Mick Imlah was born in 1956 and educated at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he taught as a Junior Fellow. He was editor of Poetry Review from 1983 to 1986, Chatto and Windus poetry editor from 1989 to 1993, and worked at the Times Literary Supplement for many years until his death in 2009. His second collection of poetry, The Lost Leader, won the Forward Prize in 2008.
The Road from Marrakesh
Hassan II of Morocco likes to compare his kingdom to the desert palm: rooted in Africa, watered by Islam and rustled by the winds of Europe. Anyone travelling south through the country will experience each of these elements in reverse order: from the cosmopolitan French-built port of Casablanca, through Fès, the world’s largest medieval Islamic city to Marrakesh, which is unmistakeably African – almost parodically African – Marrakesh is a place where the clichés come true, where the beggars are blind and the dancing is lewd, where the smells of the spices assail you, where the eyes of the children are almonds, where the legs of the Berber women bow beneath their loads: Marrakesh, in a way, is Timbuktu. There is nowhere so close to London – the flight takes less than four hours – that will give you such a strong sense of foreignness and mystery as this: a sense that neither 44 years of French occupation (which ended in 1956), nor the subsequent influx of tourism, has managed to erode. Marrakesh is as alien, exciting and slightly scary today as it was when Edwardian travellers joined caravans to blanch as its slave market. The special intensity of the place resides not so much in its physical appearance, though the sun-baked red mud of which the old town is built and the snow-capped blue of the Atlas mountains to the south, are an unforgettable visual combination; nor in its monuments, though the minaret of the...
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