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Leaving Marrakech was like leaving Oz — a technicolor, over-the-rainbow dream that brought together traveling companions from faraway places who became lifelong friends. Like me, Kate from Australia, Jasna from Canada, and Synovve from Norway discovered within us unexpected courage, wisdom, and heart. I learned so much from these single ladies about reinvention, growth, and joy. They are still in Marrakesh, and I miss them madly. I considered a hot air balloon ride as our final outing together which would have been more in keeping with L. Frank Baum’s classic. Thankfully, Kate suggested The Selman Sunday Brunch (my favorite meal out) which was truly the perfect choice for the end of an era.
I had forgotten how much I love horses. In another life in the early 1980s, I lived as a newlywed on a Kentucky thoroughbred farm where I saw foals born, mares bred, yearlings sold, and champions raced at Keeneland. Later we moved to Tennessee Walking Horse Country where our children were born. Last Friday I smiled at the symmetry of watching my daughter say goodbye with love to Nashville from a horse-drawn carriage as we saw downtown Music City with the wonder of tourists. In August we move, two single Southern girls, to the Dominican Republic.
Selman is a destination for equestrians and sports travel enthusiasts.
At Selman, a family owned and operated luxury property in the top tier of Marrakesh with La Mamounia (also designed by Jacques Garcia) and Royal Mansour, Sunday brunch guests can enjoy the “Horse Ballet.” Mr. Abdeslam Bennani Smires’s private collection of twelve horses, some international champions, graze as guests feed on the best brunch — actually, the best food in terms of quality and quantity I had in all of Morocco. He says of his showplace:
I wanted to create a unique hotel project that offered the traveler a strong portrayal of our culture. The horse, profoundly linked to our history, seemed to me to perfectly encapsulate the spirit. I’ve had the chance to visit the most beautiful stables in the world. And each time, it was an incredible experience. I wanted to be able to offer people the chance to gain access to and share in this otherwise closed equestrian world, to which access is normally only afforded by the invitation of horse owners. I want the guest to be able to enjoy the experience in all its glory. Through doing so, the guest experiences a sense of sharing which is a principle so dear to the Moroccan people.”
Though “thoroughbred” refers to any purebred horse, the Kentucky racehorse is an English breed developed in the 18th and 19th centuries derived from Arabian ancestors. Arabian horses originated in ancient Persia on the Arabian peninsula more than 4,500 years ago. Via trade and war dispatching the animals worldwide, the Arabian’s genetic code is found in almost every modern breed of riding horse. Developed by desert nomads who often kept them in tents forming a natural bond with humans, Arabians are intelligent, strong, fast, and eager to please owners. They are subject to more health issues than other breeds and, like Kentucky thoroughbreds, are considered hot-blooded. Because they are sensitive, spirited, and high-strung, they’re recommended for those with advanced equine experience.
The afternoon was relaxing. Horses made grand entrances from paddocks to Sting’s Desert Rose and performed. We feasted on a sumptuous buffet and enjoyed live Spanish music. After lunch, we wandered the gorgeous property and enjoyed a Sunday nap by the enormous pool and tranquil fountains.
I was sad when this day ended and sadder still when I flew away. On the ride home, I saw Nicole Kidman in the film, Queen of the Desert, the true story of Gertrude Belle. Though it was set in the Middle East I recognized scene-by-scene shots done in Marrakesh. In a paddock, she talks to a man with an Arabian steed. It was filmed, of course, at Selman.
Desert Rose by Sting
I dream of rain, I dream of gardens in the desert sand
I wake in pain
I dream of love as time runs through my hand
I dream of fire
These dreams are tied to a horse that will never tire
And in the flames
Her shadows play in the shape of a man’s desire
This desert rose
Each of her veils, a secret promise
This desert flower
No sweet perfume ever tortured me more than this
And as she turns
This way she moves in the logic of all my dreams
This fire burns
I realise that nothing’s as it seems…