Uncle Fes Tour

Morocco's flag
Africa » Morocco » Fès-Boulemane » Fes
December 15th 2017
Published: December 25th 2017
Edit Blog Post

The breakfast at the dar is buffet style with our new Senegalese pal Momadu (as in “Daddy don’t but Momadu”) at the spatula. We haven’t got a damn thing planned for today, but we do know that we are in Morocco’s oldest medina/souk combo and that any kind of decent travelers would do something about that. So, we check in with Said and ask if we can hire a guide. He directs his only word, “Yes,” toward the problem and we’ll have one at the door in an hour.

Lhasen shows up with a broad smile and a professorial air. He’s late 50-60s, but like normal 50-60s, not Said the hash dude’s 50-60s… which means be must be 43. We’ve got him for three hours, but the tour starts off pretty slow. He stops in front of a lot of things and talks for a long time about a lot of things. We’ll share the stuff we remembered, but please bear in mind that we have put a great deal of energy into forgetting a lot of fascinating historical information on this trip. He stops in front of a sort of doorway that spans the alley in which we walk. There are 800 or so such doorways. This particular doorway has had its door removed, but we’ll be seeing others that are still replete with heavy wooden door. The doors separate the 180 districts within the medina, which, by the way, is about 1200 years old and among the oldest on earth. Each district is semi-self-sufficient area featuring at least a fountain for a water source, a mosque (or two, or three… there are over 800 mosques of varying sizes within the medina), a school and a bakery. “Bakery” in this context is actually a public oven room (literally the oven is like a small room!) where the ladyfolk get the day’s bread together every morning. The district doors used to be closed every night after last prayer and every morning before first prayer. Once they were closed anything a district might need from a neighboring district, like maybe a butcher, would have to wait overnight. This practice only ended about 50 years ago.

Our guide likes to keep history alive by not telling us its history. He explains everything in present terms, “There are riads, dars and palaces. The riads are the smallest and have gardens in the middle – riad means garden, as in Garden of Eden. Dars, like where we are staying, are really big and palaces are basically neighborhoods within the wall within the walls within the walls. Each time he points out the walls of a palace we ask if it’s still occupied and it’s not nor has it been forever. So, we will have to separate history from present once we get to work forgetting this tour. It’s Friday, so the market is mercifully slow, with many stalls closed. We see the tanneries, which is a must-see thing. The process the hides require for the preparation and dying of leather are elaborate and a little other worldly. It’s like a giant, arbitrarily laid out egg carton with each egg-cup pool filled with some liquid required for some process. Some are a putrid white and are filled with water, lime and pigeon guano for treating the fabric. No shit on the pigeon shit; the guano is mandatory for the formula! This means there are pigeon hobbyists and shit harvesting professionals who supply this process. Other sunken tubs are filled with dyes, all of which, it should be noted, are from organic pigments, so the workers don’t actually need masks or gloves or whatever.

The trip to the tannery comes with a sales pitch for leather stuff just as the trip to the loom comes with a pitch for scarves, etc. At lunchtime Lhasen deposits us at a very nice, very tourist-filled clip joint. A clip here is no biggie and the food is meat-eriffic (we dream at night of our normal diet, but the food here is so clean that it isn’t ravaging our innards).

By the time Lhasen has dropped us off, it’s evening. We freshen up and make our way to the roof for sunset. It is there that we meet Pete, Kelly and Heather of Long Island. They’re a happy-go-lucky little troupe and make for great company. They’ve been touring around with a rented car and have a lovely selection of adventures to share, including getting stuck in the mud and have locals push them out. Kelly, whose personal style and comportment address certain African standards of beauty, had been receiving serious African princess attention. The men here are nothing if not respectful, so she’s thoroughly enjoying it. Heather has been traveling through Africa for a few months already, including some volunteering at a baboon rescue sanctuary, which, we’re quick to mention, requires far larger cajones than our brief stint at the Sloth Sanctuary. The difference being a baboon could rip out your heart, while a sloth can only melt it. She’ll be heading back to New York to work at a veterinary clinic there. Heather is animal people and we like animal people. Pete and his beard, Scott (okay, he didn’t name his beard, but it has enough character to merit and name, so… Scott), lives with his family on their farm out by Orient Point (forgive us if we’re off a bit here, Peter/Scott). They grow all manner of vegetables and also have some livestock, like chickens, and will be expanding into beef. Again, our veganism has always been based on the inhumane treatment of factory farmed animals, so farms like Pete’s family’s are inoffensive to us. We couldn’t imagine Pete being so much as verbally abusive to an animal. Scott, on the other hand…

We move the chat to one of the loungy areas of the dar and just shoot the shit, continue to hang together through dinner (soup for all) and say good night (to them and to you).

Additional photos below
Photos: 51, Displayed: 26


Tot: 2.202s; Tpl: 0.06s; cc: 5; qc: 46; dbt: 0.0473s; 2; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 2; ; mem: 1.4mb