Published: June 11th 2012June 9th 2012
Let’s start with the trip to Fez. After 14 hours of bus/ ferry transit from Granada to Morocco, which, mind you, began at 330 am Thursday morning, we finally arrived in Fés (Fez). We had decided to go out to the bull fight the night before and just not sleep until we got on the bus…. If I could go back in time, I would undo this terrible decision, because unlike my brother Daniel, I am completely incapable of sleeping on anything that moves. We decided to go check out the pool upon arrival because we didn’t exactly have the energy to explore and just wanted to relax. We then decided to go to McDonalds next to the hotel to get some WiFi where an older muslim woman hawked a loogie (sp?) and spit it at one of the girls from seville wearing a strapless dress. And thus began the series of awkward events that compiled our weekend in Morocco.
Food: The food at the hotels was terrible. We couldn’t eat over half of it because it was all raw vegetables and fruits with peels that had been rinsed in water. One brave boy in our group decided to try it anyway... he did not keep it down. They had spaghetti and rice etc, but all extremely bland. We were all really looking forward to breakfast. Key word: were. Breakfast consisted of chocolate crouissants (amazing) cereal with WARM milk, and hardboiled eggs floating in water. I had nothing but chocolate croussaints for breakfast for three days. Oh and I ventured into moroccan yogurt territory one morning, which was interesting but I did not get sick! We had lunch at the medina on Friday morning and it was the most amazing couscous with chicken and cooked vegetables I have ever had in my life. Lunch on Saturday was at the medina in Meknes, and we had chicken tangik which was potentially even better but did not have couscous, just potatoes. The watermelon there is by far the best watermelon I have ever tasted and was served as dessert pretty much every night.
Medina: The Medina was our first serious experience of Morocco. The streets are so small that most of the time we were walking single file. If a donkey came down the street carrying bags, we had to push up as close to the wall as possible until it passed, and hope to God it didn’t step on our toes. Our first organized stop was the carpet place in the Medina. I have never seen so many carpets of so many colors in one location, and I have been dragged on many a carpet hunt. The salesmen try to separate you from the rest of the group to get you to buy a carpet from them for around 200-1000 euros. They served us Moroccan whiskey or mint tea for those of you unaware that Muslims do not consume alcohol.
After the carpet place we went to the tannery.... Imagine walking into a building and having a complete stranger say hello to get your attention and then shove mint leaves up your nose, and not gently. Tannery’s are definitely the most horrible smelling place in the world, and here’s why. Leather is made of animal hide that has soaked in chromium, but rather than use chromium, they use a source of chromium. That source you ask? Pigeon poop. Thousands of pounds of pigeon poop, diluted in water. Oh, don’t you worry, I took plenty of pictures of this beautiful white water.
After that we went to the apothecary where I spent basically all of the money that I changed from Euro to Durham, only about 600 D (54 E). They showed us all sorts of spices, oils, perfumes, creams etc etc. Oh and this magic lipstick. It comes in a green tube, and the lipstick stick itself is green, but when you rub the same piece of lipstick on the hands of 20 different people, the color changes and becomes the color that is right for that skin tone. AMAZING.
We then went to the silk shop where we watched a man manually operate a loom to make pieces of silk. Afterwards we went upstairs to look at the traditional clothing of Muslims. He asked for a volunteer, at which point I raised my hand , unaware of what was about to happen. First he took this lovely piece of fabric that looked completely harmless and tied it so tight over my chest (over my clothing) that I basically couldn’t breathe. Then he took the long piece of fabric I thought was just going to hang out and swung it through my legs and attached it to the knot on the back of my little moroccan corset. So now I look like I am wearing a giant coral diaper, if you can picture that. Then he put this nice little overcoat robe thing on top, belted that, and then tied some thing around my head. He was so busy spinning me around and putting things on me, I hadn’t noticed that another man had taken one of the boys from our group behind the wall and changed him into the male equivalent of what I was wearing. After explaining that I was wearing the equivalent of Muslim lingerie, he asked our group how many camels I was worth, to which they decided 5. I have no idea if that is a high price or not, but I mean, it seemed to be enough. Out comes the boy from our group with five little mini camel figurines, at which point he announced us husband and wife. Had we been in a mosque or somewhere a little more legit I might have actually been concerned that we had become accidentally married or something, but of course this was nowhere near the case. It was, however, quite comical when 5 or 10 minutes later when walking through the medina, a local man walked up to me and asked if I had a husband. Hans grabbed my arm and said shes my woman (but in spanish) and our whole group burst out laughing.
We went to the pottery place as well and that was pretty, but uneventful, and afterwards we got on the bus again and drove to Meknes to check into the hotel.
We went to the Roman ruins, Volubilis, in the morning and walked around all of the rocks that are left from several centuries ago. Surprisingly, the majority of the mosaic floors are still in very good condition without having been restored, and you are still able to make out the stories that are being told. We then went to the medina in Meknes, where we saw chickens go from being in a cage, to being in water, to being plucked of feathers. Oh, and then there was a cow head just chilling on a table waiting to be skinned. The market at the medina in Meknes was a little more gruesome than in Fez but still pretty cool. We went to the Royal golf course, the mosque and the cemetary as well.
This is where the trip gets interesting…. Marisa, our program director, who I really wish I could kidnap and bring back with me, asked if we wanted to go to the Hamman, or arab bath. We were all like “oh we have those in granada, it’s a mini spa, that will be so fun.” What. A. joke. The hammam, is the farthest thing from a mini spa. Many arab people do not have hot water in their homes, so they go to the Hamman 2-4 times a week to bathe. You walk into this room where you take all your clothes off, and might I add, this was a surprise to all of us. So we all just decide eh whatever it won’t matter. Oh it mattered later. So we walk into the Hammam and into the hot room. Imagine a sauna, but hotter, with slippery wet floors and super humid. I guess kind of more like a steam room but whatever. So you take these Giant buckets that hold 20 gallons of water and fill them with hot water. And then you sit down, on the ground, butt naked, with 20 girls you are studying abroad for the summer with. First you wash your hair, and then you take this soap that is made of moroccan oil/ gel stuff and use that to rub your body, and then you sit there for 20 minutes waiting to be scrubbed, all the while smelling like a bottle of EVOO. I seem to be the guinea pig of the group, because when it came time for scrubbing I was volunteered to be first, thanks guys! They take this loofa, sponge thing that actually feels like sandpaper and this old naked woman scrubs you down with all the strength in her body. You know when you get in the sauna and then there is that one woman who walks through the whole locker room naked, gets in the sauna, and instead of sitting across from you where there is plenty of open space she sits RIGHT NEXT TO YOU and makes conversation? This was worse. Much worse. The floor was slippery and so she would slide you aroung to move you and then next thing you know your face is on her stomach or something and you see all these grey pieces of dead skin falling off of your body and everyone is watching your reaction to see if it hurts, which it does, but I of course lied so they wouldn’t all chicken out. I mean, afterwards, we all laughed about it, thought it was great and were thrilled our body’s felt so smooth, but still. That was something I will be satisfied only doing once in my life.
We got henna later in the evening, went to a little fair down the street for a bit and that was pretty much the end of our trip in Morocco! It was a blast, extreme culture shock and extremely awkward at times, but you know what? You only live once.
PS. For those of you who keep asking why my hair is up in practically every photo of me here is your answer: 1. It is hot as Hades down here 2. ……. The humidity has brought out a terrifying fact of life, and that is, that I have wavy hair. Not cute wavy, not capable of putting gel in it and it becomes curly wavy, but ugly wavy. So Unless I have time to blow dry it , you can expect to see it up always.
Lots of Love!!!