In the medina lies the magical serenity of its riads, Marrakech, Morocco
I followed Ahmet and at some point we got to the Jemma El Fna Square, almost at the entrance of the medina of Marrakech. The sun was setting and a deep pink colour spread in the oasis. The square was packed with people preparing for its nightlife. Acrobats, snake charmers, Berber women sitting on the ground making tattoos for the tourists, grills for barbecue, water vendors coming down from Mount Atlas preceded by the sound of small bells hanging from their hats and jingling continuously to warn people of their arrival.
Ahmet, accustomed to all this turmoil, seemed apathetic in the crowd, unlike myself, looking around in ecstasy, while being careful not to lose sight of him. He stopped for a moment at the newsstand of the foreign press to buy the Figaro for the lady he worked for and, after throwing the newspaper inside the hood of his bournous, he started walking again, dragging his leather shoes, which in Morocco are called babouches.
Entering the medina, the bazaar was in all its glory! Its bright colours and excellent organization gave me the impression of being more authentic and more distinctive than the bazaar in Cairo. Taking a look around, I was able to note picturesque details such as women covered with veils, but with bare toes and painted nails. Traders sat crouched on the floor in front of their shops, so small as to seem holes in the wall, just large enough for them to stretch out their hand and reach all corners in order to take their merchandise.
Donkeys, with an unshakable calm and loaded with baskets of oranges and vegetables resting on their backs, were clearing their way amongst sacks of grain. Continuing to walk, we entered the market of the dyers, where bundles of wool in bright colours were hanging, offering a truly striking image. But I had no time to dwell on this because Ahmet had slipped into an alley – so narrow that we couldn’ t walk alongside. At the end of the alley he stopped and simply said: “We have arrived.” We were in front of a heavy wooden door decorated with large bronze nails.
As before, so even today, many foreigners enjoy having a house in Marrakech. At first they built villas in the French quarter of Gueliz, outside the walls, then larger villas in the palm grove on the edge of the desert, the Palmeraie, but now they buy the riads in the medina, which are usually restored by French interior designers who create small masterpieces inside.
Alice, my friend, lives inside one of these riads. When the heavy door closed behind us, the bustle of the street suddenly stopped. I could hear only the murmur of the water in the fountain, located in the centre of the small patio framed by white walls and adorned by elegant arches in the Andalusian style. High up was a square opening giving the impression of bringing the sky inside. Then my eyes wandered in the decoration of the spaces around and I noted that everything was designed to delight the most refined taste: the furniture, collection of paintings and works of art, painted and carved ceilings, marbles and precious woods.
This is the magic of the Moroccan house hidden from the eyes of passersby… lovely and amazing inside.