Essaouira is a city of secrets. For every door that is open onto the narrow, labyrinthine streets of its Medina, four more are closed. From behind them I can almost hear the past whispering... How beguiling is the hidden from view! The tale not told. A closed book.
Just now and then a door is left inadvertently ajar. An open page, a few lines of the story. A rich, gold light, illuminating the dark inside; a column, an archway; an exotic rug, or painting hanging on the wall. And then, curiously after all the intrigue, I avert my eyes, anxious not to intrude upon a private world.
To be invited in, though, ah, that is different! And when something is for sale, even a private world becomes the public domain!
The vendor was as eager to show off his wares as we were to glimpse life from the inside. The house, he said had eight rooms on four floors, set around the traditional courtyard of the riad. The entrance hall was flooded with light from a large, glazed roof-top dome, visible if one tilted ones head as far
back as it could go. Entering was like stepping into a fantasy sweet-factory, a house embelished with piped pastel icing, sugared almonds - marshmallow pink, lemon yellow, apple green! As far as traditional went, the concept of an inner courtyard was as far as this house was prepared to go! Mystery and intrigue were left firmly outside in the narrow cobbled street.
But what fun to be inside! Winding our way up and up, we peeped into tiny rooms, each more flamboyant than the last, until we reached the top. And here we stumbled upon Essaouira’s biggest secret of them all! A whole new world! Climbing out onto the roof into the dazzling light, we caught our breath! A whole sea of terraced roofs spread out around us, flanked on two sides by the mighty ocean. Here in the realm of the birds - huge sea-gulls and tiny, fluttering swifts - life was going on as if the clouds weren’t just an outstretched arm away, curiously without reference to the bustling world of commerce below. Here was a place for contemplation, reflection and wonderment - or simply stretching out beneath the Essaouira-blue sky.
For a few moments it was our world. And with our breath we drew in as much as we could hold insde, to carry back down with us into the rabbit warren below. So now you’ve shared our secret.
But shhh! Don’t tell a soul...