by Maleeha Sambur
My husband and I landed in Marrakech in a Saturday afternoon and checked into the gorgeous six-room Riad Dixneuf la Ksour, where we were welcomed with delicious mint tea and almond biscuits in the tranquil central courtyard, tucked away from the cacophony of the streets. The riad was a study in understated elegance, each turn revealing another simple yet perfectly composed vignette. After exploring its beautifully appointed spaces and taking in a birdseye view of the city against the backdrop of the snow-covered Atlas Mountains from the rooftop, we went for a walk through the labyrinthine alleys of the medina. As the melodious call to evening prayer reached our ears, we found ourselves at Jemaa el-Fnaa square just in time to watch the setting sun wash the buildings in rose gold hues and observe crowds of people shuffling off to the nearby mosque.
As evening fell, we walked through the square's storied open-air market, which sprang to life after prayer time. The atmosphere vibrated with energy, awakening our groggy, jet-lagged senses. Under the enchanting glow of string lights and patterned lanterns, we took in the scene, charmed as much by the vendors' clever multilingual sales pitches as their intriguing wares. The way they switched effortlessly between languages conjured in my mind the world of the nomadic traders, caravans, and global marketplaces of old. Fortunetellers beckoned and food stalls enticed us with tantalizing aromas as we walked past carts piled high with dates, nuts, and spices, magicians playing tricks with rapt audiences, and medicine men of dubious qualifications touting miracle cures and herbal remedies.