Fez (March 15, 2018)

My day started with Moroccan pancakes, yogurt, OJ, and coffee.

Today was spectacular and jam packed. We had a fantastic, well educated, fun guide who kept us entertained all day. His mission was to show us as much of Fez as he could squeeze in. He pointed out signs that were written in the ancient characters of the Berber language as well as Arabic. He took us to an overlook so we could get an idea of how large Fez is and filled our heads with fun facts about all the firsts Morocco can boast. It is the home of algebra, for example, as well as the oldest, still functioning, university (859) in the world, and the first sociology book. Who knew?

We spent most of the day in the 12-centuries-old Medina, home to a quarter million people and 174 mosques. It was unlike the other Medinas we have seen in that it is much bigger and has a considerably more elaborate maze of, in places, very narrow (barely wide enough for two people to pass) alleyways. Mules, donkeys, and hand carts are used to move heavy loads. Sectors where like items are sold include those featuring spices, meat, wood carving, clothing, shoes, jewelry, hats, etc. We loved it! The guide pointed out two interesting things most of us had not noticed. Many of the doors have a door built into a larger door with a handle on each. The smaller is used for close friends and family and the larger for everyone else. The other interesting thing had to do with public water sources. Every so often we’d come upon a spigot, with a drain and catch basin below, built into a wall along one of the alleyways. Although these can be used by anyone, they are most often used by those who have had their water cut off due to lack of payment.

We made two very impressionable stops in the Old Medina. The first one was at a large rug shop. Salesmen gave us a brief explanation of the kinds of wool rugs they sold (camel, lamb, sheep) and the various styles (Berber, for example) and then worked their little hearts out to sell all of us at least one. They talked so fast and looked us right in the eye. We said no and that meant they had even more ideas for us. We said no again and darned if they didn’t have other suggestions for what would be even more perfect. Barb haggled for a runner. She would not budge on her offer of half of the asking price. I chimed in and said she was a really nice, generous lady … the kind deserving of their generous spirit. Pretty soon the manager was called over to talk some sense into Barb. He finally relented and agreed to her price. He assured her she was a born haggler; I assured him she was giving it to a deserving niece; he put one big hand on each of her cheeks, lowered her head, and kissed her on the forehead all the while saying he wished she was his sister because they would be great business partners. She kissed him, he her, and the rug was wrapped. Cyd then looked like she might have chosen one. When my efforts to help her drive down the price failed I called Barb over and the salesman gave up and said Cyd could have it for her price. We had a barrel of expensive laughs!

The next stop was the 14th century tannery which is my favorite site of the trip so far. We learned how pigeon poop (Caca Chanel … get it?) is used in the process and how much lighter in weight camel leather is than cow leather. We were maybe three stories above the ancient dying vats and could look down on the amazing sight of men working in them. I couldn’t help wondering what ordinances protect their health and welfare. My guess is few if any. Of course we needed to look at leather good: purses, poofs, footstools, handbags, and the irresistible leather jacket. If a coat you liked was not available in your size or color preference it could be ordered for delivery to the hotel before 10:00 that same night. Four ladies in the group had coats made and I bought a red one off the rack. Once we got to the register there was a price fluctuation due to the fine belly leather of the particular coat I was purchasing. I said I would not, as agreed, pay more than 2,000 dirhams … he said 2,500 … I started to leave … he came down to 2,250 … I started to leave again … and he said I drove a hard bargain (what are those odds?) and said the coat was mine for 2,000.

Unlike where we had been prior, there were very persistent hockers near the Medina in Fez. They were drawn to Cyd like a moth to a flame! No matter how many times she said no, they persisted. More laughs. At her expense obviously.

Other interesting sites included a small 17th century synagogue, an old Jewish cemetery, and the seven intricate brass gates that mark the entrance to our third Royal Palace, Dar el-Makhzen.

Our day ended with a home-hosted dinner at a large, modern apartment in the new part of town. We were served a delicious dinner of tagine chicken and olives and then had the opportunity to ask the family questions. My big surprise was having two pastries for dessert that were peanut based. I have to remember to ask where peanuts are grown.

One man can not work more than four donkeys or two mules in the Fez Medina.

Coffins in Morocco are yellow. The dead are typically buried laying on their right side with their head tilted toward Mecca (southeast).

The rain we had avoided as long as we’ve been here finally caught up with us
and it poured off and on all afternoon.




6 thoughts on “Fez (March 15, 2018)

  1. A fascinating trip! Historical facts, amazing sights and sites and some beautiful purchases you didn’t have to pay full price for! And fun travel buddies! Thanks for all the great pictures and commentary! And thanks to Dan for added humor! 😊


  2. Another great blog Schele filled with fun and wonderful historical facts! I need Barb shopping with me! Sounds like she did great! Loving the pictures…and I agree Leni…Dan is too Funny!


  3. Love the rug haggling. Just picturing Barb holding firm, cod trying to get away from hockey’s and you belly laughing at it all. Where is Cleone? Re:Medina, Netflix has a series of 1920s Spanish hospital located there with all the drama and romance of the era.


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