’08 Apr: FEZ, Morocco


A transfer day: …

April 15

A transfer day: Up at 6am; 7:15 train Granada-Algeciras (one of the most lovely train rides I can remember); ferry Algeciras-Tangier (this is the beach at Tangier, a city that I really took a liking to); train Tangier-Fez. About 19 hours in transit!

The ferry was a little late getting off and took longer than advertised due to rough seas, but no problem making the train, and the connection in Sidi between Tangier and Fez was late, but no problems that mattered – a very looong but smooth day.

…and this….

…and this.

The touts have been surprisingly low key. They stand and urge but on the whole, they do not follow, block your way or push against your personal space.

Not surprisingly, but more than I expected, French is the dominant language spoken to western-looking people. It seems (especially based on my travel-day) most men at least are entirely fluent in French, the language of their most recent colonizer, and Arabic. Spanish comes next, and then English. (I had so many conversations in Spanish – far more than in Spain where more people speak English.)

Merchants of course can get by in English and Spanish too, because they want your money.

All merchandise is rushed…

All merchandise is rushed through the Medina on push-carts and on horse or donkey-backs. These pictures came out because the scene was not so crowded. Usually the lanes are edge to edge with people and the horses and carts just plow on through, people hopping up into doorways and oozing out of the way.

Soooo much to buy….

Soooo much to buy. I should add that even in Morocco where they don’t use euros, the purchasing power of the dollar is Pathetic. Pathetic I tell you!

We popped in here…

We popped in here for a little tea break.

It looked exactly like a Moroccan restaurant in LA. They were even playing the same music and I was waiting for the belly dancer to appear and waiters to sing Happy Birthday (birthdays being the general occasion for visits to Moroccan restaurants).

Doesn’t this look crazy…

Doesn’t this look crazy familiar…from the Alhambra if you read the Granada chapter. According to Louis, patriarch of the guest house, the families of the artisans that worked on the Alhambra all moved to Fez after the ‘Reconquesta’.

…I gotta get me…

…I gotta get me some of these babies. The inset is from the dining room and the big one is in my bedroom.

Finally (Finally!) I might have an idea of what to do on that totally blank wall above my bed. I’ll just have to get someone to tear out the wall for the electricity. (Let’s see how impassioned I am to do it when I get the quote for the work though!)

Facing down the alley…

Facing down the alley (just turn around from the above picture), and you’re looking at the snail man’s stall. That big cauldron is full of snails bubbling away in a savory broth.

You get a nice scoop of them ladled into one of those red plastic bowls and sprinkled with herbs of your choice. Notice the orange. It’s got huge safety pins stuck in it which the diners use to pick the snail out of his shell.

The smell is really very savory and not at all fearsome. No, I didn’t eat them. Yet.

Walk past the snail…

Walk past the snail man and you are onto one of the two main thoroughfares through the Medina.

Notice the blue and green signs in the upper third of the picture. There are about six of these signposted trails through the Medina for tours such as ‘Traditional Crafts’ and ‘Monuments and Souks’.

We are at the intersection of ‘Monuments and Souks’ and ‘Palaces and Andalusian Gardens’. With a map that has the signposts you can ask people for help when you become, inevitably, lost, and all will be well.

…as are there these…

…as are there these washing up fountains everywhere. You have to perform certain ablutions before you can enter a mosque so you always find such a fountain nearby.

But also they are…

But also they are just along the street, as this inset shows, and not such a beautiful one as the one above, detail shown here, but all of them are widely used for washing as well as drinking water.

The arrow points to a purple cup that I think the city must distribute because I’ve seen that very same cup at other fountains, left for public use.

The house is on…

The house is on four floors including several outside terraces and a rooftop garden so of course there are stairs and plenty of them!

The adorable mother-daughter team…

The adorable mother-daughter team staying at the guest house had made plans for an all day tour with this guide who they had used two days before and really liked. But they both came down with ‘that thing’ and couldn’t move from their beds.

So I thought ok, if she wants, I’d take a half day tour with her. She did want to do it. She took me to a few places I found underwhelming, spent two hours on the half day tour during which time her phone rang about five times and then she didn’t have any change or any time for me to get change.

The magic doesn’t always work. I think she was probably a very nice woman not having a very good day.

You see this around…

You see this around town, on long bare walls with the boxes numbering up to 26. But what is it? I know, and I’ll tell you.

At election time each political party gets to put a poster up in its designated square with their candidate and his position on various issues. There is one set-up like this in each of the voting districts.

Speaking of politics and elections, from everyone I asked, people either are only willing to say nice things about the current king or they really think he’s doing well by the country. I can’t say for sure which.

This is the Blue…

This is the Blue Gate during the day – you will have seen the night shot yesterday. This is the area of a whole long street of food stalls and my favorite restaurant is in that group on the left.

What I’ve bought: a small plate of the local sweets that can send you into a diabetic seizure, a delicious selection of dates that I shared around last night, fresh homemade goat cheese and fresh bread to put it in (the about one inch thick pita-like round bread that is omnipresent), and tagines and vegetable salads.

…it looks like this….

…it looks like this. Behind this door was The Most amazing thing. A real local hammam, not that spa-ish experience of Granada At All.

The wife of the guy who cooks and cleans at the guest house took me in and set it up with the proprietress.

It costs about $2 to use the facility and another $8 to get a lady to give you a scrub and a massage. There is no soaking involved. There are huge buckets of water of varying temperatures, maybe five for each person. You sit on the tile floor of a steamy very wet room surrounded by these buckets, washing and pouring water over yourself.

The place was packed with women totally naked except for underpants all scrubbing and washing and pouring away. If I had done this on the first day I would have done it every day, no doubt about that!

Welcome to the new…

Welcome to the new arrivals!

I heard Louis go through the orientation again, which he does not every single day, but most days. Picking up at the train, orientating, making welcome, integrating into the life of the house – it’s a lot of work to do that job!

I cannot CanNOT believe…

April 19

I cannot CanNOT believe what happened this morning. Everything has run so smoothly time after time year after year I just forgot to be careful. Don’t use ATM machines when the bank is closed! Plan ahead! Because the ATM Machine ATE MY CARD. My atm card is g.o.n.e. gone. It’s Saturday morning, I’m due to leave and I have No Money. This is going to be interesting…

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