Meknes to Fes
Carpets and alleyways
Invited in, but pay for photos.
Nice German Moroccan & the whole Jewish issue
Another travel day. Sometimes I wish you can travel without the actual travel component. Where are teleporters when you want them? We are travelling by local bus again today. CTM, being on the other side of town would have been preferable, but we needed a taxi to get there. This is just down the road.
We are off to Fez. The most medieval city in the Arab world!
On arriving at the station, it was not a problem to find the bus. It even left relatively quickly. I think we were only there for an hour or so. The bus trip was easy and uninspiring. There were nice landscapes and the such, but nothing memorable. Eventually we were in another city. This had walls all around, and quite large. We rightly assumed this was Fez. The bus stop is outside the city walls, and below a large hill covered with centuries of graves.
We were swamped with a single person that wanted us to take his taxi to our hotel, but we easily put him off. Pulled out our guidebook and got our bearings. We were not that far from some simple, cheep hotels in the Medina, and decided to walk. Passing through the main gate, and straight into the markets. From here, we did find the hotels. The hotels are located near Bab Boujeloud. The blue gate. It is called this as the outsides of the gate are tiled blue. For the colour of Fez, and the inside facing the Medina is green. Representing Islam.
The hotels were nothing exciting, and David started talking to a hustler about a better deal. He disappeared off with the guy to check it out, and we went around the corner to see some more. They were not too bad, but David’s offer was better. 2 rooms, free tea and wifi for 100Dh each room. We decided to go. Down a street, and into a small winding alleyway. We despaired of ever finding it again if we went out. Then there were the stairs.
These are so tight and winding up four flights to get to our rooms. The rooms are clean and serviceable, but ours is tiny. It is only marginally wider than the bed, and our bags only fit beside it on their sides. We have to have them on top of each other, so we can squeeze in ourselves. However it has a powerpoint and wifi! So we staied. IT is only for a few days. We could do our washing as well. It only cost half as much as the room itself! Still, it will be nice to have properly washed clothes for a change. Hand washing is fine, but it doesn’t compare to a washing machine.
Settled in, we decided to go for a walk around the town. Fez is the place you are supposed to get lost in, after all. On our way out we were given business cards with phone numbers if we got into trouble, which was a nice touch. We also took a few photos of the area for extreme recognition issues, if and when they occurred. The last of these was the photo of the entrance to the alleyway. There is a carpet shop in the middle of it. Well, not the middle, but the walls around and in the alley itself are covered with carpets. The street is a major thoroughfare and if we stick to it we should be fine. (We didn’t realise that when the carpet shop closed for the night, they would remove all the carpets!)
Along the way, we came across a shop selling pottery. Fez is famous for its particular style of pottery. This is the typical blue glaze they use. Some of the pieces on display were particularly fine, but paled in comparison to the building they were housed in. The man running the shop said the inside was more interesting than the outside, and we were welcome in for a look. Cautions, but not refusing the offer, we stepped over the threshold. The place was beautiful. This was no riad, but the inside area went up four stories. Each one had intricate decorations. From the cedar wood used for railings and windows to the plaster latticework. These give the impression of honeycombs where the bees have gotten all creative with patterns and geometry.
With permission, we snapped a few photos of the building, and found out that it is being maintained by UNESCO and the government.
It is good to see they are doing something to preserve this history. After all this, it was not surprising that the hand came up for money. We explained that we had asked and told we were allowed, so don’t change what you want half way through and walked out. I know this is rude, but I consider this two sided side of Moroccans rude. Still it was well worth looking at the building.
Wandering again through the streets, we declined offers for tea, hash, opium, and just come in and look. There are shops everywhere, people everywhere else, and mules in between. We did find streets that were mule free zones though, and there are no motorbikes in here either, so it is a lot easier to walk around. You just need to listen out for the guy yelling at you to get out of the way as he pushes his cart down the street. Barely wide enough to fit between the products on display.
At another crossroad we met a carpet salesman. I am still not sure how, but we ended up in his shop. Sitting down and waiting for the tea to arrive. He had already found out that David is Jewish, and this lead to a diatribe on politics. This settled down though, and Anna picked up his German accent. This completely changed everything. He had lived in Germany for 36 years working in a chemical plant. After an accident where he was lucky to keep his eyesight, he returned to Morocco to open this carpet shop. We spent a pleasant while here talking to him, with no expectations of buying a carpet. He didn’t even roll one out! It made a very pleasant change to most of the others we had been in. He even gave us a sightseeing list for Fes.
After this we continued wandering. We came across the Medersa. It was only going to be open for the next 10 minutes or so, and we decided to postpone it for tomorrow. Following this street, we were astonished to find ourselves half a side street from the blue gate where we had started! This was kind of handy, as we wanted to go back to where we were staying, but also confusing, as we thought we were heading in a completely different direction.
Not bad for our first encounter with Fes. We didn’t get lost, we didn’t get too hassled, and it is quite a nice place. It also has a good vibe about it. This could just be that there are no scooters or cars anywhere.