Polly Nightingale


As we approach the long, dark says of a British winter it seems a fitting time to think of the part light and sight play in our lives. I’m sure we’ll all experienced that feeling of wide-eyed wonder, when everything you look at appears brighter, sharper, enhanced. Maybe it’s a quality of light – artists have long sought out certain locations citing the clarity of light, and maybe some days our perception is just that bit heightened. Whatever the cause, the result can be mind-blowing.

I experienced this as recently as last weekend on a visit to the Ochre City of Marrakech, named after its red sandstone walls.

First off it was the sunlight. Not the mild amber glow of autumn that I can see now as I look out of the window here in Suffolk, but the stark white heat north Africa, bouncing off glazed tiles and water. So bright it had me reaching for my sunglasses. Safely screened I peered out and noticed the subtler effects: the play of sunlight on the water of the pool reflected as ripples of light on the door and wall, the perfect copy of the glass-topped table on the floor and the shafts of light piercing the gaps between the roof and wall.


Then came the colours. I was ready for the blue. Majorelle Gardens are known the bright, cobalt hue that is now known as Majorelle Blue. I’d seen photos and knew what to expect, but its intensity was a surprise, drawing audible gasps from onlookers. The yellow I had not anticipated, yet here it was, equally vivid and holding its own alongside the blue. Yves Yellow, perhaps? (The gardens were long-time owned by Yves Saint Laurent). And not to be outdone, back in the riad I was greeted by the shocking pink of bougainvillea blooms, a rainbow display of tagines and bowl of deep red roses.


And the patterns. They’re everywhere you look. Floor and wall tiles with their mesmeric repetitions, the graceful curves of the metal grill over the window, and intricately crafted Quranic script on the walls of the medersa.


They continue after dark, too. Watch the patterns made by the lightshades, as light pours out of the carefully carved holes, as it illuminates coloured glass in a multicolour show or simply glows as candlelight.



That concludes this little celebration of sight and things seen, as experienced and illustrated on a recent visit to the delightful city of Marrakech.

Marrakech makes an excellent long weekend venue, just a 3 hour flight from the UK, with a superb range of hotels and riads, bustling souks where you can bag many a bargain, delicious subtly spiced food, cool courtyards, gracious palaces, charming gardens and of course its main square full of acrobats, snake charmers and water sellers.