On our way to Fez (March 14, 2018)

It was painful getting up today. We’re such slugs! Luggage out at 8:00 with an 8:30 departure. I was moving a little slow because I twisted my ankle yesterday when I stepped off a curb onto a piece of rubble and basically face planted smack dab on the street. I digress.

For breakfast I tried two kinds of Moroccan pancakes drizzled in honey, homemade yogurt, as good a brownie as I’ve ever eaten, and to-die-for honeydew melon and oranges. Dan and I sat with a fun couple from Albuquerque who are retired English professors. He taught Shakespeare and shared this joke: Arabs credit themselves with Shakespeare’s body of work because they were written by the one and only …wait for it… Sheikh Spear. Get it?

We enjoyed a beautiful ride on a clean, well maintain highway. There are 22 of us on a 45 passenger bus, so we have plenty of room to spread out. Safi, our tour coordinator, gave us a briefing on some of the history of Morocco which is so alien to most of us that he’ll need to repeat it often for any of it to begin to sink in.

This area of Morocco is very green and beautiful. The modern bus, which has WiFi, by the way, is in stark contrast to what we see out the window. Burrows pulling wagons, people on horseback trudging along dirt paths, small stucco houses with laundry hanging out to dry on the roofs, and countless olive trees (introduced by the Romans). We saw no fences, just shepherds tending small groups of animals, some of which grazed right by the hiway. We passed fields of lentils, chick peas, and fava beans as well as forests of cork oaks, their bark stripped to arm’s reach to make corks for wine bottles. So picturesque!

We made a ‘comfort stop’ at a highway gas station that was as clean and tidy as any I’ve ever seen. There were loads of tempting treats; Dan succumbed to ice cream and others tried a hot half coffee, half milk drink.

Our first stop was in Meknes, known for its wine. We made a quick visit to the old Medina (old town) to visit the town square and market. We were taken with the little mountains of colorful olives, carriages, our very first snake charmer (we all kept our distance!), and colorful ceramics. The square boasts the biggest gate in the Arab World. Like so many others here, it is shaped like a key to indicate the key to paradise.

Lunch was at La Grillandiere. Cleone and I shared an amazing veggie pizza with very crisp crust topped with zucchini, red pepper strips, cheese, and eggplant. No tomato sauce.

Our favorite stop of the day and the highlight of Cyd’s trip so far was in Volubilis where we visited ancient Roman Ruins. We had a great guide who explained that Volubilis was on the southwestern frontier of the Roman Empire. Since becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site it has gotten greater attention. Intricate mosaic floors that are 2,000 years old are open to the elements. We walked through residences that had private hot tubs and in-ground fish ponds. Public toilets and the colosseum have not been excavated yet, but we did see the brothel and a vomitorium (think gorge yourself, vomit, and go back for more).

We passed the holy town of Moulay Idriss which is nestled between two mountains. It is so named because it is the burial place of Moulay Idris Al Akbar, great-great-great grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, considered to be the founder of Morocco as an independent state. I wish we had had time to explore this pilgrimage town.

Our destination for the night is Fez, the most ancient city in Morocco. We are staying at an eye-popping riad, a traditional Moroccan residence built around a court yard … very unassuming on the outside but designed to wow on the inside. We are at Riad Salam Fes which is three stories of over-the-top opulence. It, like many other riads, has been turned into a hotel. After a traditional Moroccan meal consisting of  tagine kafka, rice, three (cheese, sweet rice, veggies) pastries wrapped in pastille, olives, dates, bread and a dessert consisting of orange slices, bananas slices, and finely diced lettuce drizzled with  orange juice.

We headed to bed early in preparation for a long day tomorrow. 

The population of Morocco is 34 million.

Income tax ranges from 7% – 43%.
Those earning less than 5,000 dirhams a year pay no income tax.

New widows, according to the Koran, must wear white for 4 months and 10 days. This came up because we passed a couple today and mistook them for nuns.

Agave is used in textiles here, not to make tequila.

Most mosques are donated, not built with public funds. By law all new neighborhoods must have a mosque as well as a hammam (steam bath).


6 thoughts on “On our way to Fez (March 14, 2018)

  1. So sorry about you ankle. Those Moroccan pancakes sound great!!

    Matt Mongeon | Senior Business Analyst
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  2. So sorry about your fall and twisting your ankle! Sure hope it feels better soon!

    As usual, thank you for the great pictures and fascinating facts! I esp loved the pics of olives and spices!


  3. So sorry about your ankle 😔. Again I am so amazed at your blog and how you tell the journey of the day…and then when I look at the pictures..it all falls together! Just like we are there with you all! Thanks Schele!


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