The Atlas Mountains raised up above me as I wandered through the old Medina. Mystic red buildings, like labyrinths, lured me further and further away. But all I could think of was getting back to the hotel. An oasis of tranquility, sheltered from the hectic life in the city. A cup of Moroccan tea, a meze dinner, and a late night Negroni at the Churchill Bar.
Winston Churchill once said: “If you only have one day in Morocco, spend it in Marrakech”. I say, if you only have one day in Marrakech, spend it at La Mamounia hotel suite watching Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much. Or, of course, getting lost at the Djemaa El-Fna back streets picking up a new carpet for your living room.
Winston Churchill once said: “If you only have one day in Marocko, spend it in Marrakech”. I say, spend it at La Mamounia hotel suite watching Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much.
Alfred Hitchcock is not the only film director who placed the setting of a movie in the mysterious alleys of Marrekech. Mission Impossible, Gladiator, and Kundun, all have scenes taking place in the city. And Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Babel plays on the danger that lures around the corner in the ”tourist friendly” northern Africa. A borderline region where you never know what will happen next.
Feeling more like an oriental palace than a hotel, the sprawling gardens at La Mamounia represent a world-inside-the-world experience. An oasis of tranquility, that will relax even the most distressed visitor. Built in 1929, the opulent hotel offers an almost meditative experience, taking you through arched hallways, mosaic decorated rooms, and sacredly painted windows. Everything to a constant sound of flowing water. A dark and mysterious place waiting to disconnect you not only from Marrakech, but the outer world in general.
Marrakech doesn’t look like any European city. Obviously, it’s not Europe either. But it’s surprisingly close. Stroll down the Mohammed VI avenue and you feel like the hero in Prince of Persia. Long lines of palm trees, stretching towards the bright blue sky. A dust of rain from a backyard fountain. 1970s taxis, circulating, honking in the roundabouts. It’s a place where old meets new, but the old always wins. Like an old friend, calling for a business lunch, but ends up taking you to a smokey bar.
A place where old meets new, but the old always wins. Like an old friend, calling for a business lunch, but ends up taking you to a smokey bar.
I walked towards the Medina, the old town of the city. The Atlas Mountains, sheltering the city from the Sahara Dessert, glowed in the afternoon sunlight. I passed the gate of the pink stone wall and found myself in a world full of traditional Moroccan life. Oriental carpets, colourful spices, and djellaba clothing. Like a collection of rare artefacts in a museum of anthropology. Even the people seemed to come from another time. Another world.
Djemaa El-Fna, the old market square, is the focal point of the Medina and the most famous place in Marrakech. With that said, it’s so much more than just a market. It’s a cultural time machine, telescoping you back in time. Magicians, acrobats, and snake charmers. Old men reading tales. A clutter of souks and side streets, calling for your attention. An organically growing place not even Google Maps seems to represent properly. Almost like it wants you to get lost, searching for its inner soul.
An organically growing place not even Google maps seems to represent properly. Almost like it wants you to get lost, searching for its inner soul.
I made my way through the small and bustling streets, deeper and deeper into the Medina. A scent of orange blossoms lingered in the the air. Men shouting, bargaining. Two boys, chasing each other. But wait, wasn’t it on this street that man got chased by the police? He got stabbed in the back and, just before falling down, whispered out a secret message. A statesman is going to be assassinated in London. Sorry, Hitchcock again.
The sun disappeared over the horizon, leaving a pink shimmer over the city. It got cold, almost chilly. I sat down at one of the food stalls that suddenly popped up out of nowhere. Skewered food decorated the tables. Bell peppers of red and green, octopus, and grilled chicken. A cacophony of chatter. Paper money exchanged. A cloud of food steam rose into air. I overlooked the minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque. The food arrived.
All images © 2020 Erik Ekberger.
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