Monday, 7 May 2012

Ruby Tuesday - or how we celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary!

When Steve was diagnosed with mesothelioma in June 2009, I couldn't bear to think about the future.  Our Ruby wedding anniversary in 2012 seemed like a lifetime away; I hardly dared hope we would be able to celebrate forty years together.  But dreams can come true.  Last week on 1 May 2012, we celebrated our Ruby anniversary in style, in one of the world's red cities - Marrakech!

Arriving as the sun was setting, Marrakech was glowing in many shades of red ready to welcome us!  Click on the photos to get a better view.

Arriving at Marrakech

A short taxi ride later and we were at our base for the next six days, Riad Nesma, a peaceful oasis in the heart of Medina.  The adventure had started!

Our daily ritual started with breakfast on the roof terrace: freshly squeezed orange juice, coffee, boiled eggs, a variety of Moroccan pancakes, bread, butter, jam and honey to set us up for the day ahead.

Breakfast on the roof terrace, Riad Nesma

Our first day of exploring on Monday had a royal theme, visiting both the 16th century Badi Palace (now deserted but for tourists and many pairs of storks nesting on top of the outer walls) and the late 19th century Bahia Palace, which is bejeweled with brightly coloured zellij (mosaic) and painted doors and ceilings.

Badi Palace

Resting in the shade at the Badi Palace

Painted door at the Bahia Palace
In between the palaces, we wandered round the Mellah, the city's Jewish Quarter and had our first taste (and smell!) of walking through a souk - in this case, a herb and spice market.

The Mellah spice market

To celebrate our Ruby wedding anniversary on Tuesday, we walked to the Jardin Majorelle, created by landscape painter Jacque Majorelle and subsequently bought by fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and donated to the people of Marrakech on his death.  Stunning planting, set off by brightly painted pots, garden furniture and buildings in cobalt blue, lemon yellow, bright orange and cool mint green.  

Steve at the Jardin Majorelle entrance courtyard

Vibrant colours at the Jardin Majorelle
What better place to stop and have lunch on our anniversary and admire Yves Saint Laurent's New Year card for 1972, the year we were married!

Lunch at Jardin Majorelle

1972 - the year we were married!
We watched the sun go down over the rooftops of Marrakech, with a bottle of fine Moroccan wine and a tasty meal on the roof terrace of a cafe bar close to the Badi Palace, entertained by the storks flying back and forth.

Sunset over Marrakech from the roof terrace of the Kosybar
Wednesday morning's sightseeing started at the Saadian tombs, resting place of the Saadian Sultan Ahmed el-Mansour who died in 1603 and was buried in splendour along with his mother, many wives, children, relatives and servants - more than 170 tombs, all richly decorated with zellij.  The site was sealed up by a successor after a few decades and, amazingly, not rediscovered until 1917 when it showed up on an aerial photograph!

Saadian tombs
Our visit to the tombs was followed by walk through the Kasbah and on through the central souks for lunch (and a rest!) on another restaurant roof terrace, before our afternoon visit to the Ali Ben Youssef Medersa (Quranic School).  Our jaws literally dropped open as we stepped inside and went through into the courtyard where the wonderful architecture was reflected in the central pool - stunningly beautiful!  

Steve in the shade at the Medersa

Sun at the Medersa

Reflections at the Medersa
Before heading back to the riad, we dropped into the Marrakech Museum nearby for a whistle stop tour followed by a rest in the shade with a refreshing mint tea!

Taking a break at the Marrakech Museum
Anyone who has been to Marrakech will tell you about the non-stop drama that happens throughout the day and well into the night at the main square, Djemaa el-Fna.  And that's where we headed off to for our evening meal on yet another restaurant roof terrace - the Grand Balcon.  Although the food is a long way off fine dining, it's good value and while you are eating and sipping your mint tea you are entertained by the action in the square below for free!

Sunset over Djema El-Fna

One of the many juice stalls

Hot food stall No 31
Although we had walked through the souks to reach various places during our first few days in Marrakech, on Thursday they were the main focal point of our morning outing.  The Dyers souk is particularly eye-catching.  Steve even allowed himself to be wrapped in a turban like a true Berber!

Berber Steve
Traveling with just hand luggage meant that we were unable to give way to the temptation to go on a spending spree, but we did enjoy looking!

Hand decorated plates

Mint tea glasses

Bag stall in one of the central souks
In the afternoon, we headed on to the Maison de la Photographie, where we enjoyed many historic photographs of Morocco, including some by British photographers. Upstairs, one of the highest roof terraces in the city gave us our first views of High Atlas mountains which make an awesome backdrop to the Marrakech skyline.

The snow-capped High Atlas mountains in the distance
After an evening drink at the Kosybar with the Badi Palace storks, we headed back to Djemaa El Fna square for another round of people watching as the sun went down on our last evening in Marrakech.

The riad kindly looked after our bags whilst we went sight-seeing for the last time before catching the plane back on Friday.  We had a closer look at the Koutoubia mosque minaret, a feature which dominates the Marrakech skyline and acts as a signpost when you get lost.  

Koutoubia mosque minaret
Lunch on another roof terrace restaurant, this time back in the Kasbah on the same level as the Badi Palace storks, high enough up to see the baby stork in the nest and witness the ritual dance when one bird returns to greet its partner who has been waiting on the nest.  

Pair of storks with young on the nest
Before leaving the Kasbah, we took a look at Bab Agnaou, a beautifully carved 12th century gate in the city walls - and very photogenic too!  

Bab Agnaou gate
Our last visit of the day before returning to the riad was to the Ensemble Artisanal, to look at some of Morocco's traditional crafts without feeling obliged to buy, which is often the case in the souks.  

The sun was setting over Marrakech as the plane took off to bring us back to the UK after our amazing Ruby wedding anniversary visit to Morocco. Wonderful!

I sometimes wonder whether Steve had already unknowingly inhaled asbestos fibres by the time we were married in 1972.  I certainly can't think of any occasion since then when he has been exposed to the lethal dust.  I wouldn't wish a diagnosis of mesothelioma on anyone. However, knowing that life will never be quite the same again helps focus the mind on important things and is a huge incentive to make the most of the remaining time whilst still able to enjoy life.  

Somehow, I doubt whether we would have visited Marrakech had circumstances been different. However, we would have missed out on an amazing experience.  Maybe we'll have the opportunity to return one day, but in the meantime we'll carry on enjoying our time together, albeit in a more familiar and less exotic environment for the time being!

1 comment:

  1. fantastic photos, the colours look amazing . So glad you had a great time
    wishing you both well
    Amanda & Ray