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Published: October 6th 2010
Today we are on the road again heading for a desert camp in the Sahara this evening. The last 2 days have been absolutely mind blowing beautiful, crazy, exhausting and fun all wrapped up. Tuesday we arrived in Fez, Morocco’s most traditionally city and usually one of the most photographed of the Moroccan cities. As an outsider, all one seems to see in travel show about Fez (and the rest of Morocco could fit into this category) is images of the old medina - the windy, colourful streets of the souq and beautiful intricate doorways of mosques and other building appearing out of nowhere. I was surprised to arrive in Fez and the Ville Nouvelle (built in 1912 by the French) is a very cosmopolitan city with the main Hassan II Avenue dubbed the Moroccan ‘Champs Elysées’.
The next day we were taken by a local guide through the 10 000 + streets of the medina (well we didn’t exactly make it through the 10 000!) Because of the sheer size and density of the medina, a guide is highly recommended. Firstly we went to the imperial palace in Fez to take pictures of the beautiful ornate doors (which appear on the cover of the current Lonely Planet Morocco guidebook). We then took a drive up to the old Kasbah to take Ariel photos of the large old and new city of Fez. On the way to the medina we stopped by a local ceramic and pottery shop where we saw how these handmade ceramics of Fez are produced including tiles and the famous Moroccan fountains are made. I think everyone bought a little something and I bought a gorgeous bowl decorated with intricate silver design.
Entering the medina, the smells and sight take you back 200 years. Aside from the electricity wires and banks on every corner, the medina looks virtually untouched. People still reside within the walls of the medina, but there are thousands upon thousands of shops, areas neatly divided into areas - the vegetable market, meat market, leather area, clothes area etc. We went into an old Madrassa (Koranic school) which was closed down in 1960 just prior to the introduction of mainstream schooling. It was an incredibly beautiful area, mosaics, cedar wood high ceilings. We visited the median library which was just as gorgeous, and mosques (which we weren’t allowed into) but we were able just to take photos. Our guide took us into a leather shop where we saw the traditional vats of colour where workers were dyeing the leather and of course the pushy salesman trying to offload their leather goods on us. We also visited a weaving area and bought some scarves; a carpet shop located in a gorgeous old house with high ceilings and watched woman make carpets and of course pushy salesmen. After that we stopped by a metal workshop and watched a man chisel intricate designs on a copper plate. There are basically 3 different ways to manually decorate metal plates - stamps where there is already a design on the end of the chisel, chisel the design or needlework which is basically a slimmer and pointier chisel. We bought a bronze plate with needle work and it is GOREGOEUS!!! We then went into a clothes shop where we tried on traditional clothes and me wanting to buy a jalaba (morocco style abaya) got the hard sell. He wouldn’t come down to my price so I didn’t buy it. That evening we had cheap, totally Moroccan street food which was yum and took a walk along the ‘champs Elysées’.
The next day we packed up to go to a village near the middle Altas town of Midelt. Along the way we stopped at Ifran, dubbed as the Switzerland of Morocco. It’s a gorgeous town which is the coldest point in Morocco and looked like an alpine town (without the snow of course being September). We picked up some food and stopped along the way for a picnic which was nice and relaxing before stopping at our Auberge for the evening. We took a walk in the village which reminded me in some ways of the country side in Thailand. The village is very fertile and Midelt being the apple capital of Morocco, apples were everywhere. Some local women stopped to talk with us and take photos of their gorgeous little girls. The scenery reminded me of Wadi Rum with the large rock formations.
Later that evening we had traditional Berber entertainment complete with music and dancing. The local Berber dancing was just a twisty shimmy and the other group that was there from Gecko’s (a rival tour group) proposed a dance off. Now knowing that I am a belly dance student, the rest of intrepid nominated me. Then we played it up with some of the ladies saying ‘she’ll dance but she’s crazy she dresses her dog’ etc. to play down any ‘talent’ that I may have lol. So the Gecko girls had coin belts whilst I and my partner in crime Nicky were dressed in traditional Berber wear. So once the Gecko people were warming up on the dance rug I shimmied and haggala-ed (an Egyptian folkloric dance move) made way into the group. Shimming my hips and chest if I may be so bold I (and Nicky too following my lead) showed those gecko people a thing or 2 and they were just vigorously trying to shake and wave their hips. A little hip drop here and there, chu chu running shimmy, the night was well underway. And again if I may be so bold a gecko girl kept saying in a surprised tone to her friend she’s good, she’s good (meaning me) and I’m thinking yes yes those 2 years of belly dancing are paying off and yes those shimmies I do in my hotel room each night was paying off as well! After that both groups got up and danced (a bit of uncoordinated ape dancing from the other group). It was just a fun, entraining evening. The musicians and performers were absolutely fantastic it was such a privilege to see traditional Berber dancing and music in Berber country. I know I certainly shimmied my dinner off!
So today we are en route and as I am writing this on my net book we are winding our way through the Atlas Mountains. We just visited a local co-operative founded by Franciscans nuns and now run by a French lady. The ladies who work there produce handmade embroidery. Being Friday (an Islamic holy day) these ladies have the day off but the group bought some lovely but expensive embroidery. It’s supporting the local woman so it’s going to a good cause. Well that it from me for now!!
A bientôt 😊
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