Ilivetolearn's Blog

December 7, 2005

Fez day one

Filed under: food/groceries,on the road,Spain — ilivetolearn @ 11:50 am

Got the family up and out by ten or so for “touristic tourism” (as the desk clerks at our hotel in Istanbul said every morning in 1982 when we were on our honeymoon). We have to take two cabs everywhere since we are five or six, but fortunately in Fez the little blue “petite taxis” are only about 10 Dirhams for a ride to the old city gate. About a euro. Ventured into the crowded, odoriferous, riotously colored medina area, walked all the way to the end and back, and were amazed by the would-be guides, who could actually be made to go away quite easily. On the other hand, Margo, never having experienced quite the same level of scrutiny and unwanted touching (people like to pat her hair) freaked out and announced that we had to go back to the hotel immediately. So we found a rooftop terrace where we could drink mint tea (Fanta for her) and regroup and be out of the madness. Then, back at the gate, we happened upon Hassan, an older and utterly unsmarmy would-be guide, and hired him.

The rest of the day was spent in his company, and walking through the old town with him was an entirely different experience. He knew everyone and was able to part the surging tides of humanity (and fully-laden carts and donkeys, etc.) with his stately march and a few well-chosen words to anyone who approached us. He was also very well-informed and adapted to our style immediately, taking us to less-touristy places: an old riad (palatial home of uncertain vintage with amazing tile work, plaster work, wood-carvings, garden) which has not yet been converted into a hotel or restaurant; a caravansary which has been beautifully reworked into a museum of woodworking and has a great rooftop terrace with wonderful views; and shops where we were NOT pressured to buy. We looked at lots of brass, wood, pottery, jewelry…Fez is really the handicrafts capital of Morocco. Ate lunch at a restaurant Hassan chose (though he wouldn’t eat with us) and of course had cous-cous and tagine. A few more circuits of the nicer parts of the medina (avoiding the smelly meat market with its hanging carcasses, goat heads, etc.) and a look into the tomb of Moulay Idriss (founder of Morocco) which like all the mosques is restricted to Muslims but has doors affording good glimpses, and we were done for the day.

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