The city has been on our ‘to do’ list for sometime so it seemed churlish not to accept the invitation to work at a conference there for three days. Blue skies and 18 degrees of heat is the perfect counter point to London in December.
Marrakech the city of four colours the Tourism Office representative told us as part of his obligatory local colour speech at the beginning of our conference: Pink for the colour of the buildings, green for the gardens, blue for the sky and white for the snow on the Atlas Mountains, always visible from any point in the city.
Morocco a land of mountains, deserts and coastline that faces the Mediterranean and the Atlantic on the North West tip of Africa; it has 26 political parties where the King as ruler of state and head of the Faith decides everything. These gems were revealed by our tour guide Mohammed in the mini-bus on as we sped past the Jacaranda trees with purple blossom and Orange trees on fruit, reminding me that it will be time to make Marmalade in a couple of weeks time.
BUS TIME: Mohammed also spoke of Marrakech being after China and Amsterdam, the biggest cycling capital and I was convinced, having seen our bus come perilously close to most of them on our way into the city on the morning of day three. This is land of two races the Arabs and Berbers who lived in North Africa long before the arrival of the Arabs, with its culture probably dating back more than 4,000 years. Between the 11th and 13th centuries, two great Berber dynasties – the Almoravids and the Almohads – controlled large parts of Spain, as well as north-west Africa.
We stopped off at Koutoubia Mosque constructed around 1162 it is one of the largest in the western Muslim world. Actually it was it built by the Almoravids and sacked by the Almohads!
Ophiophilia: For a pound (£1) you can have you photograph taken with snakes draped round you neck. I went for the two snake shot, me a latter-day Indiana Jones. In fact one of the Indiana Jones films was made in Marakesh and the surrounding country. My viper photo call took place in Djemaa el Fna a square and market place in the medina (old city). Its name it means Assembly of the Dead in Arabic and until 1800’s the square was the place for many very public executions.
GROWING PLACES: The bus pulled up outside The Majorelle Garden created
by the expatriate French artist Jacques Majorelle in 1924, during the
period when Morocco was occupied by France. This is his creative
masterpiece. The villa he built, in an Art Deco-Moorish style is
decorated in a sparkling shade of bold cobalt blue which zings out
across a landscape of cactuses, palms, bamboos, yucca and cypresses.
For the last 30 years the gardens have been owned by Yves Saint-Laurent
and his lover Pierre Bergé.
MORE THAN A KABAB: Cassandra and Amanda, both talented and beautiful,
organised the whole conference. They found this nice little Palace,
PALAIS SOULEIMANE KAA EL MACHRAA tucked away on the edge of town on the
ROUTE DE FEZ for all 70 of us to enjoy a feast fit for Balthazar
himself on our last evening.
We enjoyed local wines, not so local beers and salted almonds and fresh
olives in antechambers strewn with small tables and cushions. This
petite palace with it’s with its open and breezy interior spaces;
adorned in red, blue, and gold was blessed with Moroccan music
throughout a splendid meal. The walls of the main hall, at least 40
feet high least were decorated with stylize foliage motifs, Arabic
inscriptions and arabesque design and covered in glazed tile.
Marrakech, the "Red City” remains on my ‘to do’ list because I am going back!