink. And the donkeys are still pulling wagons.

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At the same time, you can wander to a place like this:

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…and enjoy a fantastic lunch of Moroccan “tapas” (hummus, eggplant, Moroccan samosas), and plug in your computer. No, not me. No computer in my bag. But then, I don’t live here. I live in the Medina, the old town. The Medina, remember? Yes, with the souks, the square, the mosques and their periodic wailing song, heard over the din of scooters, the Medina, where everyone watches and no one wants to be seen.

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Back we go, to our beloved riad, to the rose petals, the art, the rooftop. The sun is low but oh so sweet and warm.

But in the evening, we are again in chaos. The food stalls, monkeys on leashes, snake charmers, story tellers – they’re all back at the square, entertaining the crowds that come each night. To listen and watch. To eat. To drink mint tea.

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For the price of a drink (water for us), you can climb to the roof of a cafĂ© and see it all en masse. To the left, in front, to the right, stretching beyond the range of my camera – chaos. Delicious, mesmerizing, unbelievable chaos. The type that you’ll remember always. The type worth traveling for.

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For out last dinner, we return to Le Topsil – the place just down the alley from our riad. No escort needed. They know us, we know them. The routine is comfortably familiar. One price and you eat and drink all that is presented. Dishes of vegetables, tajine pots, couscous of course, peaches, cakes – it’s all there.

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Soothing. Even Marrakech can be soothing. Lovingly caring.

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At six in the morning, someone knocks and brings a tray of hot pastries, fresh orange juice and coffee. At our riad, breakfast is served anytime. At 6 in the evening if that is your wish, at 6 in the morning if you have a train to catch.

And now, I look out the window at this rugged hilly land – the olive trees, the herds of sheep, goats, even the occasional camel...

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...and I think back to the Medina... rugged as well, in her unique way. Compelling. Beautiful.

And I know that the calm is there too, upstairs maybe, or just outside, in the garden.

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