During my first visit to Marrakech 20 years ago, I declined not only an invitation to exchange my two daughters for a pair of camels, but also one to swim in our riad’s pool. I had already seen that the water, dense as spinach soup, was being used by the attendant to clean his teeth.
Two decades later, the delightfully unexpected and eccentrically exotic nature of this city remains unchanged. As we wandered through its maze of dark, narrow alleys, we jumped to avoid first a donkey pulling a cart laden with clanking copper kettles and then a scooter carrying a homeward-bound schoolboy, his arms wrapped around his chauffeur-mother’s waist and his tiny sister balanced on the handlebars. Weaving our way through stalls selling silver slippers, nougat, rugs, jeans and backgammon boards, we passed a huddle of women in multicoloured robes conspiring to change the world.
Eventually, we arrived at the spellbinding Le Jardin Secret, an ancient Middle Eastern garden in which green-tiled pathways intersect with headily scented, butterfly-shimmering flower beds. At its heart is a tower from which, high above the rooftops of the medina, we looked down over the chicest riads, their tented terraces nudging against lines of white linen sheets drying in the breeze. We watched a game of chess, a couple kissing, a cat stretching in the sun as the minaret of the 12 th -century Koutoubia Mosque rose up in the distance.
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