Postcard from the future: I will lose myself in Marrakech

I have never thought of myself as someone who loves crowds, but one day, when this is truly over, and we have rebuilt what we can, I will go to the souks in Marrakech. I plan to walk past sacks of spices and dyes, piles of green mint as high as a door lintel, and sweet fried bouchnikhas, and find a place to stand with my back against the wall, out of the way of bicycles and the madly confident teenagers on scooters, and watch hundreds of people go by.

I have always been in awe of the way the scooters don’t collide (or at least, don’t collide much): I want to see seas of people – tourists and merchants and children – dodge each other and step on each other’s toes, and laugh it off and surge on. I plan to admire the many different shades of people’s eyes, and the varieties of teeth, and the unassailable beauty of the human body in motion. I hope to find the collective of women selling argan oil scented with orange blossom, and buy five bottles, and to go about for weeks smelling of a greenhouse. My home during isolation has no heating, so I I dream of large skies and of the ferocity of the sun.

Fifteen miles from Marrakech is a Berber village, and on the outskirts is a riad called Tigmi, a hotel at the foot of the Atlas mountains. The walls are built of rough, uneven stone, the bathrooms are plastered in cool tadelakt, and there is bougainvillea everywhere. There are goats which pass by and occasionally lick the front door handle in search of salt. Best of all, there are dozens of tortoises in the garden, which butt their heads hopefully against your feet at breakfast, and chew lightly at your hair if you lie on the grass.

I envy those goats and tortoises. I miss the days when I could have licked the door handles with relative bacterial if not social impunity. Why did I not lick door handles all day long while I could? I wish I had known what I had while I had it: I would have chewed lightly on strangers’ eyebrows on the Northern Line. I always thought I was good at cherishing the luck I have had – it turns out I was not cherishing hard enough. I shall try to do better, after this.
Katherine Rundell’s latest book is The Good Thieves (Bloomsbury, £7.99)

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