Tuesday, January 20

Monday, December 22, 2008

We began the day in Fez with a hotel breakfast buffet, like usual. But this morning, we had the most delicious thing ever. A woman sat in the corner and made these wonderful traditional pastries. They were flat and round and fried in butter. We topped them with honey, and it was just . . .mmmmm. We also had the best little Clementine oranges, too.

Then we were off on the bus tour of the city. Our first stop was at the royal palace. We couldn’t go in, but we saw the exterior walls and these fancy, intricately designed doors. The tile work in the doors was incredible—thousands of tiny tiles all placed in colorful patterns. The doors themselves were gold, very shiny in the sun. Our guide had nothing but good things to say about the king. He’s relatively young—in his 40s, I think—and he’s very progressive. For instance, we learned that now in order for men to have more than one wife, they have to get their first wife’s permission before taking on a second. And if a man wants a third wife, he has to get the permission of both his first and second wives. Apparently, it has become much less common for men to have multiple wives after this practice went into effect.
Next we drove to the medina, where we left the bus to explore on foot. We were instructed to stay together, since the medina is like a labyrinth, with tons of narrow passages and twisting, turning alleys. The medina was nearly indescribable. The streets were narrow, with hundreds of vendors pushing their wares at you from all sides while donkeys carrying heavy loads trudged by. The scents of flowers and fruit was often overpowered by the stench of shit and smoke. Sometimes a chemical smell surrounded us—not sure what that was, maybe tanneries?

Did you know that the oldest university in the world is in Fez?

We stopped at a carpet shop where the vendors showed us many magnificent carpets in all shades of beautiful colors. They were all dyed with vegetable dyes, like saffron, henna, and indigo. The reds were especially vibrant. We looked a bit for a carpet for our dining room, but they were too expensive. The size we needed would have cost around $2000 (American). We probably could’ve talked them down some, but it was still a lot. And we weren’t sure how our bargaining skills were.
Next we visited a weaving workshop. We saw two men working the looms, making scarves, pashminas, tablecloths. Beautiful bolts of woven fabrics were everywhere. We bought a couple silk scarves for gifts. We did some haggling here and ended up getting them both for 250 dirham. We have no idea if this is the best price we could’ve gotten, but we felt pretty good about our first attempt at haggling.

Then we visited a shop where they showed us the traditional outfits, called djellabas. Andrew volunteered to try one on. It was strange seeing him in the robes and everything with his tennis shoes sticking out the bottom.
Our coolest stop was next. We went to the tannery and saw the leather being dyed. Because of the strong smells, they gave us mint leaves to hold up to our noses to smell instead of the leather stench. I actually didn’t think it was that bad. It was sort of like the smell of blood and a sweaty locker room. Certainly not a pleasant smell, but tolerable. The cool weather made the smell more manageable, they said. In the summer, we heard the smells were just awful. The vats of dye were enormous, and the workers were just standing in them up to their thighs. Their skin was dyed in shades of red and yellow. Hundreds of animal skins were laid out on nearby rooftops, along with heaps of wool. After seeing the process, we were herded into the leather goods shop. The salesmen were quite pushy. If you so much as looked at a bag, they were there, asking if you wanted it, telling you how good it looked on your arm, and what a fantastic deal it was. I was surprised how good their English was, but I imagine they actually knew several languages, because knowing the language meant they could make a sale. I ended up purchasing a pair of sandals. I haggled for them, too. I don’t think I’m very good at this. The starting price was 350 dh, and I got them for 250 dh in the end—about 25 euro.

Our last stop was at a metal works shop. They had gorgeous platters and teapots for sale. We saw lots of glass teacups, too. Everything was a bit too expensive here. It was a fixed price shop, and even the small plates were 300 dirham. I loved looking around, though. They had pounded metal, making gorgeous patterns and designs. Also had some really neat metal light fixtures. I wished we had a better way to ship stuff home or more room to pack it, because I think I would have considered more seriously some of the goods here, but it was just so impractical to carry them with us.

On the way back to the bus, a couple of young boys followed us, begging for coins. They had pitiful expressions, but we’d been warned about these kids and how they follow tourists around. I felt like their facial expressions were practiced. It seemed like their minds were somewhere else, but they knew that they had to keep that look in order to get any money.

It was only lunchtime at this point, and we had all afternoon open. Andrew and I went to a creperia across the street from the hotel with Natalie and Mark. It was more like a bar than a café, with pool tables and tiny little bar tables. But the food was decent. While we were there, this cat came in, ran up the stairs, and waited for people to give her some food. No one seemed to bat an eye at a cat being in the restaurant. I gave her a couple pieces of chicken and made a Moroccan feline friend.
After lunch, we walked down a long, palm-tree lined avenue in the new part of the city. It was referred to as the Champs-Elysees of Fez, but there wasn’t a lot to see. We noticed that all the cafes just had men sitting at their tables. Where are all the women? We wanted to stop of coffee or tea, but I felt awkward being the only woman there, so we decided to just stop at a patisserie instead. But when we went inside the patisserie, all the food was covered with the biggest flies I’ve ever seen. Okay, not everything was covered, but there were far more flies than I would like to have on my food. So we went to the McDonald’s. I know, I know, but we’d heard they had something called a McArabia and we wanted to see what it was. We actually didn’t see a McArabia on the menu—maybe it’s a nickname for something else? But we did get a snack. Andrew got a milkshake and I ordered a Daim McFlurry because it was the only thing I didn’t know what it was. Turned out to be like Heath bar. And surprise, it all tasted like it does at home. The McDonald’s didn’t look like they do in the U.S., though. It was lovely, with traditional-looking lamps and carved, patterned woodwork.

We decided to go back to the hotel room for a rest before dinner. We read books, watched bad American movies on TV, and rested. We went to the lobby and had a café au lait and basically killed time. Tonight was the Imperial dinner and show and we wanted to be rested and ready for a late night.

The Imperial dinner was impressive. The food was good. We had this amazing soup, vegetable and chickpea with a thick broth. Very good bread, too. Sort of like a pita, but much thicker. We had lots of veggies and side dishes as a next course. Rice, zucchini, carrots, cauliflower, white beans, green beans, other things I can’t remember . . . The main course was a beef tagine. I was kind of hoping to eat it in the traditional way, where it comes in a big terracotta pot and everyone just eats the section in front of them, with no utensils, just bread and your hands. We got the terracotta pot, but we served it onto plates and ate it with forks. But it was still good. It was beef with carrots, potatoes, and green olives—a lot like a pot roast, except for the olives. The dinner also included tons of oranges, kebobs, coconut cookies, and mint tea. I was so stuffed. Could hardly move after all the food.
During the meal, musicians played Moroccan music and entertainers entertained. We saw a magician, percussionists, and belly dancers. They had lots of audience involvement, and again Andrew ended up dancing (which he loved). The show was a bit corny overall, but very good. I liked the atmosphere. Except for how cold it was in the building. And the chairs were really low, so after awhile my legs desperately wanted to stretch out but there was nowhere for them to go. The room itself was beautiful, with the same sort of intricate tile we’ve been seeing. The ceiling was high and ornate, too. The show ended with a wedding ceremony reenactment, where they lift up the (seated cross-legged) bride and bridesmaids on a platform. Afterward, the show abruptly ended. Strange ending, but good performance.

Andrew commented that he loved the music, but it wasn’t the kind of thing that could get stuck in your head. But he was totally humming it later.

1 comment:

jacker said...

I think I come to the right place, because for a long time do not see such a good thing the!
jordan shoes