A delightful shock to the senses is Marrakech. I can’t believe that in just over three hours, I’m in the midst of the medina, being walked by my guide to the riad where I’ll be staying, which contains exquisite green-tiled floors, fountains, fez hats and birdsong.
A refreshing mint tea later, I receive directions to the market, heading for the main square and souks. I’m dazzled by the treasures; silks, leather, silver, hand-carved trinket boxes and baskets. I haggle for a small wooden box with a toy snake inside for my nine-year-old son – 50 dirhams… ‘That’s a good deal,’ the riad manager tells me later.
The day ends with a traditional hammam scrub; black soap with olive stones and eucalyptus is used to exfoliate and cleanse the body – the Moroccans go to hammam baths weekly to partake in this ritual. I sleep peacefully after this deep and spiritual relaxation.
Secret gardens and daydreams
Morning prayers wake me from my slumber, and I’m ready to explore. This time a hair-raising taxi ride to the Marjorelle Gardens, which have been restored by Yves St Laurent and Pierre Berge, who first became enchanted with the gardens when they visited in 1966. The surroundings remind me of childhood African holidays mixed with Asian adventures. Lotus flowers drift on peaceful ponds, alongside the tallest palms trees imported from the South Pacific, east Africa, India.
Dinner is in a hole in the wall… at least that is the restaurant’s name in French, Le Trou au Mur. I float to the rooftop on the breeze, enticed by the candlelight, a chilli passionfruit cocktail and some barbecued mixed lamb meshoui.
As I leave Marrakech, I feel I must somehow have uncovered a magic lamp in the souk, because I am sure that a genie has granted one of my wishes… this.
Leona was hosted by Wix Squared, a tailor-made tour operator, specialising in experiential holidays worldwide. Wix Squared can offer a two-night trip to Marrakech staying at Riad Farnatchi, from £400 per person. This includes accommodation, transfers, a Royal hammam in the Farnatchi Spa and flights with British Airways from London Gatwick, based on two sharing. Dinner at Le Trou au Mur is from £30 pp for a three-course meal. wixsquared.com, 020 3808 6383; riadfarnatchi.com; trouaumur.com
Image: Getty Images.