Marrakesh: a warm night. Nor stifling, but warm enough to sit out in listening to the sunset call to prayer and cicadas and palm trees creaking in the wind. So just right.
This place and this week: there has been magic in the air all over the place. Marrakesh has something of a reputation for touts and hustlers, but either they’ve gone to bother someone else or the addition of children makes them melt away, and puts something else in its place. A sort of kindness and compassion that puts the kids at ease and leaves them free to concentrate on having their eyes out on stalks.
A man drapes a snake around George’s neck.
A gaggle of ladies in headscarves festoon Winnie with kisses.
Harry instantly negotiates a 100% discount on the price of an ice cream by bursting into tears when his father declines to pay the fee asked.
People have been coming here to have their horizons expanded for centuries and we have been no exception. As ever, back on African soil the urge to keep going is contagious, to climb over the High Atlas, through into the Sahara and on and on, to the green lands beyond, to turn your back on Europe and flee.
Not that anyone else would be much keen on that, though Imogen and I can dream. A little adventure after breakfast suits the boys down to the ground, then back to our villa, cool and quiet, where there’s a tennis court to play rallies and football while Winnie sleeps suits them and understandably so. They’ve been unfazed by the noise of the souks, the constant hum of mopeds and the smoke of sundown in the Djemm al-fna. The great meeting place in the heart of Marrakesh remains incredible, and if it can endure the modern world may well last in something like its current state forever.
The clamour on visiting the square starts instantly, a mighty throng of people with strange music, merchants and general naughty boys everywhere. It is the orient of anyone’s dreams, no matter how many tourists are in there they are diluted by locals out for a bite to eat and the weight of atmosphere. Like the pyramids, old Aleppo (or what’s left of it), the back streets of Pera, the magic here runs very deep.
If the Djemma al Fna has an epicentre, we may have found it. I thought I’d read that no 31 does a mean merguez sausage and as we approached a row of seats came available and we sat down. Sausages, chips, squid and some veggies were ordered and arrived blissfully instantly, seconds after bread and dipping sauce. When you’re travelling with kids and food arrives fast you feel like kissing the waiters, and when they’re wolfing down what’s just landed it can feel like divine intervention.
The boys enjoyed it so much they demanded a return visit this evening, and chomped through the same again with smoke from the grills and old women homaging Winnie (who was awake this time) for company.
Everyone should bring their children to stall 31 in Marrakesh and order some merguez.
Dinner bill both nights? £15 for five.
What else? More food. Fantastic eating! Marrikshi pancakes are half pancake, half roti, best eaten off paper with a little honey while strolling along. Or if you’re feeling flush, in the cafe at the Jardins Majorelle with tagine-baked eggs and loads of mint tea. The sun came out while we were scoffing this lot.
Wonderful rambles round the medina: towards the Badli Palace from the square, and from the ramparts towards the Medressa and Marrakesh Musem, wonderful buildings. George’s best building? The arcade which contained Table Football and Virtua Striker.
A drive into the mountains to a giant man-made lake, snow-capped peaks poking over the top. Tuscan scenery, potholed roads, another planet.
Back to earth soon from outer space. Where next?