Michelle and Charlie's Around the World Trip 2004-2005 travel blog

at the carpet store

a tannary

 

 

 

us, all dressed up

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on th streets of the old city

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another street sceene


In two days it was back on the bus for us, this time south again to Fes where our main mission was to buy a couple of souvenirs since this would be our one opportunity without having to carry stuff around for weeks or months. We expected the bus ride to be 5 hours, however, didn't realize the bus could take two different routes to Fes. The route this bus took was over 8 hours of winding, cliff hanging mountain roads. On the bright side the mountain scenery was beautiful. The bus also stopped in Ketama, where the guide book promised we would be approached by a drug dealer. Sure enough, the bus had stopped for 2 seconds and someone got on and after a second of chit chat asked if we wanted something to smoke. We said no, and he kept asking. We said no again and he went away. A few minutes later he re appeared, this time with the actual merchandise which he took out of his pants. He offered to cut us off a little slice for 15 dirhams (about a dollar fifty). A great deal, but we still declined.

We finally got to Fes in the late afternoon. This was certainly one of the hassle capitals as far as I'm concerned. We were immediately approached by people trying to get us into certain hotels where they'd of course get a commission. There were only about 5 budget hotels in a very small area so it was hard to get away from them. We finally went into one, which was full, then on to another which 50 percent more expensive than expected (15 dollars instead of 10) but it was a big room and had a window and a sink so we took it. The medina was the usual winding narrow streets teeming with people and donkeys and things for sale. We were a little disappointed with the metal work stuff because that had been what we had been planning on buying for ourselves. While we were winding our way through the streets we got a little lost. While we were stopped, a guy approached and pointed out the way back to area where our hotel was...he then offered to take us to his store where they sold "blankets." For some reason, although we always rejected the offers, he seemed nice and we finally relented, although trying to make it clear that we had no interest in buying anything. So we followed him down an even narrower alley to what turned out to be a carpet shop. Again, Lonely Planet was very accurate on this point, saying you can't leave Fes without going through this ritual. First they let us look at the medina from the roof of the building (the medina from this vantage point looked just as crowded and confusing as from below, but you could also see thousands of tv antennae and satellite dishes), then they offered mint tea (which they said would be offensive if we turned them down), then started rolling out carpet after carpet (and a couple of blankets thrown in). Out of curiosity we asked some prices, again telling them we had no plans of buying. Sure enough, even the cheapest was more than we would ever spend on a carpet. They brought out tiny bathmat sized ones, too, but I'm not interested in bringing home a hand made bathmat. We finally escaped after suggesting we might come back the next day.

The next day we did buy our souvenirs, but at the Ensemble Artisanal, a state run store where craftspeople sell their stuff at fixed prices and no one bothers you. We were there for over an hour handling pottery and rugs and stuff and no one talked to us until we had picked out our stuff and were ready to pay. It's supposedly higher prices than you would pay if you bargained with people in the medina, but neither of us is into the whole bargaining thing. We had to do it for services and sometimes food, but it was out of necessity. We also each bought a jellaba later that day, the hooded jedi like robe that men and women wear in Morocco. The old men look very cute in them especially and we kept trying to get a picture of a "jedi" with his pointy hood on, but we would try not to be too obvious about it and then at the last second they'd be blurry or out of the frame. Jedi mind tricks, obviously. So we had to bargain to buy the jellabas, but probably paid as much as in the supposedly high price store and wasted a half hour to get that price. You're probably wondering what we'll do with them now, but they make great bath robes and mine would also be a great graduation gown... [Fes is a wild city. The narrow winding streets are hard to navigate at first and having a campus on you can be a great help. The medina is exciting and vast. Vast enough that they don't dare to bring the package tourist into it deeper than the first corner. One item that they are missing out on is Fes' huge fir industry. There are many tanneries that stinks to high heaven and can be well seen from the roof of neighboring buildings. It is not a PG 13 sight or smell, but a must see if you are there- Charlie]



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