There are some places in the world that capture you (and others that don’t!) For me, one of my most memorable trips to what has become my most favourite of places occurred two & a half years ago to the wonderful country that is Morocco.
We’d just spent a week cycling around the South of France with the olds (they were on a SKIing holiday no less – that’s a “Spending the Kids Inheritance” holiday if you’re curious), and as they went off on a relaxing canal boat, husband, brother and I took the intrepid route to Africa, spending two and a half weeks exploring Morocco & Egypt.
I was instantly taken by Morocco, enamoured with it, you might say. The colour of the souks, the hustle and bustle of the medina, the warmth of the sun, and the people who displayed a sense of enjoyment and enthusiasm about life.
We spent a few days in Marrakech, before venturing up into the High Atlas Mountains, riding camels, sleeping under the stars in the Sahara Desert and dining on fresh seafood at the seaside resort of Essaouira. Our every outing, every purchase, every barter, and every walk is firmly imprinted in my memory bank.
And I have just returned to experience it all again, in the pages of The Saffron Gate. It’s the story of Sidonie O’Shea, an only child to elderly parents, who, after being afflicted with a childhood disease, grows up to become a lonely woman. A tragic accident brings Sidonie face-to-face with a handsome and mysterious doctor, who departs Sidonie’s sheltered life as quickly as he entered.
Sidonie’s search for her new love takes her to Morocco, where she walks the alleys of the souks, takes in the colour of the Majorelle gardens, and ventures into the desert as she forms a relationship with the Moroccans around her. She’s a frustrating character, at times strong-willed and resourceful, yet at other times painstakingly oblivious to what is going on around her.
I found her difficult to like, yet that didn’t stop me from turning the pages as I retraced my own steps past the stalls of colourful leather slippers, drank sweet peppermint tea with the locals, and bartered with the Moroccans – all of whom have a gentleness about them, and a twinkle in the eye.
The Saffron Gate is going on my favourite bookshelf, alongside my favourite Lonely Planet Guidebook to Morocco.