Amurakouch and the Croc
‘Marrakech’ comes from the Berber ‘Amurakouch’, meaning ‘land of God’. As I cycled through this incredible city’s flea market on my way to take what seemed like millions out of the cash machine, I pondered my ‘holy’ surroundings.
The sun had scarcely risen, and the traders had already laid out their knick-knacks in the shade of the Medina walls. Their goodies included one rather sad-looking Croc whose white plastic upper basked in a lucky shard of tangerine brilliance from the early morning sun. Nature’s spotlight gave this solitary shoe five seconds of fame in the vain hope of securing a soulmate. I felt sad for that Croc. So sad I was mentally scribbling down a few ideas for a Croc Tinder profile. ‘Nonbinary Croc with PVC fetish seeks similar. Hobbies include walking, standing, more walking and wading through puddles. Only size 42 need apply. Loves cheese.’
The rest of the market included the usual beaten-up tin pots, some hand-dyed colourful cloth, two bottles of unrecognisable cleaning product from twenty years ago, old bolts, tools, nails…To you and me it all looked like rubbish, but to the men and women of the souk, it was pure gold.
I reckon the patrons and merchants of that flea market are the most eco-friendly people in the world. Nothing is wasted there. Everything is recycled and reused again and again. It’s all treasure.
Like the items they sold, the patina of each vendor’s face narrated a story of hardship. However, I didn’t see any stress, and strangely, given how frenetic the Medina can be, I became aware of their inner calm. While we’re all busy staring into our smartphones, they move through their lives connected with grace. Each step deliberate, and each sale vital.
I stopped again to take it all in. A donkey looked at me with the same stoic eyes of endurance I’d already witnessed in the craggy faces of those who sat cross-legged behind their treasures.
As I was about to push off, a one-legged man picked up my Croc!
‘Maybe this really is Amurakouch’, I thought to myself.
Not so Chaabi
In April 2024, we’re going to let the magic of Marrakech penetrate deep into our souls as we bathe in its incredible culture, people, food and music.
We’ll be singing and performing North African Chaabi songs with the utterly brilliant Laïla Amezian. Laïla describes our forthcoming Marrakech singing holiday far better than I can, so here she is in her own words.
‘During our morning workshops, I will invite you to discover the traditional repertoire of northern Morocco sung in Darija (Moroccan dialect). These popular urban songs with rural, folkloric or Arab-Andalusian influences are traditionally sung in unison and offer rich and colourful poetry dealing with love, everyday life and the universe. They are constantly imbued with mystique.
We will approach these songs in the very spirit of what makes them specific, namely the repetition, the chant, the call, the lament and the rhythm tending towards trance. But the exceptional touch will be the added principle of polyphony, an approach that does not exist in North African music, giving these songs a new sound’.
Kbour Chou Courtyard
Kbour Chou Bathroom Two
Kbour Chou Bedroom Two
Kbour Chou Dining
Kbour Chou Bedroom One
Kbour & Chou and Dar Shariq
Riads always remind me of a Frances Hodgson Burnett secret garden or a C.S Lewis wardrobe. Behind inconspicuous walls, they hide themselves from the outside, concealing a paradise of hidden wonders.
When you enter Kbour & Chou or Dar Shariq, being met by a mythical faun wouldn’t be totally out of place. There’s the same contradictory sense of arrival as you slip through an increasingly dark, narrow passage and pop out into an exquisite, luminous kingdom.
The smell of Jasmine, the trickle of water and the refracted light of a Moorish shade all conspire to create a magical scene that dances with your senses.
Each bedroom in both riads has its own unique character, and the detailed touches don’t go unnoticed. The feel is an exotic mix of cosy refuge and homely charm, and they are the perfect counterpoint to the wonderfully chaotic Medina on the doorstep.
In many ways, you couldn’t imagine an accommodation being any better than Kbour & Chou or Dar Shariq. They have something no luxury boutique hotel could ever hope to replicate (much as they may strive). They ooze effortless bewitching warmth. They possess qualities that come directly from the owners and the genuine friendships formed by those who work there.
To be invited into either one of these homes is to be welcomed into a family within a hidden corner of Amurakouch.