The doorman came out dressed in a traditional djellaba, white with tan embroidery running around the collar and front yoke, a low fez in deep red perched on his head. Welcoming her first in Arabic, he then realized that she was probably a foreigner and switched to French and then Spanish. Her Arabic was rudimentary, but she managed a Marhaba, much to the gentleman’s surprise. He smiled.
He took her suitcase, the golden tassel of his fez swishing back and forth, and then headed toward the door, standing aside to let her enter. The air in the darkened atrium was cool, aided by a breeze that had managed to find its way into the inner courtyard onto which the large wooden entry doors opened.
The hotel was a riad that had been converted to a guesthouse and was a beautiful example of the elaborate architecture of the region. Finley stepped from the shadows of the lobby into the bright center courtyard and looked up at the beautifully carved balustrade that surrounded the open atrium of each floor. All the rooms appeared to face into the center courtyard, which had an intricately tiled floor in cream and black. Trickling fountains were interspersed between potted lemon trees and low sofas with colorful cushions and rolls.
“Welcome to Hotel Sultan!” Finley turned to see an angular man of sixty years or so, with piercing black eyes and an uneasy smile. His features suggested that he might be Moroccan, but the slight German accent made him hard to place. In contrast to the doorman’s traditional attire, the man was dressed in a well-tailored dark gray linen suit offset by a crisp pale gray shirt.
“Hope you had a pleasant journey. Are you coming from the United States?” he asked, fixing his gaze on Finley. He seemed to do this more in curiosity than challenge, but with eyes that disconcerting, it was hard to say. Before she could answer, he had escorted her to one of the divans and signaled for one of the waiters standing along the wall to offer her a cool towel and the complementary drink. A refreshing spritzer with orange and mandarin juices and a touch of fresh mint. It was a wonderful balance between sweet and tart and rejuvenating after her long journey.
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