Thursday, April 22, 2010

fairy tale fes.

adventure certainly had something in store for us
as we continued our journey south to fes.
tipped by some fellow travelers
we decided it wise to splurge the extra 30 dirhams (3 euros)
on first class train tickets
we would be comfortable, cool, have some privacy.

in the end, it was a great choice
we met two french girls 
who spoke english like they were americans.
our trip ended up intertwining with theirs quite a bit
and we stayed with one of their friends in tangier-
a lovely surprise

in the end, it was also a horrible choice
well, i over-exaggerate.
i'll just say, it could have been a lot worse

there could have been worse things
than admiring the beautiful sweeping countryside
and being jolted by a BANG
glass shattering
dust flying
people screaming
because that is really what you want to hear on a train

lo and behold
there exists a game in morocco for pesky teens
something like,
'throw rocks at passing trains and see how many windows you can knock out'
i for one, am not too fond of that game

the window diagonal from our 
first class, calm and cool cabin
was shattered in seconds, 
glass tumbling into our cabin by our shoes
it was a little more than unnerving.

the moroccan man in our cabin assured us
it wasn't the sort of thing that happened often
but i know he saw the pock marked train windows
as we pulled in and out of stations along the journey
surely added some spice to the trip

our arrival in fes was enough to help us completely forget.
charming and enchanting
a bit more upbeat than assilah
and certainly easier to get lost in.
we wandered around hundreds of the more than 9,500 
roads in fes
mice in a maze

we were pulled every which way
by smells
wonderful and not so much

the very beautiful placed next to 
extremely ordinary
colorful tiles fit together like a story

we had a guide for the day
a santa-like man named ali (easy for me to remember his name)
who showed us things we never would have found
wandering by ourselves.
this was at a medersa, an old student dormitory
morocco has some of the oldest schools in history

one of my favorite stops of the trip:
(not for the weak stomached)
the tanneries.

where they bring animal hides
before they're sheered, cured, and dyed
and made into 
bags, wallets, luggage, cases, jackets, and seat cushions.
the process is intense.
to cure the hides, they're submerged in a dangerous and foul liquid
lye, pigeon guano, and urine.
think about that the next time you pick up you leather purse

after they're smooth and clean, they're put into vats of color
all natural
left for days to soak
and then formed and sewn into what we buy at the stores.

something certainly not to be missed,
but take their advice and accept the mint sprig they offer you
at the beginning of the tour.
it helps when all you want to not breathe in
is pigeon guano and leather smell

our accommodation was one of the best things about fes
riad sara (riad means apartment)
our mouths dropped the moment we stepped in
and remained there until we left.
we were met by unparalleled hospitality

and spoiled by the beautiful walls, floors, windows, doors
almost made me not want to leave in the morning.

people will tell you not to miss fes
when you visit morocco

listen to them

walking through the evening market the first night we arrived
i felt very much as if
all the locals were putting on a show
going above and beyond what they normally would have been doing
epcot morocco if you will.
men sewing and tailoring
mending shoes
beating intricate patterns into brass plates
women standing next to their crops
turnips, zucchini, strawberries, bananas, piles of mint

but something tells me
fes just IS
like that
it was where i was the most enchanted
watching swallows dance after each other in the sunset
high above the medina walls
zipping under city gates 
past tiled walls 
above stoves simmering 
mixing sweet and savory 
showing off, but in a modest way
beckoning for the curious to come see

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food for thought.

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