Through the Gates of Fez

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June 23rd 2019
Published: June 25th 2019
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(Get ready...this one's long!)

Today was our first full day in Morocco and many of our group agreed it was the best day yet! Our hotel Diana Park had a wonderful breakfast spread, including watermelon, sliced meats, hard boiled eggs, assorted pastries and croissants, and hot mint tea. While we ate, we all enjoyed watching the male and female peacock with their 3 young ones strutting around the garden. And we looked forward to swimming in the cool blue pool later that afternoon!

Mohamed was an exceptional guide throughout the day, always eager to share his love of Morocco, insights into Islam, and information about history or architecture. We started at one of the many palaces where the king and princes stay when they visit Fez. Viewed from the front, we could see all seven golden doors symbolizing the seven gates of heaven in Islam. Along with the white marble and glistening tile mosaics on the building facades, they shown brilliantly in the morning sun.

Then we entered the most iconic part of Fez, the Medina (old town) through the spade-shaped arched doorway decorated in blue tile mosaic. Mohamed and our tour director Joe emphasized the importance of
Explorica group! Visiting the secondary school of theological studies Explorica group! Visiting the secondary school of theological studies Explorica group! Visiting the secondary school of theological studies

Mohamed, our local guide, is wearing yellow. His apprentice is crouched in front of him wearing black. Idaho is the 14 people left of them. No idea who the guy in white is! Texas and Arizona are to the right of Mohamed.
staying together so that no one would get lost in the Medina. Apparently there are over 9,000 streets! We passed tiny closet-sized shops where old men sat Indian-style on the floor, their laps draped in silk, as they stitched garments by hand. A little girl carried bread dough formed in 2 round loaves towars the community oven. Artisans chiseled tiles and wood, and cobblers mended shoes. Everything in the Medina had the feel of being stuck in time, and that craftsmen were carrying on a legacy of their trade from several former generations. Inside the Jewish quarter, Mohamed pointed out how Jews hang their laundry over balconies to dry, while Muslims would not reveal their private lives in that way at all. How interesting! We were able to enter a synagogue and view the Torah, a place of quiet and reverence.

One of the best parts of the day was the carpet demonstration. We were taken into a beautiful Riad, formerly a wealthy man's home. It is now UNESCO world heritage site and the opulence indoors was almost unbelievable. Every surface was covered in mosaic tile, brass chandeliers hung from the ceiling, and detailed hand-woven rugs adorned the entire space. Mamalade orange, and the rich blue of Fez, the yellow of the sun. While one man explained the craft of hand weaving rugs, other men moved seamlessly through the room, unfurling rugs and slapping them flat on the floor, one on top of the other. While some made purchases, the rest of us enjoyed the complimentary hot mint tea.

I would be remiss if I didn't describe our lunch, one of the best meals I have had in my life! We continued down the serpentine streets and ducked into a small doorway which opened up to the beautiful restaurant inside. Benches along the wall and little alcoves were lined with comfy pillows. golden China and silverware glitter Don are table. Hand woven lennon napkins stuffed our drink goblet. The first course included a table full of tiny plates: lentils, dices beets, spiced carrots, cook spinach, fried okra, smokey mashed eggplant, savory green beans, green, black, and yellow olives, garbanzo beans, potatoes, and fresh Moroccan bread. We scooped bites of each dish onto our plates and passed them around in family style. With each mouthful, we exclaimed "This is delicious! This is amazing! This is the best I have ever tasted! This chili paste is to die for!" For the entrees, we each ordered something different so we could share. The pasilla was a crowd favorite! A round pie with beef and cinnamon and onions baked inside. But the lemon-seasoned chicken, the tender lamb, and the tiny meatballs were all a close second. Dessert was a ripened juicy watermelon and dark cherries, followed by more mint tea. Every bite was a burst of flavor!

After lunch, we enjoyed 3 more in depth experiences to learn about Fez and Moroccan culture. We visited the tannery to get a bird's eye view of of the honeycombed pots of dye where men stood barefoot, treating leather hides from dromodaries and goats. The vats were full of different colors, including white from pigeon poop, red from poppies, blue from indigo, and yellow from turmeric. Several members of our group purchased beautiful, silky soft bags or leather coats for souvenirs, while I went back outside with our couple of vegetarian students who were affronted by the smell (regardless of the mint sprigs they gave you to mitigate the chemical smells) and upset by man's use of animals. I thought it was fascinating to see this 16th century process unolding before us as it had been done for hundreds of years.

Next we got to visit a vendor that sold products made from argon oil, which is found only here in Morocco. A woman crushed the argon nuts rhythmically with her hands by smashing them between two rocks. It was clearly a practiced, familiar task. Many of us purchased argon oil lotions and creams to soothe our dry skin or bug bites, and found it to be creamy and cool. At the pottery factory, we watched each stage of the pottery process. Lauren got to throw a pot on the wheel, giggling all the while as she tried to kick it with her foot while also working the clay with her hands at the same time. We watched the artisans painting and decorating teapots and plates, and one welded tiny pieces of metal wire onto beautiful blue teacups in Fez blue.

Our already eventful day culminated in a drive up to a vantage point for a sweeping view of Fez, swimming and playing in the pool, and a dinner out where we tucked into a booths for a family style meal similar to what we had at lunch. Suffice to say, we are in love with Morocco!

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