AfricaMoroccoFez

I'll take one of everything please.

Fez Travel Blog

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Two of the happy Fes locals.

We managed to find the YHA associated hostel even in the dark but there was no food to be had and we'd now gone the whole day without anything but a warm Fanta to drink.

Oddly enough I don't recall much of the night.  I can only assume I hit the rickety bunk and fell instantly asleep.  What I do recall is we rose early and prepared for breakfast by completing our ablutions.  The ablution block was out across the courtyard from the main hostel building.  We scrubbed our teeth and "considered" the shower and the toilet before mustering the courage to try them both.
    "Cold" pretty much sums up the shower but I was happy to be rid of all the dust I'd collected since arriving in Africa.  Darryn came back with an odd tale about the toilet.

Which way to history?
  It was our first experience of the "hole in the ground" plumbing system but it seemed pretty obvious how it worked as there were foot steps either side of the hole.  It was the flush, or lack of, that had us beat.  Once we'd successfully navigated this new experience we started the day with a hearty bread and tea breakfast.

We had arranged for a guide to escort us about Fes.  He and his apprentice arrived at the appointed time and he set to work telling us where we had to go, what we had to see and what bargains were awaiting us.  It seemed the apprentice was going to do most of the talking (most in the city I think) and it was about 30mins into the tour that I'd had my fill.  I'm a tolerant man and not much for confrontation but this guy had grabbed my arms and pushed me here and there once too often and I made it quite clear what I though of his "service".
For centuries these tubs have been used to dye or cure animal skins. I can STILL smell the place!
  Naturally he wasn't in our company much longer, excusing himself to attend to an important matter elsewhere and we were left with the older, more sedate guide to get us about.  Nice!

As I've said, Darryn knew more about Morocco than I as he'd picked Kirstin's brain during our time in Madrid.  I didn't take the time to find out what he knew but learned very quickly how it was Kirstin had got herself into the quandry she had.  My list of desires were pretty simple and we spent the day going from one trader to the next.

First stop was the jewellers.  I wanted some silver as we'd heard this was a bargan here and a bangle would be an easy trinket to travel with.  One thing about bartering, you become very adept very quickly and when we got to the silversmith he brought out a nice piece and I sliced his starting price to shreds making him a little unhappy.
If only you could smell the skins!!
  When I didn't move on my price he brought out a smaller bangle, since the jewellery was paid for by silver weight.
    There was further discussion about the difficulty for me to pay the price he was after, even for this smaller band.  Then I was caught by surprise when he put both bangles on the bench on front of me and suggested another price.  Why he thought I'd be able to afford two for a higher price than just one I had no idea but I continued the business nonetheless. 
    I finally got to a point where the price was very good.  I knew this because the trader was performing cartwheels, frothing at the mouth and screaming blue murder at our guide for bringing this tight-fisted Kiwi to his store.
Another day of tying knots for the girls.

    The guide was jumping up and down on my foot so I would appreciate the bargain, that must be taken now or risk certain death of me, Darryn, the guide and his family for generations to come.  I agreed and the pressure subsided -somewhat. 

More pressure was relieved when I then asked to buy a kris for my brother who collected swords.  The trader brought out a nicely engraved scabbard housing a cheap steel blade with a modern carved wooden handle.  It wasn't a great knife but the scabbard was the prize and the handle had a nice etching of the "eye of furtune" within the "hand of Fatima" so I was up for it.  I got what I considered a good price and I believe the trader was happier by the totality of our business than he had been with the price I'd paid for the bangles alone.
Silk weaver at his loom.
  From here we went to the tailor where I was hoping to find my red felt Fes hat.

I got my hat and a little skullcap woven from brightly coloured cotton.  I also got a robe similar to those worn by the men in the country.  While I was trying all these things on, a leather jacket was brought out.  Although I wasn't interested in the garment by the time my protests had brought forth what I considered a price too good to be missed, I had to have it. 
    My collection of purchases was now much larger than I had expected.  We still had a couple of months of backpacking through Africa ahead of us and the leather jacket would have to go in the pack somehow.  As we prepared to leave the store the apprentice guide turned up and said we MUST visit the national rug factory.
Royal Palace
  The most renowned in the land.

I wasn't interested in the rug factory, I'd made my purchase in Tetouan, but we had not seen the rugs being woven and Darryn had not seen any at all.  We decided we'd take in the site.
    We were shown around the weaving rooms and saw a rug being woven by a line of girls sitting on a bench in front of the loom.  The work was spectacular and the pattern emerged from nothing.  There was one old woman overseeing the project, keeping the girls knots tight and ensuring the pattern was correct.  She also cut the long strands when about 3 inches of weaving had been completed.  It seemed slow progress but very interesting.
Royal Palace doors

    After this we were shown the silk loom and taken back to the rug showroom where we were invited to sit and enjoy a mint tea.  As I sat there I was questioned about what colour rug I was wanting.  I explained I did not want any rug, I already had one winging it's way to NZ from Tetouan.  Much was made of my little slip of paper.
     "This is not a receipt for a rug, but simply a postal receipt!  These bad bad men have ripped you!  You must buy one off us.  Here prices are set by the Government.  We cannot even barter and you can be guaranteed  the best price and a safe trade."

Somehow I ended up buying another rug, and then as we left the showroom to complete the paperwork, a third that I would be able to sell so as to pay for the others.
This old bloke was a true artisan.
  Somewhere in the "Government Rug Store" is a ledger detailing the purchases of "Chad.  New Zealand. Policeman", which I feel certain has been displayed to many unwary purchasers in an effort to satisfy them that they are buying from honest and good rug-traders.

After this we were offered a traditional Moroccan meal with our guide's family.  He asked Darryn and I for some money and purchased the required ingredients, which he then took home to his family with instructions to have the meal ready later.  We continued the tour around the ancient medina of Fes.  It was a great eye-opener and I was impressed with the beauty of the mosaics and tile work in some of the buildings.      We also visited a brass artisan.  This chap, himself ancient, sat at a peg amids a small room full of massive brass platters.
Dinner at last!!
  Here he spent his day carving the most intricate patterns into the soft metal.  Darryn and I purchased a small plate each and had him write a reminder of our experience on the rear.

I had not done all my shopping by this time and asked or man to find me a new book to use as a journal and a pair of those groovy slippers to go with my robe.  The slippers were made from camel skin leather and were not a tourist thing.  We found my size for the price of 8 dirhams.   The book was also a bit of an oddity.  Moroccans don't write along lines, so my book was a hard covered notebook of graph paper.  At least I'd be able to start my tales over again.  The loss of my bag days before had put me off writing so I was happy to find my interest rekindled.

At dinner Darryn was offered one of our hosts daughters.  She was happy to be a good wife and duties naturally included washing his feet at the end of the day.  He was excited by that but didn't have the 5 camels to pay for her.  We ate with our host while the women all ate in the kitchen.  We spent the evening picking the brain of our man and sharing with him our concerns about our funds.  He told us the Algerian border would be difficult to cross and recommended we head home.  We remembered the happy times with Kate and our friends in Spain -was it really just two days ago??!  There was a train to Tanger tonight but we should hurry now.


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Two of the happy Fes locals.
Two of the happy Fes locals.
Which way to history?
Which way to history?
For centuries these tubs have been…
For centuries these tubs have bee…
If only you could smell the skins!!
If only you could smell the skins!!
Another day of tying knots for the…
Another day of tying knots for th…
Silk weaver at his loom.
Silk weaver at his loom.
Royal Palace
Royal Palace
Royal Palace doors
Royal Palace doors
This old bloke was a true artisan.
This old bloke was a true artisan.
Dinner at last!!
Dinner at last!!
Fez
photo by: Johnpro