I can’t forget.

From my notebook:

Marrakech is hot and red and dusty and everything I thought it would be and more. I wasn’t ready for the sleepy, hungry tough cats and kittens who stalk these streets like quiet implacable kings; napping in ruins, artfully evicting the last little particles of meat and marrow from scrap bones, almost skittishly watchful yet lazily proud. Tiny birds hop and flit picturesquely in the dust and the orange trees and teeter shyly forward to drink tiny sips from the fountains.

perfect speedI wasn’t ready for the omnipresent dirt bikes – ‘scramblers’, says the boy – which zoom unpredictably down every street and many pavements and even, haltingly, noisily, through the narrow walkways of the souks, penetrating into every possible twig and stem and vein of the red city and issuing big belches of heady petrol smell into the still air.

These seem to be ridden by every imaginable class of citizen – old men in djellabas, chic ladies in shades, people going to work, laughing young couples and skinny boys in football shirts and striped shirts and trainers, two to a bike, cruising with the bright, assured and wonderful air of the vivacious young of every land, looking confident full of the intent of grabbing Life soundly in both hands and squeezing the vital hot sweet juice out and drinking their fill, and starting with this here overheated and shining red motorised pedal cycle and this wide clear road that turns violet at nightfall when the big fat moon comes up; when the merchants pack up their multi-coloured, glittering, paintbox stalls and kneel to pray; when we pass a man washing his face, hands and feet from a big metal drum re-filled with water in the street and it looks such a vitally simple and refreshing prospect as this incredible baking day draws to a close; when I feel like perhaps my eyes will never be the same again, permanently just a little widened with the sheer effort of trying to take in all the amazing sights I’ve seen: all the sweet-shop, chalky colours, all the dazzling, endless, repeating, calming inlaid tile work of palaces and tombs, all the life and light and the multifacted breathing singing shining unity of the market, a time and a place, a small world.

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