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Published: June 14th 2018
the pathways are narrow to begin with, and you have to share them with donkeys
Let me start by saying I am extremely fortunate to be able to travel the way I do. I have a great respect for all faiths, and of the people who practice their faith. I am well aware of the privilege I have of living in a place with clean water that comes out of the tap, and of not living in an active war zone. I know that my complaints fall under the heading of inconveniences, not problems, but still, some days…
There are a few things I know I’m good at: I am a good researcher, I’m good at organizing and planning, and I can whip up a pretty good green curry chicken. But I failed to plan as I should have, and I also thought I knew enough to not have to research this trip as thoroughly as I should have. And that brings me to being in Morocco – where Islam is the constitutionally established state religion – during Ramadan.
During Ramadan, which Moroccans take very seriously, the faithful do not eat, drink, or smoke from sun rise to sunset. The act of fasting is considered a form of personal worship. As a
It's Ramadan, and most restaurants are closed, and many ships have shortened hours
non-Muslim, I am not expected to fast, though it is rude to eat or drink water in the street. But since 99% of the population is fasting during the day, good luck finding a restaurant open. There are a few, mostly outside the medina, but the pickings are pretty slim. (I am embarrassed to admit that I went outside the medina to eat at Burger King, and I enjoyed it.)
I am tired of getting lost. Parts of the medina in Fes are over 1,200 years old, which means a lot of twisty, narrow streets, and there are more than 9,000 of them. These twisty, narrow streets branch off in unexpected directions, and more often than I would like, lead to a dead end. I try to find landmarks, a bit of graffiti on a wall, or a child’s game scrawled on the street in chalk to give me a sense of where I am, but damnit, all the walls are the same color, and they ALL have bits of graffiti scribbled on them.
And maps? What maps? The best one I have found shows the main paths, but not the little alleys or souks. And Google
would you walk down this path?
maps just shows my location to be in the middle of a big blank space. And it seems that no matter which direction I want to go in, it’s all uphill. Now I know that is a physical impossibility, but it certainly seems that way.
And I am tired of people trying to sell me something. I understand folks are just trying to earn a living, but give me some room, please. Don’t tell me you want to “give” me something, and then throw in the kicker that it is a gift is only if I buy it. I don’t understand that logic. I am tired of persistent young men blocking my way, saying “Let me show you my family shop,” and then proceeding to get me lost.
So here I am, hungry, thirsty, exasperated, and lost. And then my mouse dies. (My computer mouse, not an actual living creature.) I don’t know the word for that kind of mouse in either French or Arabic, so I took the dead mouse with me to show the guy who sells cell phone charging cables in the medina, but no luck.
Anyhow, that’s how I ended up in an
air-conditioned shopping mall, eating at Burger King, after finding a new mouse at the Virgin MegaStore. Pardon the rant, the regularly scheduled travel updates will resume shortly.
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