Marrakech is Magic

 lllLa Mamounia, Marrakech

Ithaka  by C.P. Cavafy

As you set out for Ithaka
ask that the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

-translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

By the time we made it to Marrakech, the final leg of my “30 Becomes Her Tour” as I dubbed this year’s round of intercontinental gallivanting which I began chronicling here in reverse, we were undoubtedly rich in our knowledge of Morocco.  Having started our road trip in cosmopolitan Casablanca, travelled through the high Atlas mountains  and the Todra Gorges to reach Merzouga for our one night dalliance with the dessert, the fourteen hour drive from Merzouga to Marrakech on the third day of the sojourn was hard enough to bear without the added penalty of somatic penance for my harissa overdose the night before.

FullSizeRender 15Grande Mosquée Hassan II, Casablanca, where the mosaics of Morocco kiss the Atlantic Ocean

Gastrointestinal adventures aside, the long drive presented an opportunity to ponder the wealth in culture and landscape the past two days had afforded us: Like Svasasana (corpse pose) after a rigourous yoga class allows your body to quietly assimilate the lessons it has learnt into its muscular intelligence, this was a a time code the smells, the textures, the skies a d the joys of the trek into our psyche.

I am so glad we did not “hurry the journey at all”. Marrakech was our reason for being in Morocco, our ultimate destination, and, rightfully, by the time we reached it, we had truly lived Morocco: we’d leapt between the vertiginous walls of the Todra gorge, and  gorged ourselves silly on beef tagine in the dessert, and scaled kasbahs, and argued with tradesmen, and become best friends with our driver, and been accused of stealing toilet paper from a bathroom in a mosque in a nameless town Is this not what the journey is about? These unscripted moments of utter immersion into life and living? If all of life is like a trip to Marrakech, perhaps we ought to worry less about how quickly we reach our chosen destinations, falling for the intrigue of the journey, rather than wishing we could skip past the diarrhea and the bug bites; recognizing the beauty with which our struggles imbue our story.

Tired and haggard from the gymnastics of running out of our car every hour at the behest of my bowels, the sight of Angasana Riad Collection’s Riad Si Said  and the knowledge of the hot shower that was soon to ensue, reenergized us to seize the city by night.

IMG_3815The rooftops of Marrakech and their many moons. Photo by Sheyi Lisk-Carew

25Moroccan Mosaic, Angasana Riads Collection

What’s the first thing one does in Marrakech? Why thread through the connective tissue of the souks and bazaars towards the central square of Jemaa El’Fna which springs to life at night with bright lights and cajoling food vendors. Everywhere one turned, there calls of Marhaba (welcome in Arabic) and implorations to try their wares, from lamb to lamps. If New York got the Scheherazade treatment, her wand might render it Marrakech, for the magical city never sleeps.

465  457 461 A night out in the F’na. 

What I Wore: Haider Ackermann top, custom made  raw silk skirt

But we, needing sleep, retired quickly.  What sticks in my mind the most about Marrakech the next morning was how when we reached the open square of the f’na by day, and I looked overhead, the sky was this unrealistic even shade of blue and the clouds hung in perfect pillows of powder, like an illustration in a children’s book. Leather, lamps, snake charmers, orange juice stands: I felt as though I had been plucked from my world and dropped into the ‘wide-open glade” of a fantasy not unlike the conceit of  A-ha’s “Take On Me” music video.

 996C85D0-1F62-4589-B4B5-DED301D89C1EMedina moments. Photo by Sheyi Lisk-Carew 


FullSizeRender 14

A8EADDFD-DEAA-49E2-B47B-3D4894198A1C  75296DA7-8CD6-459C-9D4C-83CA95362763  A5AEF2AA-5556-4672-A5C0-F1E8A6D89FE6 FullSizeRender 13

We hail a horse drawn carriage and I ride upfront, learning that our four-legged escorts are named Nicholas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni. What company! We cross the confines of the Medina into modern Marrakech: the change is more jolt than transition – 1001 nights dissolves into to 1001 honking cars. The magic is not lost, though.  It is only intensified by the notion that mere walls encapsulate and ossify the medina’s other worldliness. We arrive at the Jardin Majorelle, the one place in Marrakech you must visit if you visit no place else. Designed by French artist Jacques Majorelle, the botanical garden and museum is also home to the ashes of designer Yves Saint-Laurent. Draped entirely in royal bleu Majorelle , the garden is pure delight.

58380532B5-A17E-4E40-8114-F719EA7BF01A BBD7BE69-8D55-4769-B532-906B0BB32D33 Twirl in the Majorelle

What I Wore: Custom-made pleated dress (my design), Céline classic box bag, Céline Audrey sunglasses

I’ve heard many say that the tourist face of Marrakech isn’t real. I’m sure it isn’t: magic is often trickery.  One must resign to the sordid spectacle and feel its full embrace. But seriously, do you shopping in Casablanca so you can laugh in the face of the man who tries to sell you a babouche for the magically ridiculous price of 500 dirhams Marrakech’s medina. Better yet, buy your babouche from the lovely artisan who sits sewing leather across from Angansa Riad’s collection Riad Si Said: it’s enchanting to watch his sleight of hand as he fashions suede into sandals, AND he will tell you about his travels!

9A farewell to Marrakech at the palmerie. 

What I Wore: J Crew “Blythe” blouse in alabaster,  Maje maxi skirt, Chanel sunglasses

About Natasha

Word- and dough-smith. Girl in search of "the illumination, that ecstatic flash, from which truth emerges".

One comment

  1. Julius

    It must be Thursday cause Nessa is throwing it back. Now twirl, twirl, TWIRL.

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