Fes: Artisan's Paradise

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October 27th 2011
Published: October 27th 2011
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we are in olive heaven
We enjoy visiting Muslim nations for many reasons and one of them is lying in bed quite early in the morning listening to the call to prayer, the first of five times each day. In the quiet of the early morning the sounds of prayer bellow out of the silence of the night to awaken the dawn of a new day. The sounds are enthralling and calming. Our experiences have demonstrated that the Muslim people are kind, generous and peaceful no matter what you read in the press. A few bad people have made it difficult for many thousands of kind people whose mission in life is to work hard, love their fellow man, and to make a better life for their families.

Fes is a complex city made up of an intricate labyrinth of twisting and turning alleyways where one can explore the famous souks. We are told there are more than 5,000 markets in this area and we suspect that number may be too low. Fortunately for us we had Abdul as our guide to show us the way or we might never have found our way out. Born and raised in the area he knows them
More OliesMore OliesMore Olies

scoop them up!
well as he played among these souks as a child. To say that it would be easy to get lost would be a gross understatement. The streets are so narrow that there are no autos, trucks or even motorbikes. All the supplies are brought in by cart or donkeys, and they work those poor beasts way too hard for our liking.

The souks (markets) of the medina are in five distinct sections of pottery, linen weavers, tanners, metal workers and rug makers. Fes is the intellectual and artistic capital of Morocco. The finest artist and craftsman are in this area of the country along with some major universities. If you intend to do some shopping while in Morocco, make this your stop.

Our first stop was to see how the pottery is made. It is an extremely labor intensive hand-made process. We were able to view each step of the process from taking the air out of the clay, shaping, and drying it, to finishing, firing and painting. As you might guess the last stop on this educational adventure is the gift shop where they do their level best to sell you the pottery of your dreams. They also make mosaic tables, which are intricate works. A table seating six to eight people will set you back $4000 U.S. We would love to have one of these Moroccan tables but right now we do not own a house so it was not a good idea. You’ll be happy to know if you come this way shipping is included in the price of the dining room tables. These artists are amazing to watch, as they are incredibly adept at their trade in how they file, chisel and shape each piece to fit together to make some dramatic designs. We found a tangine that we could not live without.

The second stop was the metal workers who deal in brass, copper, silver and jewelry. We were able to watch the artist as he created a lovely brass tray and watched how he etched the design into the metal. No one will be surprised to find out that a small piece of jewelry found its way home with Merry Jo. After she had bargained the price down well over 50 percent of course. Our guide complimented her on her skill and said she would make a fine
Mustafa & AbdulMustafa & AbdulMustafa & Abdul

"Bad Company"
Berber negotiator.

Take a ride on a magic carpet……In Morocco you can select from thousands of colors, designs and sizes. We were surprised that even though the price included shipping it was higher than we were expecting. In Morocco, no one pays the asking price. It is expected that you will negotiate a good price for yourself. We were not in the market for one of the amazing carpets so we did not dicker but thought the starting prices were high. The Arabic carpets and the Berber carpets have two distinct styles and designs. Both were equally wonderful.

If you are looking for a new leather jacket or any leather product the tanneries of Fez have much to offer. We climbed several flights of narrow stairs to the rooftop where there shop is located to view the complicated process of drying and coloring the hides. The smell is not very pleasing so they provide you mint leaves to sniff while you are up on the roof. The view of the city was amazing and the process of tanning the hides was educational. It is hard and dirty work. The tanners, potters, and metal workers were all plying a trade that is handed down from generation to generation. The person working in front of you could easily be the 10th or more member of a generation in the same trade.

We explored the linen weavers and discovered that this is the only area where the prices are set and no negotiation is possible. The work is intricate and magnificent and sadly I only left with a scarf. There were many pieces we liked but just weren’t sure we had a place for them.

Next, Abdul wanted to know if we would like to find a restaurant where we could sit and eat lunch or would we like to do as the Moroccans do. This was a no-brainer of a decision. There was no way we could not pass up that opportunity. He took us to a butcher where he bought some lamb, where they then ran it through the meat grinder with onions and a few spices. Once it was made into a ball they tossed it in a plastic sack and off we went to the griller. Abdul left the meat with one of his friends to cook while he took us to

making mint tea
a local coffee house. Up the twisting, winding staircase to the top he found us a bench to sit on. He ordered us some mint tea and left us to rest with two bags of olives he had purchased in another shop. We sat mesmerized by all the locals who come into the coffee house and placed their orders. The Moroccan barista brewed coffees and simmered the teas. The process is essentially to fill the glass with fresh mint leaves and cover it with steaming hot water. We were excited to be having a real Moroccan experience. If you wanted sugar in your tea, they literally hacked a piece from a rather large block of sugar. This place has undoubtedly been around for a couple of centuries. You won’t find this kind of action at Starbucks!

Soon Abdul returned with our lamb grilled to perfection in a bread pocket. He tells us this is where he and his friends come for lunch. We enjoyed sitting and talking about his work, life and family. He has a friend who lives in Miami, along with the daughter of a friend so we talked a little bit about America.

Fruit marketFruit marketFruit market

fresh purchases daily
Moroccan town has an old Jewish medina (city) where the Jewish community congregated. After the state of Israel was established, many Jewish families left Morocco for better opportunities, while others immigrated to France. Abdul pointed out that you could recognize the old Jewish shops as they had their businesses on the ground floor and their residences above. Most have balconies.

Our last day in Fes we woke up to pouring rains and yet we didn’t really mind because we have seen a lot in the past few days. The idea of sitting around enjoying our ryad sounded like a good idea. Mustafa came to pick us up at 10am as planned and we asked if we could postpone our outing until 1:30pm because we were hopeful the rains would stop. This area hasn’t had any rain for months so the locals were happy to see it come. They make reference to the fact that rain brings life. Soon things will be green again.

Mustafa took us to see some healing hot springs and drove us to see the Medical University as he knows we are nurses. From there we went to a wonderful town called Bhalil where we had the most pleasant surprise. We were introduced to Mohamed Chraibi, the tour guide for Bhalil who is famous in the Moroccan Rough Guides and the Lonely Planet. Bhalil is a town where ancient caves have been turned into homes and we were invited into his home for tea. Mohamed is a clever and humorous character, who entertained us with stories, singing and a tea ceremony. We enjoyed mint tea together and he told us a bit about these cave houses. He is definitely and ambassador of good will and we strongly recommend you pay him a visit if you are in the area.

After our stay in a most beautiful ryad, we move on to our next adventure….

Additional photos below
Photos: 54, Displayed: 28


Moroccan womanMoroccan woman
Moroccan woman

They are lovely
Brutus Brutus

Fine Moroccan Wine

As far as the eye can see
Pile of clayPile of clay
Pile of clay

starting the process
Molding & ShapingMolding & Shaping
Molding & Shaping

Moroccan Pottery

27th October 2011

You have given your blog readers an amazing insight - but then we have come to expect to be wowed! WOW!
28th October 2011

Vicki thank you
One of our passions in life is traveling and hope that we can share our experience in a way that it will enlighten and delight others. Thank you for following along.
27th October 2011

What a Trip!
I was anxious to see what the pottery looked like - very unique. Also liked the pictures of the individual people. Looks like you are having a great time and enjoying the sights, sounds and tastes! Anne
28th October 2011

Hi Anne
Good to hear from you. Yes, we are having a lovely time in Morocco. We loved being invited into the cave home for tea. Mohamed was so charming. Talk with you soon.
27th October 2011

I want some ...
of everything - tiles, shoes, scarves, pottery etc! You're obviously enjoying yourselves in Morocco - thanks for sharing it.
28th October 2011

Yes, we are enjoying each moment!
The craftmanship in the tiles, pottery, jewelry and leather is amazing. Handed down from generation to generations. See you soon.
28th October 2011

Sorry, something happened to my last sentence
Meant to continue ... Your photos are the inspiration for my shopping list when we go there.
28th October 2011

David and Pat
You'll need to bring an empty bag but on many things shipping is available.
28th October 2011

Dave & Merry-jo blog
well written and to the point. I love their stories and pictures
28th October 2011

Lots of stories on this trip
Having a great time and we will see you soon!
28th October 2011

it's a different world!
Tea, olives and cave houses. Enough to pull me in. I really enjoy your writing. Your open attitude to different cultures and positivity are what this planet needs! Wish I can travel as much as you guys do. Sure i have the time, but I need to manage my travel budget to cover as many as the places in my bucket list. I'm jealous. :-(
28th October 2011

Hi Liliram,
We understand the need for budgeting. We spent a bit more on this trip because of our birthdays...yes, an excuse. We have not really been traveling much in the past year so it gave us time to save up. You must add Morocco to your list. You will love the explosion of flavors in the foods.
28th October 2011

I'm so jealous.
Hi Dave and Merry Jo, Your pics are incredible. It reminds me of my trip to Morocco last year. I will definitely go back to finish what I started. Fes is amazing. so jealous, so jealous so jealous...Lynne
28th October 2011

Hi Lynne
So good to hear from you. I know your trip to Morocco was great and we are finally glad to be here exploring! We are now at a Kasbah in the Atlas Mountains. Having a fantastic time.
28th October 2011

Fes, on of the love of my youth
Trust me, At one point, I too knew my way around Fes on my own. I used to bring tourists there back in 1996...and from the first visit try to memorize every place...having a proper sense of the local space. Took me a while, but one day we lost 3 tourists in our group....told the guides...let me get them...and on I went founding the lost sheeps and bringing them back. I was young, and it was wonderful... I won't speak of the shopping, I was one the "other side"...these guys are pretty impressive. Thanks to bring back to memory some amazing days of my life.... I'm waiting for your blog on Meknes...one or two places are still deep in my heart there...
28th October 2011

Wow! Seeing that huge pile of clay next to the potter was fascinating. It made me remember a song from my childhood about how all of us can be potters in life. Just like a potter can mold clay into a pot, so too can each of us shape our lives. Choosing to travel and fill your life with rich experiences like this trip instead of having a big house is like a potter choosing to mold the clay of life according to his/her own wishes.
28th October 2011

Your mascot is revealed
Hope he is enjoying travelling as much as you are!
29th October 2011

Hi Shane,
Our mascot Brutus is having a grand time. We are both from the state of Ohio and there is a tree called a buckeye tree. My husband attended The Ohio State University and Brutus in their mascot, a buckeye nut with a body. So, now, Brutus will travel to exotic lands with us. He is having a grand time and enjoying being out of Ohio.
29th October 2011

Love the colours & your pics...the Colours of Morocco
29th October 2011

Hey Dave,
I'm still shy about asking people if I can take a close up photo. I'm a working on it. You have set the pace and we will see if we can follow.
29th October 2011

Glad to hear you are having a wonderful time, we have arrived home now after completing our Moroccan Odyssey
29th October 2011

We are enjoying our time in Morocco
Sounds like your adventure was wonderful as well.
30th October 2011

Happy memories
Great blogs guys! Your photos bring back so many memories of one of my favorite countries, I love almost everything about Morocco - the colours, the food, the people, the shopping...but I am amazed when anyone says they actually enjoy listening to the call to prayer, you are obviously more 'morning people' than I am!! Enjoy the rest of your trip around Morocco.
30th October 2011

We laughed about the call to prayer
Yes, we are morning people. For the past twenty + years we've been getting up at 5am for work so even when we sleep in we are half awake. We agree with all that you have said and hope to publish a blog soon about the countryside. Thanks for taking the time to read.
29th November 2011
More Olies

All of your photos are making me salivate! This photo is gorgeous - the black olives against the background of lemon yellow and blue ... what I'm going to imagine is cloth. Marvelous.
29th November 2011
More Olies

Yes, you are correct.
Never enough photos of olives.

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