Allow me to tell you this story of a city entirely cast out of marble of the most extraordinary colours one has seen. Yellow marble, more precisely ochre in colour, so gold it looks to be cast out of the metal itself. Then there is marble that at first glance appears to be black, yet when you look back you'll see it dancing in shades of emerald green and peacock blue. Thirdly a marble red in colour, burnt warm like the earth’s crust, a perfect partner to the acres of nature that appear so green against its hue. Finally, there is the perfect white marble, so pure it's as if it were made from a billion stars, all reflecting the sunlight.
This striped facade that the locals name ablaq wrap one coloured layer at a time around the tall and rectangular buldings. One horizontal stripe of ochre, one of basalt black, one of that glorious burnt red - up your eye travels and onwards the ablaq goes like gates leading right up to the glorious heavens. Now look down at your feet, and you'll be amazed to see repitions of this same design sprawling great distances along the floor, stretching to touch the shoulder of a neighbouring wall.
Every building in this city of scented Jasmine is striped in this way; however some choose to hide their secrets, shyly displaying a deceptively sandy facade to an unwitting stranger, her secrets hidden within. To see her splendours one must be invited to enter and there you'll find a courtyard so opulently decorated your eyes will forever be bored with anything else. Other buildings command; they choose to display shades of dancing black and its partner white, such a show of strength that ensures one halts in ones tracks, lost in a sea of stripes, the veiling and unveiling of a thousand secrets. Most commonly are buildings that display an alternate stripe of golden ochre and white - such a soft, romantic combination, the frequent glint of gold in the Middle Eastern sun illuminating the wealth of this marbled city. The combination of emerald and gold will have you asking yourself whether you hacve unwittingly stepped foot into the elusive El-dorado.
Then there is the palace which stands the most proud of them all, like a bird of paradise she sits displaying her plume. Every shade of colour on display, colours of marble you did not know existed. To visit, one enters a grand courtyard composed of an ablaq so varied, it's as it were a mirrored reflection of the galaxy above. Your eye follows the twists and turns of each stripe until you find yourself back at the centre, marked proud by a 16-pointed fountain like a portal into another world. Cross the courtyard lined with citrus trees and the mushmush (apricot) fruit, and watch as the palace looms ahead of you and allow your eyes to soak up the splendour, and allow your senses to become lost within this city of marble.