Day 12: Ahhhh.... Fes

Fez Travel Blog

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On a tour with Mustafa in Fes

Old Fes is described as "one of the most complete medieval cities left in the world today and the spiritual heartbeat of Morocco".  About 300,000 people still live in the medinas of Fes el Bali and Fes el Jdid.

This morning we went on a guided tour with Mustafa which included a ceramic pottery factory, the famous leather dye pits, the historical Kalrouan Mosque medersa, and of course some of the best shopping spots in the medina. As you will see, I was not able to take many pictures while in Fes. When I looked at my camera that morning, I saw to my horror that my second battery was starting to die out.... noooooooo..... so I had to conserve. I had my charger with me, but, silly me, in my rush, I forgot to pack my converter. My converter was sitting at my bed at home.

View of Fes
Good it did me there.

First stop was the ceramic pottery factory. We were taken on a guided tour by one of the gentleman who works in the factory and shown each step that goes into making all their beautiful pottery. From the master at the pottery wheel to the gentleman cutting each mosaic piece by hand to the gentleman putting the finishing glazes and the firing of the pieces in the Kilns. I have not one artistic bone in my body, yep sorry to say, no artistic ability at all, so to me watching them work was just amazing. The way the master molded the lump of clay on the pottery wheel to make it into something beautiful, ah magic!  After the tour, our guide then took us to the shop. They had so many beautiful pieces it was hard to decide on what to purchase.

We had a guided tour of a ceramic pottery factory while in Fes
Mustafa was pretty much my bargaining go-between, between me and the guide. Though in the end I really did not need Mustafa since the guide pulled me off to the side and ended up selling the piece to me at an even lower price than we had bargained for :-)  It's a beautiful little vase with metal silver edging throughout, with a simple, yet gorgeous design in a beautiful deep royal blue color.

While there, an older gentleman walked in, (I later found out from Mustafa, he was one of the owners), dressed in traditional dress wearing a traditional fes hat atop his head. He came straight towards me and started to speak to me in a Berber dialect. I just looked at him and smiled and then looked at Mustafa for guidance.  The gentleman told Mustafa that he thought I was a Berber, that I looked like one.

All the mosaic art is done by hand and cut piece by piece
I got that alot over there. People would either assume I was Arabic, Arabic mix, or Berber and start speaking to me in either dialect. 

Afterwards, we then went on a guided tour with Mustafa at the Medina. The Medina is an unbelievable labyrinth of 9,500 lanes and alleys.  You need to leave a trail of breadcrumbs like Hansel & Gretel so as to not get lost here.  Mustafa was totally in his element while giving us this walking tour, sharing the history, culture and pointing out the sights, of the medina. This is what he loves to do, he looked so happy that day. I know some of the girls griped a bit earlier that morning when they heard the tour would last a few hours. I enjoyed it immensely.  I love learning and having someone sharing with me the history of their homeland, culture and people.

Outside the old medina in Fes (a few of us will never forget this medina, right Bronwyn, Becc, Jade, Mel & Bel)

We then moved on to the famous leather-dye pits.  As we went upstairs through the shop to the very top floor, we were given mint leaves to place under our noses since the smell of the dye pits could be a bit much. It wasn't too bad though. They had some beautiful leather goods in that shop. The leather on some of the pieces was sooooo unbelievably soft, like butter. After our tour, the rest of the day and night were ours to do with what we wanted at our own leisure. Bronwyn, Rebecca, Jade, Bel, Mel and I decided to stay in the old medina for lunch and some shopping afterwards.

After lunch, we decided to go through the medina to shop some more, of course. I bought some beautiful silver earrings and scarves.  As we were going through the medina, a young man stopped us and offered to be our guide through the medina.

We told him, no thank you, we were fine. He kept on insisting, we kept politely declining.  He finally got the message and left us. We then started noticing that alot of the shops were starting to close.  We thought, okay, maybe they were taking their lunch break. Then we started to hear the music and clapping. Well before we realized it, we were caught in the middle of a celebratory parade which we had no idea was going to take place. It was pretty cool. All of a sudden, the medina was packed with people dancing, singing, clapping, ready to celebrate. There were people standing in balconies, on rooftops, they were all over. There were musicians in styles of traditional dress and costumes marching down the medina, singing, chanting, dancing, playing their drums, etc.
A quick peek from outside of the historical Kairouan Mosque medersa before the doors closed
We saw a bull being led down the alley, a camel, etc. We ended up trapped in the doorway of a music shop. The owner was a very nice young gentleman who went on to explain that this was the first time this celebration took place in the medina and that people from neighboring villages and other cities in Morocco came to take part.  He told us the bull was going to be slaughtered by the mosque and then distributed to the poor.

Since we really could not move, we decided to stay and watch and enjoy the festivities. While we were standing there, I noticed, no felt, that someone was intensely staring in my direction. When I looked, there was a guy across the alleyway just staring at me with a very, very serious, intense, expression on his face.

The famed leather dye-pits of Fes; they gave us mint leaves to put under our noses while here... the smell can be a bit much
He was looking at me with one eyebrow arched (which I know I unconsciously do when I'm starting to get angry), it started to make me feel a little uncomfortable, and I don't get that way often.  I turned to Bronwyn, and asked her "is it my imagination, or is that guy over there staring at me looking very angry?".  She turned in his direction and said "Debra, yes, he's looking at you, and looking a little angry".  I don't know, maybe I reminded him of someone else, someone who did him wrong, who knows. Anyway, so I tried to ignore him. When I looked in his general direction again, he was not there, but when I looked over to my right, on the side of the alley we were standing on, there he was by Mel and Bel. Still, with the same expression, he just kept staring me with such an intensity.
We were caught in the middle of a parade while trying to do some last minute shopping in the old medina in Fes. The medina in Fes, believe it or not, is made up of a labyrinth of 9,500 lanes and alleys.
I nudged Browyn, Jade and Becc. They were like "what the hell". While everyone was watching the parade, he was there with his necked craned to his left fixated on me.  Very, very strange.  Mel and, I believe Becc, took photos of him without his knowledge. They said it was for indentification purposes, just in case. Oh yea, what a comforting thought.

After a bit, the parade finally ended and it started to pour. The water was just gushing down the alley, so we decided it was time to get out of there, get away from him, go find a couple of taxis and get back to our hotel pronto.  As we were walking, Bronwyn and Becc looked back and noticed he was following us, still with that same expression on his face.  I just kept thinking to myself, okay, what the hell, who is this guy and what does he want.

As the sun is beginning to set over the medina
  We finally made it to the exit of the medina and tried to find a couple of taxis. I looked, and did not see him, so I thought, okay, he's gone. Hah, wrong. We walked a little further, and when Rebecca and Jade turned, there he was across the street from us trying to hide behind a column, still following. It kept on like that for a while, everywhere we walked, he was about a block behind, trying to hide from our sight, everywhere we turned, he turned.  We still were not able to get taxis to stop for us.  It was also starting to get dark, but at least it had stopped raining. I told the girls, look, if we don't find some taxis soon, we're just going to have to go back towards the medina to the phone boutique place we passed earlier, call Mustafa and Achraf and tell them to come get us. The girls were starting to get scared.  As for me, the guy was seriously starting to piss me off.  He was still following us, and the girls were starting to panic. On our way back to the Medina, the girls decided to hide behind the wall by one of the main gates. In my mind, I kept thinking, this is hysterical, here I am, in Fes, hiding behind a damn wall. The locals kept looking at us, like "crazy tourists".  Just picture it, six women, trying to hide, leaning against one of walls by the gates of the medina in Fes. It was like something out of a comedy movie.

So there we were hiding behind the wall. While Bronwyn was peeking out of the entrance to our right, Becc looked over to the entrance by our left, and there he was coming towards us. Well, out of nowhere, Becc let out a yell, which then made the other girls scream and start to run. She scared the hell out of me when she yelled, but then I started to laugh hysterically as I ran after the girls across the plaza. I'm telling you it was like something out of a comedy. We finally stopped as we approached the outside entrance to the medina and all started laughing hysterically. When we looked, he was gone, finally, gone.

Finally, we got some taxis to take us back to our hotel. When we got there, we ran into Mustafa and Achraf  in the lobby of our hotel and proceeded to tell them what happened to us. They could not believe it. Mel and Becc showed them the pictures they took of the guy. We then told the others what had happened, and they couldn't believe it. Ah yes, I must have that face with a big stamp across my forehead with the words "welcome psychos, yes, come, come bother me".  After a nice warm shower, Bronwyn and I decided to head down to the bar in the lobby to have some drinks after our little adventure. A few of us then met Mustafa and Achraf in the lobby and went out to dinner. After dinner, I stayed and had some more drinks with Mustafa and Achraf at the bar. We drank some beers and wine and talked on and on for a few hours. It was a great way to end my evening in Fes.

Ahhh.... Fes.....

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On a tour with Mustafa in Fes
On a tour with Mustafa in Fes
View of Fes
View of Fes
We had a guided tour of a ceramic …
We had a guided tour of a ceramic…
All the mosaic art is done by hand…
All the mosaic art is done by han…
Outside the old medina in Fes (a f…
Outside the old medina in Fes (a …
A quick peek from outside of the h…
A quick peek from outside of the …
The famed leather dye-pits of Fes;…
The famed leather dye-pits of Fes…
We were caught in the middle of a …
We were caught in the middle of a…
As the sun is beginning to set ove…
As the sun is beginning to set ov…
photo by: Johnpro