“Life is either a daring adventure …… or nothing” (Helen Keller)
Their paths crossed, and she knew her world would never be the same again. Right from the start, he’d told her they would have no future together – her means would never stretch to the far-flung corners of the world where his imagination took him … and yet, nearly a year on, his hand wrapped protectively around hers, they weaved their way together through the bustling alleyways of the Marrakech souks.
Just ahead of them, two elders walked in earnest conversation. Dressed in hooded robes, with something of a Jedi knight about them, they might well have talked of the sports results of the night before, but their rapid Berber dialect hinted of mysterious and foreign lands. They strolled the dusty, winding paths of the souks with a familiarity that paid scant regard to the haphazard passing traffic his protective hand sought to shield her from. A sun-wizened market trader sitting lazily side saddle on his trusty donkey. Some two dozen trays of freshly laid eggs balanced precariously on the rack of a rusting push bike, destined for the food stalls in the Kasbah. A spluttering moped, it’s trailer laden with vegetation wilting in the midday sun. A family of four astride another, the youngest, no more than a toddler, secured only by his father’s arms on the handlebars .
The souks opened before them like an Aladdin’s cave. Away from the perpetually busy, tourist saturated Jemaa El Fna. From the hypnotic rhythm of the snake charmers, cajoling the cobra to perform their dance, soporific in the intensity of the heat. Away from the menagerie of tricksters, pick-pockets, herbalists and story-tellers. Away from the water sellers, and the lines of caleches, their horses waiting patiently for their next fare.
Away to the dappled shade, where the true Marrakech artisans plied their wares in cool, darkened inlets built into the ancient ochre walls of the Medina. A soft hammering filled the air as intricate patterns emerged on the delicate lanterns. The heady aroma of pyramids of exotic spices, bubbling tagines, and rows of figs and dates attracting more flies than passing trade. Rows of soft leather babouches, lined up like an untarnished paint pallet with their pointy toes and colourful hues. And rugs hanging from every beam, their weaves steeped in tribal history and tradition. The souks – all that is Marrakech in their every breath – lulled into an afternoon calm as the call for prayer echoed from the Koutoubia mosque.
The elders paused, looked back. A momentary meeting of eyes, of East meets West. Then they took another path, and were gone.
His protective hand shielded her still, as they emerged into the light of the bustling metropolis. And she wondered if he, like the elders, would one day take another path and leave her to find her own, or if they would follow a path together.