Day 14: Fez, Morocco –Meandering through the medina maze!

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Africa » Morocco » Fès-Boulemane » Fes
October 29th 2015
Published: April 7th 2016
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Today started off with our guide, Momo, taking us to Dar el-Makhzen, the Royal Palace of Fez. Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed inside the palace but we did get to admire the colourful outer brass doors and blue décor.

The next stop was the Jewish cemetery. The Jewish cemetery is a reminder of the once thriving Jewish community in Fez. It was interesting to see the difference between this cemetery and the ones we have back home. The Jewish cemetery unlike anything I have ever seen was all in white with round tombstones and Jewish inscriptions on the graves.

After paying our respects, we headed off to the old medina of Fez. The medina of Fez is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site and is believed to be one of the world’s largest car-free urban areas. The medina is a maze and is not for a foreigner to explore on their own. We were lucky to have our guide Momo, to help us navigate the old city. The medina is divided into different sections. We first past through the spice and food market section, various mosques, the brass pots section, the textile section and finally ended up in the carpet section.

We were taken to a carpet business where the group was shown various carpets. There were Berber carpets, silk carpets, and table cloths. There are 4 features that determine if a rug is hand knotted.

1. The design is the same on the front of the rug as it is on the back.

2. The fringe goes into the rug, and is not affixed with precise (machined) stitches

3. The rug has inconsistencies in knot height and thickness

4. The rug is very malleable

After lunch and an expensive rug purchase, it was time to see how leather was made at a local tannery. It was interested to see how leather was created, but the tanning process was very foul –smelling. We were given mint leaves to mask the smell of the leather being tanned. I could not spend that much time there at the tannery before getting a massive headache.

After the tannery we were shown an embroidery shop and then a textile clothing shop. We ended up buying two traditional Moroccan Kaftan dresses for the night out.

After our incredible time in the Fez medina, we were given the option to visit a traditional Moroccan Hammam. A Hammam is a steam room similar to a Turkish bath that Moroccan go to cleanse themselves. There was a separate building for the men and for the women.

The public Hamman experience was a real eye opener for the more reserved Westerners such as myself. The first room is a changing room. There are ladies on duty as you enter where you can hire buckets to leave your belongings. You can buy exfoliation gloves at the entrance when you pay to get it. I do not remember the cost, but it was cheap to get in.

From the change rooms, we passed through rooms with steam and naked ladies. We were separated into groups with each group giving a Hamman lady to scrub us down. Water was poured onto me and I was told to lay down on my back and then on my front as the naked Hamman lady scrubbed me down from head to toe with a glove.

It was definitely an interesting but not a very clean experience. There was a woman peeing by the side of the room and I got scrubbed by a glove that was used on other women. I am not even sure why I bought the scrubbing glove. I am pretty sure that I did not receive the whole treating. Isn’t there soap involved! I left feeling more dirty than clean and when we arrived back at the hotel, I took a quick shower before we headed out. Nevertheless, I would do it again for the experience.

That night with everyone dressed in their Moroccan attire, we headed out for a Moroccan dinner and show. It was a great time with belly dancing and traditional Moroccan music. The food was also very good. The best part was the dessert called Pastilla; a meat pie which combines sweet and salty flavours. There is a crisp layer of crepe like dough, with savory meat, spices inside with a crunchy layer of toasted and ground almonds, cinnamon and sugar on top.

The next day we will be heading to Marrakesh, a more modern city in Morocco compared to the traditional Fez.

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