It was dark and that made it infinitely more frightening. The taxi driver dropped us off at the end of street so narrow that the small car could not go any further and pointed forward with a wave of his slim brown hand into ever more narrow and less well lit alleyways. The stores were open, crowded places honeycombed into every crack and crevice, jammed so full of merchandise that removing one thing might bring the whole city down like a delicately balanced grocery store display. Lights were on. People walked. But there seemed more men than woman and more shadows than lights.
The dark changes everything. It might have been a friendly scene in the sweaty daylight. It might have been enchanting.
We wandered forward, our white faces and heavy packs marking us “other” if not “targets.” There wasn’t any turning back. It was one of those precipice points of travel. If we found the little hostel tucked back here in the ancient, labyrinth streets of Marrakesh, this was a grand adventure. If we had to spend the night on the stifling street in the questionable dark, it was a dangerous disaster.
We found it. A tiny, arabesque arched door tucked into a niche gray with grime led to a tiled white entry hall too narrow to turn around in. We bumped each other aside with our bulky packs and laughed, glad to be inside. A winding tile stairway spiraled up, up, four floors with our packs brushing the walls on each side and the sweat running down our soaking backs beneath the heavy load. And then through another arch and we were on the roof. A cool breeze kissed us on the cheek. Lights and arches and minarets spread out in every direction, a fantastical rooftop city. A fountain sang softly. Moroccan tile paved the roof with blue and red detail.
Our room was to the left, behind a painted wooden door with an old fashion skeleton key. Four bunks, but we had it to ourselves tonight. Other young travelers lounged on embroidered cushions in the common space, smoking or drinking, writing in journals.
We ventured down and out again into the now friendly winding alleyway. No longer alien, but home base, our street, the key tight in my sister’s palm. We found a tiny convenience store. One row of shelves stocked with batteries and toiletries rose to the ceiling above the proprietor’s head and a cooler full of coke sat at his feet. Cold cokes in hand, we retreated to the rooftop oasis to sip and laugh and congratulate ourselves on braving the travel gauntlet to this tiled gem tucked high above the market alleys of Marrakesh.
The next day, we window shopped, gaping for hours at stunning Moroccan tile and textiles, spices, gold and silver work. It was a bustling shopping district, not at all intimidating when the bright, unrelenting sun banished the sinister dark.
Yesterday, thanks to a fabulously dear friend, Matt and I had an entire day to ourselves to shop for our addition. We looked at tile and flooring options and fixtures, but in my secret, fabulous sunny day to ourselves heart, I was window shopping. I wanted to find the perfect antique leaded window to set as an architectural detail in an interior wall between the shower and our new master bath.
The whole day, wandering through a few antique and “upcycled” furniture shops, flipping idly through tile sample boards, sipping a glass of wine in the intimate garden of a local restaurant that is only open for these brief three months of summer a year, reminded me of days past. When we parked in front of Brown’s Building supply, I saw row after row of outdoor bays stacked with windows pulled from demolished 1920s houses. Patience, I thought, it’s here. It could be here. There were lots of leaded glass windows. They were broken or bent or too large or too small. Except for this one, covered in cobwebs and poorly painted white many years ago. Matt had to balance six or seven huge windows upright in the bay so that I could slide it out and fall in love.
For no reason at all, or maybe for many reasons, tile and sunshine and free time, I’ve been thinking of Marrakesh ever since we wrapped our treasure in a blanket and loaded it in the car. There is nothing like finding the perfect gem, hidden out of sight under the grime.
Speaking of gems, have you discovered pinterest.com? It’s sort of a social media sharing site except that you’re sharing digital inspiration boards. I’m just getting started, but I am head over heels in love. This is my master bath board. My home page with all of my boards is here. But I’m new at it and my boards are sparse; go and get lost in other people’s inspiration.