Stepping into Marrakech Airport is like entering the inside of a heavenly kaleidoscope. No one thinks twice about checking their iPhone for messages or completing that oh-so-important level twenty-seven on Candy Crush. How could they? Above, shards of refracted light stream through diamond-shaped structures, zapping everyone with divine magic. This is a place devoid of mortal restraint such as walls and ceilings. It’s a cathedral of dreams, a waiting room before you enter the heavenly arena. We’d all been sucked into the biggest, most enchanting Moorish lampshade where only peace and calm existed. It was beautiful, and as I didn’t have a signal on my mobile, it was definitely worth a look!
We were staying in the Medina, in the old city of Marrakech, just a short taxi ride from our celestial waiting room. Dodging donkeys, market stalls, small children and plumes of 2-stroke, we’d arrived within 30 minutes at a drop-off-point just outside the Medina’s fortified walls and plumb in the centre of the most fabulous Souk.
As we said our goodbyes to Muhammad, our convivial taxi driver, a welcome party appeared in the mist as if summoned from a genies lamp.
Our escorts, Loebas and Bobby looked similar – both unusually blond, hairy and with big ears. They cut a strange figure in this part of Morocco. They knew the streets well, however, and darted confidently this way and that as they cleared a route in front of us. Soon they led us down an ever-narrowing street until we came to a dark tunnel. ‘Mildly terrifying’ I whispered to Témi.
Four eyes peered out from the darkness followed by two excited wagging tails. ‘Oh good, the muscle’s still with us’. Loebas and Bobby, Kbour’s two resident dogs, looked up at us with quizzical tilted heads as they ushered us into the shadowy passage.
We emerged pretty much instantaneously outside our Riad. ‘Welcome to Kbour and Chou’ said Khalid, the third member of our escort. There was a pregnant pause while we both drank in the enormous smile of pride and warmth radiating from Khalid’s face. ‘Choukran’ spat Témi.
Kbour Chou Courtyard
Kbour Chou Dining
Kbour Chou Bathroom Two
Kbour Chou Bedroom One
Unlock and unwind
We entered into a little oasis. An inner courtyard filled with lovely smells, banana plants, Moorish decor and the sound of water. It was immediately seductive, without any need for effort or pretence. Our bags were taken to our room as the extraordinarily charming and softly spoken Egon sat us down with a lovely glass of hot mint tea and a selection of pâtisserie. ‘We don’t have any locks on the bedroom doors’, Egon told us. ‘No need’ he said.
We very quickly understood the reason behind Egon’s seemingly lax attitude to security. This is a small home – a sanctuary. There is nothing ‘hotel-like’ about Kbour. You get an immediate sense of family and belonging here. Everyone has a deep-rooted love for the house and for their guests. Whether it’s breakfast with Aziz and Khalid on the roof terrace, Mouna making up our room or Rachida in the kitchen, you quietly get to know everyone, and their kindness zaps you like those shards of light in our Moorish lampshade.
No locks on the doors? Obviously not.
Whether it’s the warmth of the open fireplaces in each room or the breakfast on the sun-drenched rooftop, you immediately feel completely relaxed here. Each room has its own unique character, and the detailed touches in each don’t go unnoticed. This is a refuge and the perfect counterpoint to the wonderfully chaotic Medina on our doorstep.
Our five nights of North African singing in Marrakech promises to be a particularly unique Singing Holidays treat. Not only will we be staying in the exquisite Kbour and Chou, but we’ll also be singing for three hours each morning with the exceptionally talented Malika Zarra.
Few musicians have the ability and life experience to absorb and excel in diverse musical styles quite like Malika. Having been born in the high Atlas into a Berber family, Malika grew up predominately in France before settling in New York. She has performed in prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall (opening for Bobby McFerrin) and the London and Montreal Jazz Festivals. Her discography is extensive and includes the fascinating album ‘Berber Taxi‘ which in many ways exemplifies Malika’s rich palette of musical influence.
From Berber and Gnawa music to Jazz and French Melodie – our five-night stay in Marrakech is more than just ‘a holiday’. It’s the opportunity to be totally immersed in the very epicentre of Moroccan music – a chance to unplug, de-Spotify and discover a new and fascinating musical culture through the wonder of singing.