Published: March 9th 2011February 21st 2011
We had our second of many bread-only breakfasts in Morocco this morning, but there were several different kinds of bread, one being very much like my grandmother's cornbread, and lovely jam and butter and coffee. Enis was functioning much better than I thought he would without his Turkish tea. Moroccans drink mint tea, which I loved, but they didn't serve it at breakfast at our hotel. Our breakfasts were good in Morocco, but consisted mainly of bread. That is very French and the Moroccans have definitely been influenced by the French - food, architecture, language, and attitudes were all reflective of their time as a French colony. Unfortunately...'
After breakfast we walked to the medina and immediately found a spice store featured in Lonely Planet. The guy working there told us his father was Mr. Spice Man and he was very professional and very proud of his small shop and their special blend of Moroccan spices. I love spices, and I loved all the things in this blend, so I bought 100g for 50 MAD, the price listed in LP two years ago. Across the street from this shop was a beautiful display of lamps, and Enis and I were
Given how dirty most of Moroccan restaurants were, I wasn't about to try the hamam.
interested. Abdullah talked to us and was quite friendly and spoke decent English. We asked about a few lamps and a ceramic, and he quoted us an excellent price. I was surprised. And we liked him. He was very gracious when we said we would think about it and shook our hands when we left. I liked him because he also talked to me. Many men would not because I am a woman. Turkey is the same, as I learned when trying to get internet and satellite hooked up in my house in Selcuk, but not so traditional in this way as Moroccan men. This was a particular pet peeve of mine while traveling here. Well, and in Turkey, if we're being entirely honest here.
We were headed straight for the tannery that Fez is so famous for. I read that it is better to go in the morning because the vats of dye would be full. We finally found it (there are no signs that we could find) and were hassled relentlessly on the way there. We had to shake off very persistent and quite aggressive men all the way through the medina, and they were not gracious!
When we finally found it, a young man told us we could view the tannery from his terrace for free, and we knew he would take us through the leather shop, but that was fine. Some of the shops charge a fee to go to their terrace. Tourists are not allowed to go in the actual tannery. This man was nice and not aggressive. He spoke English with us, and left us alone on the terrace. We stayed about 30 minutes watching them work, watching one man shave off the fur with a huge knife, and others knee deep in the actual pits. It was fascinating. I read that most of these people inherit their job in the tannery from a family member and that they have numerous health problems as a result of working in the chemicals. They use pigeon shit and cow piss to soften and treat the leather, and the smell is seriously bad. After about 30 minutes, we couldn't stand it anymore and we went inside the shop and had a look around. We weren't particularly impressed with the quality of the leather and it all smelled horrible! Like the tannery! The young man who brought
us here answered our questions, lazily tried to bargain with Enis, and didn't seem bothered that we left empty handed.
After we left, we wandered a bit and ran into Mr. Ahmed who sells pillow covers, bags, and a few kilims. I stopped to take a picture of his lovely display outside, and he grabbed us. He was friendly, spoke good English and didn't seem to mind that we weren't French. His shop was behind the wall display and we went in. It was tiny and packed with beautiful things. He offered us mint tea, the only shop owner to do so in the entire 10 days, and we stayed with him for three hours. Enis had a brainstorm while looking around and ended up doing a bit of business with Mr. Ahmed who was happy to help. He volunteered to bring the finished products to Casablanca on our last day. A price was agreed upon, a deposit was paid (by me, as Enis as usual, claimed to have no money and no access to money even though he has a bank card and credit card like everyone else), and Mr. Ahmed even gave me a stunning pillow cover
as a gift. I had planned to buy it!
I promised Mr. Ahmed to promote his shop on my blog, and I intend to do just that. You can see his display in the pictures in my previous entry and I wish I could give you directions to his shop from the tannery, but all I know is it is not far from it. His name is Ahmed Hamidou and his specialty is Berber pillows. His address in the medina is Quartier Blida (pres des Taneure Choura) No. 14. I don't know if this could help you find him in the medina, but it might if you ask enough people for directions. He speaks very good English and if you want to email him his email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Enis did some business with him and he worked with some other people to create a beautiful product. And he delivered it to us in Casablanca after a long bus ride for him. Mr. Ahmed was hospitable, not pushy, and he has beautiful hand-made Berber products. He speaks Arabic, French, and English that I know of. Go and see him and tell him Enis and Maryemana sent you.
in Mr. Ahmed's shop a long time and when we left, the entire medina seemed like it was on a siesta. We later found out that people had closed up shop because there was a protest and they were afraid the protesters would damage their shop for not joining them. So everybody just closed up and went home to sleep rather than joining in the protest. We still got hassled by the few young men that were hanging around, and eventually we wandered toward the Blue Gate by accident. We ate lunch from a small stall that displayed its meat in a glass case. It wasn't clean, but it sure was good!!! We figured since it was cooked it couldn't hurt us. And it didn't.
We left the medina to go to an internet cafe and then wandered back in to see the specialty butchers that butcher camels. You can see pics on my previous entry. Then we went back to see Abdullah and bought a lamp and a ceramic from him. We didn't even bargain because his starting price was so good and he gave us a small lamp for Enis' mom. We figured since we had a
rental car, it wouldn't be so difficult to carry things with us. This proved to be a dangerous way of thinking and Enis proved to be a quite a shopper on this trip! With my money!
We took our stuff back to the hotel and then went to the new medina or Villa Nouveau. It is only 700 years old, compared to the old medina which is REALLY old. Not much to see there, to be honest. There is a palace that is not open to the public, and the medina itself was like the old medina - not a nice place to be after dark. We wandered out to modern, wide streets and got a bite to eat - tagine and Moroccan couscous - at a nice place that we think was clean, and we saw a horrible accident at a big roundabout with a huge fountain. A car hit a motorbike with two people on it and the girl went flying off and the guy hurt his leg, so he said. The bike was totaled, but the girl got up immediately and walked over to the guy and she appeared to be okay. So did the guy for a moment, and then he suddenly started holding his leg and acting like he couldn't get up, even though he'd already stood up once. I wasn't buying it. I think he noticed how nice the car was that hit him and decided to take advantage of his misfortune, but maybe that's just the cynic in me.
We were tired, so we took a taxi back to the hotel to eat some of the lovely strawberries we bought. Tomorrow we have a long drive to Erfoud with a couple of stops on the way. Little did I know one of those stops would involve buying Berber kilims!