Riad Joya and a Night in Marrakech

The meaning of joy is pleasure and happiness coming together. I’ve been in Marrakech only a little over 24 hours and joy, spiced with magic and harmony has infused my existence. This paradoxical world is primitive and native and avant-garde and pure and whirling and tranquil and vivid and natural. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen or felt, bringing for me an entirety of being within it.

Last night, on the way to dinner to meet new friends from the retreat, the cab driver had to leave his car and walk me the rest of the way. The Moroccan soccer team had qualified for the World Cup, and the back streets were jammed with people celebrating the win. We got caught in the revelry exactly when the game ended. As it is, in places, the streets are almost too narrow for even one car. Rashid took my hand to get us through, and the next minute he dropped it to brace against an oncoming scooter to stop it. He was fine, and it was the best madness, and heart pounding scene that I will never forget.

It was just three hours earlier that I had arrived at Riad Joya, my residence prior to the start of the Atelier Doré Creative Retreat. Inside the rush of the ancient medina, Riad Joya is a refuge of quiet luxury. Italian jewelry and fashion designer Umberto Maria Branchini conceived the interior. The  rooms surrounding the typical, Riad open-courtyard are stylish and natural. Branchini blended Morocco’s Arab, Berber, French and Spanish influences and created a haven of local flavor.

Because it’s small, and the proprietor is your lifeline, staying in a riad is an intimate experience. I say lifeline, because Marrakech is an entanglement of paths and foreign sensibility, and Noureddine helps you make your way and settle in. He is wonderful, in a distinguished, easy, centered sort of way. During the day, cars aren’t permitted in the medina. So Noureddine met my driver from the airport, outside the Djemaa el Fna square, with another guy and a light-blue-painted wooden cart. He put my suitcase in the cart, and the three of us walked through the souk-lined lanes to the riad. All that you see of the establishments are doors pressed into walls. And the tall walls line the streets like a twisted maze.

My stay at Riad Joya will be way too short–I go over to El Fenn tomorrow to meet up with the other women in the retreat. Joya means joy in arabic. I am overflowing with appreciation for this beautiful place and soulful experience. Pure joy.

On this trip the publishing schedule for Plumage 59 will be a bit haphazard, like Marrakech.

Photos: Dawn Bell Solich


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