The truth is that nothing prepares you for Marrakech. The driver from our hotel picked us up at the small, rather casual airport. Making our way toward the city, the absence of traffic lights, stop signs, directionals or hand signals became obvious. Like hundreds of bats on crack, we were funneled helter skelter through the city gates and into the medina. It occurred to Me that nothing outside the car looked, seemed or behaved in any way familiar.
We “parked” on a very crowded, not particularly nice street filled with cars, trucks, mopeds, taxis, horse carriages, motorbikes, donkey carts and donkeys parked like cars, a goat being led on a rope, people, Moroccans, British, French, Germans, Americans, tourists, locals, businessmen, shopkeepers, babies, children, teenagers, men, women, grannies, Tour Bus People (TBP – who have a special cultural quality of their own), all in various states of dress, costume, and undress, all yammering away in their respective languages and dialects in an area maybe twice the size of our living room. It was intense. We stepped out of the car and were swept into the mix. There was a paralytic moment of sensory overload. Me remember thinking “the hotel is supposed to be wonderful – it will be wonderful – we’ll just never leave the hotel.” Far ahead, He was walking briskly behind our driver, hopefully with our luggage. Me scrambled after them, navigating the cobblestones down the street in the failing light, cursing my poor choice of shoes.
Much is written about the other-worldly experience of stepping out of the maze-like medina into the cool, poetic serenity of a riad. Paradise. Xanadu. Nirvana. Heaven. Words like that. People can use whatever extravagant expressions they choose. The simple truth is: they’re right. You are transported out of chaos and confusion into a sanctuary of palm trees, splashing fountains and pools. There are trees, plants, vines and flowers. There are beautiful tiles and ancient woodwork. There are candlelit lanterns, thousands of pillows, beautiful, unfamiliar patterns and a visual fragrance of blues, pinks, oranges, and greens. Yes, Me know. Me was tired. And overwhelmed. But I do think I smelled color. There is birdsong. The birds are beautiful. When the resident garden tortoise soundlessly emerges from the courtyard greenery, you stop, transfixed, waiting for his left foot to gently touch the ground. It takes a very long time. You’re breathing quietly now. The whisper you feel but can’t quite hear is your heartbeat. You are suddenly a little giddy. Smarter, thinner, more glamorous and desirable than when you walked through the door. The prayers from a nearby mosque embrace the night. You smile. You are going to have a magical time.