Our morning started with a tour of Fes. Our driver Lahsen is not allowed to guide, at all. He could get into trouble with the law if he is caught. Every position is very specific. Our guide, Abdel, (who has a BA in English) was born and raised inside the medina of Fes and so the perfect person so take us inside the walled city. He used to play hide and seek here.
The typical tourist would get lost as the city is a matrix, streets go in every direction, and often dead end into a wall or a house. I have read that some people will take you into the medina for cheap, but taking you out is a whole different price. Knowing that Lahsen knows Abdel erases this awful scenario.
The tour started at the golden gates of the palace, outside of the medina. Although the king has 40 palaces throughout Morocco, and is hardly here, he has over a hundred and fifty full time employees inside to keep it beautiful and ready for his arrival. The garden provides food for children in orphanages, many of whom were born illegally, aka illegitimately.
Apparently the king does like it here and comes a few times a year, not to mention his wife is from Fes. The walls that used to keep out the Berbers now keep out the in-laws.
Of course that is a joke, despite having a personal net worth of 40 billion, the king is down to earth, often driving himself (without security if possible) and taking selfies with whomever asks.
Before going inside the medina we went up, to a fort that used to lookout for possible looters.
In the distance, on the left, you can see similar strategically placed fort.
Ahhh, the famous Berber-free zones of any respectable medina...
Next was the first of many cooperatives.
These are places where people come together to learn an artistic trade, such as ceramics. It is also the location of the infamous Moroccan Shakedown. This is when the items that you want to purchase (none of which have price tags) cost more than you would ever imagine, even if you were in the US, let alone Morocco.
It was very interesting to see how everything was made, from throwing tajines on pottery wheels, to painting, to working with silver, to making tiles for mosaics. Unfortunately nothing was worth the prices that they claimed it was worth. The Moroccan Shakedown often begins with, "let's be democratic, whats your best democratic price?" I honestly don't think that Moroccans know what the word democratic means.
I never would have imagined that these little tiles are made individually.
Now entering the medina...
Doors often have two sizes with two knockers that create two different sounds. The small knocker is for family. If someone uses the large knocker, the woman of the house knows to cover her face.
The tanneries, where skins are processed, is a must-see in any large medina.
Upstairs is the view and a sprig of mint to disguise the intense aroma, downstairs- the Moroccan Shakedown.
Whatever ideas you have about hygiene and sanitary conditions must be ignored if you want to eat.
Medinas are organized by trade.
This is where fabrics and raw materials are dyed.
This is where brains are sold...
Right next to the dromedary meat (dromedary are one hump camels).
I am glad that I don't eat meat, I never have to wonder if I am eating dromedary.
Good luck, Eric.
Beautifully presented tajine.
This is our last stop on the medina tour. We saw the archaic technique for making fabric.
After seeing how so many things are made by hand, I have a whole new appreciation for items that I would usually purchase, without thinking, at a place like Marshalls.
Mjid and Samir are the employees at our riad. They are the nicest and most honest Moroccans you will ever meet! We spent hours chatting with them.
Both have bachelors degrees, since education is free in Morocco. (Samir's BA is in French economics.) Both are working in the hotel industry since finding any kind of decent employment is nearly impossible.
Listening to the mosques call everyone to prayer will forever be one of my favorite things about Morocco. They are not recordings, every mosque has someone inside doing it live (and in a city not so far away, it is Mjid's father).