“Did you enjoy your meal? The food was good?” “Yes, good.” I’m lying. We had just eaten couscous and vegetables for lunch on the top floor of a small café at the edge of Jemaa el-Fnaa, the famous square in Marrakech. The meal had been both dry (the couscous) and wet (the vegetables) and mostly tasteless.
“Can you give a review on Trip Advisor?” the waiter pestered as we continued down the stone steps.
Suddenly I found myself at the bottom, on my bottom, as on the word Trip I had indeed tripped and fallen down the stairs. My left ankle immediately swelled to twice normal size and I felt a bump on my head where I had hit the wall.
Quite a commotion and I was bundled into a taxi with the waiters running after Peter to check we’d paid the bill. The taxi driver asked how I was in French and for some reason I could only reply in Spanish. It was a short ride as we were inevitably dropped at the gates to the Medina as the car could go no further. I knew I was now hobbling and helpless. Then from nowhere a wooden chair appeared and I was encouraged to sit on it, whilst I contemplated how we could possibly reach our Riad which we had been delivered to the day before by electric golf cart.
No golf carts, donkeys or mopeds were in sight but a wheelchair materialised. The previous occupant had been slung out at the thought of making a buck and presumably would get my chair in exchange until it was returned.
It is day two of a 4-day holiday in Marrakech and we haven’t yet got our bearings. The streets within the Medina are confusing at the best of times and seemed to twist and turn like my ankle which was now throbbing. Avoiding cats and vegetable stalls, the small wheels of the wheelchair kept getting stuck in the metal drain covers so I had to be hoisted aloft like an Arabian princess. Eventually we arrived at the oasis of our luxury Riad and our porters were paid off. I was welcomed inside to sit on a black velvet sofa and brought a shining gold bowl of ice for my foot. The resident masseur took a look at my ankle and got me to flex it in all directions, telling me he had once worked at Stoke Mandeville hospital which was reassuring. A tray appeared with English tea and a box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates to match the brown and gold décor. Other than the excruciating pain this surreal experience felt like a magic carpet ride.
Later I am lying here with the smell of roses, but I am not in a garden. I am confined to a bedroom without flowers just the smell of petals drifting through the hotel. I feel like a vegetable. The blue sky and sun beams tantalise through a fretwork screen and all seems tranquil.
|Leg raised on cushions in our room|
I know outside there is a maze of streets which seem to lead into themselves like the strings of intestines that hang from the butchers’ stalls, next to leather shoes and handbags, spices and metal pots. Stallholders stand and stare, then a seemingly lifeless heap of clothes stirs to reveal the trader taking a nap. On the floor there is a meagre assortment of items probably retrieved from bins, a half empty bottle of shampoo, some prescription drugs and an Agatha Christie novel, barely enough to cover the cost of a bag of couscous.
The riad is on four floors and we chose it for the fabulous roof garden at the top and the enticing swimming pool on the ground floor, both of which are now too painful to visit. Our room is on the first floor and as I’m getting hungry we make our way downstairs to eat in the hotel restaurant for the second night.
We had treated ourselves to the rather posh and costly menu the night before as it was Peter’s birthday. Afterwards we continued to drink in the bar and Peter enjoyed entertaining the other guests on the grand piano and telling his tales.
|Peter O'Donnell on the piano|
After this we were meant to be on a tight budget and expected to find cheap places to eat in the Souk. My mobility was so restricted it was all I could do to drag myself from the bed to the bathroom so there was no way that we could go out to eat together. Peter at least managed to visit some street stalls for some stew and flat bread which was tasty.
On the fourth day of our visit, the golf cart duly came to take us out of the city walls to a taxi for the airport. Once there I was given a wheelchair and we were sped through to the gate and levered up to the plane in a special lift. Arriving at Gatwick we were whisked through security and then we were home.
The next day I was still in agony and a trip to the x-ray department proved that I had in fact fractured my leg.
When you mention a trip in Marrakech it conjures up images of a hippy trail and a blur of smoke. You probably won’t find many of them featured on Trip Advisor either.
|Goodbye Marrakech, those slippers came in useful|