When I told people that we were going to Morocco for six nights they all spoke of the colour, the crowds, the hum of those narrow streets. And that set my expectations. Expectations that our first experience seemed to cement: following a stranger – who carried our bags while we held onto our wide-eyed wonder – through a central square of fire-silhouetted figures, and drums beating, and raw, wild energy. This, we thought, was Marrakech.
What I learned over the days that followed though was that this was a place of more contrasts and subtlety than the brochures tell. Yes, it is a city of blush pink tones, but they’re more muted than the photographs suggest, and more real for it. Yes, it is a city that demands your attention – to haggle over the abundant wares that line the souks, and avoid being run over by a motorbike while you do it. But it is also a place of peace. A place where the houses – in the old quarters at least – have been constructed around calm and rest.
They have been built around gardens.
Two steps through the front door, and the vibrant energy of the streets is a distant memory. Suddenly, the seconds have slowed and you have all the time in the world. Everything is a gift – the garden, the benches, the terrace – to nourish your tired soul. You don’t have to make decisions. You can stop. Here, you breathe differently.
And this is intentional. The finely designed gardens are the centre of old Marrakshi homes (for those who could afford it anyway. Is rest a privilege? A bigger question than this blog post can contain). And I find that interesting. We have spent more time thinking about how to find peace in a big, busy city since our move eighteen months ago. And here we were, in a place where that rest and escape were built into the very fabric of their homes. They were central. Literally.
What can I learn from for my own life? We can’t reconstruct our rented home, but our time is our own to shape (a privilege, also). We can recognise that bustle and space to breathe can co-exist. In Marrakech, I appreciated both: the streets that dusted my shoes and bonfire-scented my hair, and the terraces where we could linger over coffee, homemade yoghurt and a mountain view. So too in this city, I can carve out opportunities for both – the hustle of the city centre and the places that echo that rest and peace – the park, the river, and our own, precious garden.
I realise that six days is too short a time to really know a place. And that one part of one city doesn’t define a whole country. When we travelled 3 hours to stand beside the sea (absolutely worth the time), we saw different landscapes and encountered other, slower rhythms. But it was enough time to reflect and learn. I can love and embrace the bustle, the buzz. But it’s the gardens that stay with me most.
This was the first time we’d flown on holiday in over three years; an imperfect decision, and one I wrote about last time. I’m already dreaming about going back, hopefully with more time and by train.
Today’s soundtrack: George Ezra // Wanted on Voyage