Marrakech. Apparently, the name comes from the Berber phrase murr akush meaning ‘land of God’, which fits the city’s mystical atmosphere brought about by its rosy red walls and mysterious inhabitants. The whole city is immersed in a dreamy red haze, with the sun making swirling patterns on warm peachy walls and palm trees peaking at you from every corner.
Yet there is also a theory that its name comes from the Arabic murra kish, which translates to ‘pass by quickly’. This second theory fits the city just as well, as you find yourself in the middle of people on all modes of transport rushing to places by taxi, bus, motorbike, horse carriage, camel, donkey, in a frenzied but somewhat habitually calm manner. They know where they are going, when to wait and when to go on the road, and the whole rhythm of this movement is harmonious once you take a step back, a stark contrast to the tense and robotic daily grind you find in the rush hours of large megapolises.
Some people seem like characters out of films. Their clothes reflect their personalities in a way that is lost to modern mass-produced identical fashion lines. A vendor has a small pompom on his hat that matches the daintiness of his donkey whilst the tomato-seller’s red knitted cap perfectly pairs with his products. Do they choose this on purpose, or is all part of the city’s overall consonance? As a visitor, you will never know.
You wander absent-mindedly into the old town Medina, away from the the busy and broad shopping streets, and it only hits you that you have entered a whole other world, a more intimate and homely one, when the boisterous buzz of the business of passers-by has faded to a distant hum. Here the streets are narrower, darker and there are many alleyways and corners you could easily get lost in, but where the locals know every pebble and crack in the paint.
The working day is coming to an end, and the city transforms from a bustling hub into a cluster of scattered groups of people gathering together at the end of the day. You follow a man in a traditional djellaba commuting home past a couple of modern business men finishing off a deal, and you too pass through to the domestic neighbourhood with him, as though he was a Charon accompanying you across the barrier between the public and private worlds.
People settle down for the evening, and the aroma of home-cooked meals is accompanied by the familiar chatter of families and the clatter of cutlery. Even the cats gather together for a meal of generous leftovers, which shows just how coordinated the pace of life is.
Strolling around the city in the evening and looking past the palm trees into the horizon, it is hard to understand where the mountains end and the fluffy clouds begin. Children run swiftly along the walls, balancing automatically, unafraid of tumbling down the crumbling walls. Maybe it’s because they know the clouds can soften their fall.