Imperial City

Trip Start May 11, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Morocco  ,
Monday, August 14, 2006

Our bus trip wound us up and down through some of the brownest and dryest scenery I have seen. Surreal - like out of a movie. Fes used to be the capital of Morocco now it is seen as the religious and culural centre. The Medina here is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the oldest medieval cities in the world. The city was originally started by Berbers who are the indigenous people of North Africa. 70% of Moroccans have Berber in them. Most of the successful people in Morocco have their start in Fes.

What we heard about Fes was that the Medina was huge and confusing and that the people here would hassle us non stop to the point of exhaustion. So we were prepared. We were grateful that the hostel we were looking for was near the main entry to the Medina. Medinas are really confusing alleys off alleys off more alleys. They wind every direction and take you nowhere sometimes. Even if you have some sort of map you'll get lost which is half the fun. The alleys are packed with stalls, mosques, children, food stalls and this one has donkeys carrying heavy loads. All of them are dark, smelly most of the times and dirty.

Once again we slept up on the rooftop (this one quite dirty) with a great vantage point for stealth pictures. As we wandered people here were constantly welcoming us and saying hello as we walked through the alleys. We did a tour with a guide from our hostel and he took us to many shops (carpet, pottery, medicine) as well as to a tannery. Animal skins are carried by donkey and dyed in vats made from mud brick and tile. Check out the photo for what the dyes are made out of. They sure do stink and some tourists held mint up to their noses to hide the smell. We visited an old Medersa (Islamic College) which is now a mosque. We also went through the Mellah which is where jews lived under the protection of the Sultan in the 14th century. It's modern meaning is ghetto, but we found it bustling with life and great cheap food and loads of friendly people.

So far the food is good, but not as exotic as we thought (couscous, chicken, vegetables). Ben ate a bowl of snails and we have seen pans full of goats' heads being boiled for eating.
Some of the more interesting things we have seen in Fes are:
A husband and wife team slapping the crap out of their little boy who was crying. They even shoved a hat down his mouth to try and shut him up;
A man slapping his wife across her face when he didn't like what she said;
A man beating the crap out of a boy who stole a piece of bread from his stall;
A man taking a #2 out in the open and then picking up stuff from the ground to wipe.

(Ben here) The picture opportunties here are insane. There is something crazy to see everywhere I turn. The only problem is that the people here don't want their picture taken for a multitude of reasons (from religous to greedy). And even if they dont see you take their picture a total stranger will yell to them and then you have to deal with 2 angry people. One thing I have learned is that you don't want a Muslim getting angry with you (Kaboom!). So I have to improvise from shooting them from rooftops, to taking pictures from hip level (which normally suck) to pretending to take a pic from far away and then zooming in on them.
It feels like we have to walk on egg shells here because I think my very presence pisses them off. From my evil westerness, to the shorts I wear, to the guys thinking Chelise is a whore, to all the holy sites we accidently go in. There is always someone there to yell at you in guteral Arabic (which sounds like angery Klingon).
But we are getting use to this and just walk away......We have met alot of normal Moroccans too that are very nice and hospitable, but even these educated Moroccans still have sexist views of women. The normal Moroccans we have met are always super friendly and ready to share anything with us. We are constantly on guard, this is normal in 3rd world countries where most people see tourist as walking dollars signs. Oh yeah, if there is one thing that I want at the end of hot ass day is a cold beer....well since alcohol is agaist their religion, finding a beer has been difficult so needless to say, " I need a drink!"
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