tucked deep into the sandstone walls of marrakech are riads -- centuries-old guesthouses -- by the thousands. wandering the quiet alleys, marked by potted plants and lounging cats, there's no sense of what lies beyond the earth-colored walls. marrakech keeps her own secrets.
arriving by taxi from the airport, our driver sped into the old medina, passed the families of five or six sharing a single motorbike, and dropped us at the mouth of an alleyway. we carried our bags, looked for number seven, knocked, and waited.
once the homes of merchant families, riads are tiny paradises. stepping beyond the wall, we were served hot tea of spearmint and a lump of sugar, shown to our bedroom, and given free run of the place. fountains and plunge pools, a library, a chess room, a rooftop oasis -- it was ours for the roaming.
never before ones to spend much time at our accommodations while traveling, we were enchanted by our riad and settled into a steady rhythm. roam, recharge, repeat. we'd spend hours in the blazing african sun, navigating hawkers and the buzzing market square, and return to our riad with a deep breath, happy to have spent a day out and happy to spend an afternoon in. we sipped tea under trees alive with songbirds -- because there is hardly rainfall, the courtyard has no roof. we soaked in icy pools and shared spreads of traditional salads. we read paperbacks on the roof over coffee and sweet breads with cheese and jam. we were bewitched by hanging lanterns and hand-woven carpets, carved wood and vivid tiles, by living our way into hours counted by birdsong and the arabic call to prayer.