|Riad Idrissy, Fez, Morocco|
|The Tanneries, Fez, Morocco|
|Butcher, Fez Medina, Morocco|
|Erg Chebbi, Morocco|
|Fez Medina, Morocco|
Tangier left much to be desired. But our hotel staff was very friendly and clearly used to Western tourists breezing through. I kind of felt bad when we asked when the train to Fez was and the hotel manager suggested we take a later morning train otherwise we wouldn't see much in Tangier. We did not make it to the medina in Tangier or where Paul Bowles used to hang. But we left Tangier on a good note with a fun petite taxi driver who took us to the train station after we realized our clocks had not set to the proper time because the day before Morocco decided they were not going to do daylight savings.
At the train station, we caught a train to Fez and enjoyed a nice cabin and met a young Australian couple and later an older American couple. I have so loved meeting people along the way and swapping experiences and tips. There is no best time in life to travel. Every age is a good age to travel.
A few stops from Fez we were joined by a very friendly Arabic man who was very charming. He got the cabin chatting and before long asked where we were staying. Red flags went up and I said we were meeting friends. Sure enough, he ended up trying to see if we would be interested in an official guide, a cousin of his. He could even meet us at our hotel. The older couple and the two of us said we were not interested and we sat in silence until the next stop. This was a perfect introduction to Fez. We had booked a driver to meet us at the train station to take us to our Riad in the medina which has been the smartest thing we have done all trip. The driver took us to the gates of the medina where another man took our bags in a wheelbarrow and we braved the medina maze. We would have never found our Riad which was a true oasis. (Riad Idrissy) We met up with our friends and the next few days were a blast! Our friends had just come from Chefchaouen where they met a grad student abroad here who introduced them to the phrase "You've been Moroccoed." She learned this phrase when buying alcohol for a party (no easy task here) and putting it in the freezer to chill. But everything froze because they water down the alcohol here. That's when she first heard, "You've been Morrocoed."
|What the Doctor Ordered|
Two days into Fez, my stomach had been Moroccoed, as well as Mike's and eventually one of our friends, even after we parted ways. We spent one whole day hanging out in the Riad playing cards and laughing. But not to worry, we also got out and saw the tanneries, went through the food souqs and saw a camel's head and testicles, were hassled by many touts, and haggled with the best of them. (Well, I cheered on the haggling!) The tanneries were by far the most mind blowing. Here, men and boys take dried hides of leather and soak and stomp on them in vats of dye. The dye is made from dried flowers, saffron, fruit peels and chemicals and the skins are dried using pigeon poo and cow urine for the ammonia and potassium. But the vats have been used since medieval times. Many of the tanners come from a long line of tanners. And despite the health risks, the process continues to this day, the same as it did centuries ago.
|Sahara Sand Dunes|
|Sunset in the Sahara, Africa|
Every time I think I have stepped too far out of my comfort zone and it's okay for me to pull back, I surprise myself and see myself stretch just a little bit more. Before Morocco, I could not tell you the difference between Arabic and Berber or most other Arabic or Middle Eastern cultures. And while I believed myself to be pretty open minded, I could feel my discomfort around Arabic culture. Part of it is the aggressiveness. Part of it is a lack of education on such cultures. And part of it is living in post 9/11 America, where enemy number one has been presented as an assault of images, many without context, of people who look a lot like Moroccans. I have felt my own nasty prejudices come through mainly in the form of fear. I then feel myself get frustrated. I want to be open and the desert has certainly allowed that. But I also know, I have to be a bit of a hard ass so not to be a sucker. And so the push and pull to find balance continues. But the more I trust in the greater good of people, the more that natural balance seems to find itself...even if it costs me an extra 30dh now and again.
|Erg Chebbi, Morocco (Sahara Desert)|