Jul 11, 2005
|We slept OK in our twin beds. The air blew like you would blow hard with your breath. I will have to see about this today as it was only tolerable last night. We also have one window that has no shade so the sun appeared in the room about 5:30am. Breakfast was better than dinner. We shied away from the Orange Juice since it could have been made with the local water. Better safe than to have the tourist trots. That can really make your trip miserable. I had cereal as usual and Kim had two hard boiled eggs and some crepes.
We then boarded the bus on the way to the medina (old part of the city). We would be visiting the souq which means market. This bazaar is said to be the oldest in North Africa. Our first stop was at the King's Royal Palace where we would see the seven golden doors. There is one door in brass for each day of the week. The palace is not open for the public. They are working to change this and make the palaces open for tourists. In fact, the previous King's wife was never seen in public or photographed. The current King has changed this and his wife is from the middle class of Fes and goes to market in Fes. She also has been photographed. Change is taking place in Morocco under this King.
We entered the medina. It was like nothing that we have experienced before. There were a variety of sights, sounds and smells. There were all types of food for sale including pigs, pig's feet, fish and even a camel's head. The medina was built in the 800's and is home to 500,000 people. There are over 300 mosques in the medina and 900 small alleys. This is no place to go on your own. We had a guide in the front and in the rear of our little caravan of tourists.
We wound our way through the market taking in the sights and sounds and smells of the medina all the while watching for donkeys, locals and donkey poop as we moved in the small alleyways. We saw people working on brass, clothing, furniture, and sharpening knives. At times the odors were overwhelming. I looked at the sights and tried not to apply my cultural bias, but did not succeed. I am not sure how people can live this way. One of the tourists joked that the health inspector must not have visited this place. This is true especially where the camel's head was hanging in front of one stall. There were flies everywhere and no sign of refrigeration.
The medina is about 1200's years old and it shows. It is not really clean and you could swear that if the right nail were pulled out -- whoosh it would all come down. We went to the tourist carpet shop where they showed us about the types of Berber carpet. Of course, they tried to sell us carpets. We spent a fair amount of time while these sales attempts were being made.
We looked into one of the largest mosques where the tomb of the city founder and holy man is located. It is against the law for non-Muslims to go in the mosques. This is a law instituted by the French and was kept on by the present government when independence was gained in 1956. We have a Muslim family from California on the coach. They went in the mosque and held up the group. They had to send one of the guides to get them as they just wandered off. This is the same family of 5 that can't tell time or does not believe that it applies to them. When they asked to go in the next mosque, the tour guide said NO as she had previously had to speak sternly to them about getting separated from the group at the first mosque.
We finished at the carpet house and then moved through the market by the oldest fountain in Fes. Here we also saw a wedding chair (elaborately decorated in brass and silver) that is used to carry the wedding couple. There were fine wedding kaftans that could cost up to a $1000. If you don't have this money, you can find a kaftan second hand or rent one.
We also passed by a gentleman who is the oldest resident of Fes at 107. I got his picture by shooting from the hip. I have used this technique many times to take photos where they are not allowed. Our coach trip has a self-styled photographer who thinks that he gets all of the shots. No this is not me that I am speaking about. He is married to a blonde lady in her 50's from Chile and they live in Miami. He hates Miami and she carries on as would the captain of a high school cheerleading squad. She thinks that she is everyone's friend yet complains about the tour in Spanish to the tour guide. Blondie is not a pleasure to have on the trip as she is an absolute phony and her husband is not Ansel Adams despite what he thinks. Today he walked 10 feet into the Mosque to take photos when we have been told repeatedly that this is unlawful. Needless to say we have some strange traveling companions on the coach.
We also passed by what we were told was a fandouq (hotel). This five star hotel is located near the mosque as there are no toilets in the hotel. People in the medina live here in the hotel to save money and work in the medina. It is a five star hotel because it is located near a mosque and inside the medina. The mosque has water for bathing and a toilet. This hotel on the American star rating system would be a -5 stars. I can't imagine staying here 1 hour let alone weeks and months. It is in no way to be confused with a 5 star Hilton and Paris would never have stayed here. It makes the Robinson Crusoe Villas in Sorrento look like an American 5 Star hotel.
We next stopped at a tannery. This is where leather is processed and the process has not changed since the middle ages. The odor here is overwhelming. They handed you mint sprigs to keep under your nose to take away the odor. We saw a vast courtyard of vats where people were dying and processing leather. We were on the third floor looking down on this courtyard. I looked at the goods and found a pocketbook for Kim. It is green and looks like a Dooney and Burke. It has a strap long enough for Kim to put over her shoulder and around her neck. The price started at 600 dirhams and I purchased it for 272 dirhams or less than $30. It is a quality bag and the color does not fade even when heated with a cigarette lighter.
It took a little while to negotiate the price and I was left with the first guide Mohammed. Kim and two Asian tourists left to join the group, but the group had disappeared. Kim did get a little panicked when she and the other two could not find the group. At least she had a clear mind to bring them back to the tannery shop where we were reunited. You could never find your way out of this labyrinth alone. They came back to the leather shop as we were leaving and joined us to be guided out of the medina. We drove to the main gate of the medina for a picture. One side is done in blue tiles for Fes and the other in calming green tiles.
We walked just a little way to the shop of the brass and silversmith. This is the shop of the family who created the seven gates for the palace we saw at the beginning of the tour. We watched one person make a platter. We heard the explanation and then were allowed to shop. Prices were too high and so we did not buy anything. We made our back to the coach and were tired from the heat and the experience of walking in the medina.
The medina is an experience that I would not have missed, but also would not want to repeat the experience. I did get a photo of one of the 300+ donkeys owned by the Coca Cola Company to carry their products to merchants inside the medina. There are no motor vehicles in the medina. Only donkeys and wheeled carts are used to carry and move items within the market. We arrived back at the hotel and dealt with the room and air. We changed room and the air in the new room was better. It also had drapes that covered all of the windows.
The TV did not receive CNN well as there was too much static to understand what was being said. We were told that this was a satellite problem and would be fixed. We will see. I left Kim to rest and walked to get cold water and a small burger for us at McDonald's. I also got two ice cream cones and managed to keep hers from melting too much in the heat until I walked the two blocks and three flights of steps to the room.