Once upon a time, there was a little girl living in an old riad, within the red solid clay walls of the Medina in Marrakech.
Her days were filled with school tasks, with helping her mom and her aunts with light chores and playing with her little brother. In the evening, after dinner was served, she would sit on the lap of her grandpa and listen to his stories.
But once the sun was down, after her mom kissed her good night and her brothers’ babbling turned over to deep, calm breathing, she quietly sneaked out of her bed and swiftly, without her bare feet making any noise, climbed up the flight of winding stone stairs.
The rooftop was her favorite place, especially at night. She could sit forever on the old carpet and look at the lights of Marrakech.
She enjoyed those quiet moments, but sometimes she wished somebody would be there, somebody she could share her thoughts with or be with together in silence.
One night, as she was just getting up to go back to bed, she saw a slender shape climbing over the wall, which separated her roof from the neighbors. It was the boy from next door. “Don’t go! I’ll tell you a secret.” he said softly. Curious, as the girl was, she sat back down. “What is it?” she wanted to know. “The carpet you are sitting on, can fly” the boy whispered.
To fly over the sea of lights towards the snow covered Atlas Mountains, was one of the biggest dreams of the little girl. “Show me”, she begged him. “Not unless you kiss me”, the boy smiled.
The girl hesitated, but than left the rooftop and went to bed. No, she would not do that.
From that night on, the two of them shared many nights on the roof. Talking about their days, sharing their dreams or just lying next to each other in silence starring at the stars.
Once in a while the girl asked the boy to make the carpet fly, but the answer was always the same: “Kiss me and we will take off!”
Many nights the girl resisted her curiosity and the tempting idea of a flying carpet until one warm summer night, the stars shone brighter than usual and a sweet smell of mint and musk was circling in the tepid air. Shyly, she leaned over to the boy, whose self-assurance all of a sudden seemed to have been blown away by the summer breeze, and kissed his lips. The moment their lips touched, she felt incredibly light, her feet seemed to loose ground and a tingling sparkle spread from her belly through her small body to the fingertips…
Once again Luise and I have escaped from every day live, swapping cold and hectic Berlin, for the red city in the desert, where spring is eternal. Our driver dropped us off in front of the massive town gates of the Medina. Only carrying our backpacks, we left the burden of reality outside the gate. Left Starbucks, Zara and all others signs of gentrification behind and stepped into a world of fairy tales and legends.
Following our guide, leading us to our accommodation, we cleave through donkeys carrying goods, young boys selling hay and all kinds of food stands selling Moroccan delicacies. A wild mix of fresh mint, sweet cinnamon, heavy musk and brisk orange is dangling in the air. There are sheep everywhere. The Arabian world is getting prepared for the Eid al- Adha (Festival of Sacrifice). It is the biggest fest in the Muslim world. By scarifying a sheep they commemorate Abrahams willingness to sacrifice his son to Allah, as proof of his trust and believe.
Instead of concentrating on the way, I am busy with observing what is happening around me. I see an old man bending over a wooden red door, which is set up on logs. Using a delicate brush, he paints slender flowers onto the rough material. A few meters further, I get a glimpse into a tiny store, in which a deeply concentrated man sews, using colorful and richly decorated cloth.
All of a sudden, our guide stops in front of an unimposing door leading from a dark and low-ceilinged arch into the unknown. I can’t see a sign or any other hint, suggesting that this might be our hotel – the Ana Yela. Without a flinch our guide lifts up the massive iron knocker. With a loud bang it swings back to the door and hits the dark wood.
When the door opens, once again we cross a threshold. Coming from the busy and adventurous life in the tiny cobblestone streets of the medina, we now enter an oasis filled with light and silence. The Ana Yela has only five rooms, all of them open up to a wide patio with a pool, surrounded by palm trees. Silver, gold and a warm sand tone are the dominating colors.
Still speechless by the surrounding beauty and purity, I take a tiny bite of the fig, which I have just been offered. In Morocco to welcome somebody to the family, figs and milk are served.
Tasting the sweetness of the fig on my tongue, I listen to our host, telling us the mysterious story of the Ana Yela.
A few years ago, when the old Moroccan palace was renovated and turned into a Hotel, a letter was found. Written in Arabic calligraphy, a girl called Yela tells her story of the flying carpet.
The hotel was named after her Ana Yela – I am Yela, the letter was exposed in a vitrine … and her story was hammered into the silver doors.
Hours later, after a delicious Moroccan meal and mint tea at the green salon, I am lying on the rooftop.
The sun already went down and one light after the other is turned on and converts Marrakech into a sea of flickering balls. Yela would probably have sneaked out by now, climbed up the flight of winding stairs and taken her place on the carpet.
Hundred of years later the carpet might not be the same, but the stars and the sensation a single kiss of the right boy can cause, haven’t changed, I assume.
Click here to read more about our Marrocan adventure.
Text: Karolin Langfeldt
Photos: Luise Müller-Hofstede
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