Worcester State University Faculty Led Morocco Program – 2013 (Day 3)
We woke up this morning and climbed up many flights of stairs in order to get to breakfast at our hotel. The view that greeted us was astounding. The city of Fes is surrounded by mountains and the views from the walls of windows was impressive. After a quick breakfast, we met up with our favorite guide, Khalid!
—- *Blog Photographs are Courtesy of Christopher Lippmann, one of thirteen WSU Morocco 2013 Travelers | **Video Links are short ‘clips’ uploaded from the entire WSU Group to our WSU Flickr Account to enhance the blog experience. —-
Our first stop was the Royal Palace Gate with its graceful doors. We were unable to take photos of the far left gate that was protected by guards at the time. The Mellah or Jewish Quarter of town was within walking distance. The name of this quarter sounds like “MEH-lahh”. There were many balconies in the Mellah and an overall feeling of neglect and desolation.
- Many intricate balconies hung above our heads as we walked through the mellah.
- Crumbling buildings seem to be stacked one on top of another in this section of town. Even though it was a little dark and dirty, one can still appreciate the architecture and archways found everywhere.
The Souk was teeming with stalls where locals sold food items. there were stalls with meats, nuts, fish, fruits and vegetables. We then took pictures at the famous Gate in Fez before walking into the souk “Bab Bou Jeloud” or the Blue Gate of Fez. Behind the gate in most photos is a school or “medrasa” – it is the only medrasa in Fes to have a minaret. I learned that the colors stand for Blue of Fez / Green of Islam (different colors on each side) of the gate as you enter and exit.
Khalid taught us something of great importance… “BALAK BALAK!!” It means, “Get out of the way!” If you only hear “Balak!”… it is already too late. Many people transported goods loaded on the backs of beasts of burden, like donkeys. There are no vehicles within the medina walls, the streets are too narrow. It is your duty to keep your wits about you and to make sure that you are paying attention to the streets and to get out of the way quickly as necessary. Also, be wary of your belongings. A young man tapped Mohamed on his shoulder and told him to tell Kayla to put her cell phone in a safer place. She had it in her back pocket. The young man was just trying to make her safer because sometimes you never know what might happen – the same as in any busy city here in the United States.
The whole city is called the medina, but the souk is the market. There can be many souks including a food market, a tanners market, etc. We entered into the medina and learned about the minarets in Morocco and how they are square, unlike other minarets in the world which are rounded. The square architecture is typical Andalusian style. Thick and wide walls surround the city and make up the buildings which keep the buildings well insulated to keep heat in during winter and the sun out in summer. Khalid knew a lot about the architecture of the buildings and how builders sometimes add in marble powder to the plaster in the buildings to make the walls last longer.
Our group turned a corner in the city and we were surprised when there was a wooden beam plastered into the wall, about chest high. We questioned this beam, and Khalid said that we were entering into a holy section of town, and that the beam was placed there to keep out the donkeys. They would be too tall with their burden on their backs, and unable to pass through – which is entirely their intention.
Flickr Video: “Interview with the craftsman and his stonework”: http://www.flickr.com/photos/97085118@N08/10831815363/
In this section of town we visited a beautiful Museum. Some of the doors within the museum had a smaller door cut out of it inside of a larger one. We jokingly called this ‘door-ception’ after the movie Inception. The purpose of having a smaller door carved into a larger one is so that when the people need to open the door in winter, they can use the smaller one and therefore trap more warmth within the rooms instead of needing to open the much larger one and allowing the heat to escape. Makes sense to me!
Flickr Video: “The boys shop for clothing in Fes”: http://www.flickr.com/photos/97085118@N08/10831465855/
On we went for more shopping in the medina of Fes. Khalid was great trying to help us purchase jalabas (long comfortable robes) and other formal wear for our dinner that we were to have later in the week when we had a dinner and a show. The men in our group found a shop where they were able to get a good deal in a fez and outfits. Casandra wanted a fez too, and I think it looks quite nice on her.
Flickr Video: “A man rehabilitates a tile wall and shopping in the souk of Fes” [I apologize for my fingers in the video!]: http://www.flickr.com/photos/97085118@N08/10831766723/
Let me tell you, if we didn’t have Khalid with us, we would have gotten hopelessly lost in this city. You cannot see over the buildings, you are literally in narrow hallways that branch in every direction. He was quick to guide us to great little shops where the shopkeepers greeted us with a smile and were quick to find just what we needed.
Flickr Video: “Walking to the Old Fes Tannery”: http://www.flickr.com/photos/97085118@N08/10831387315/
The tannery was quite an experience. I loved being able to see the city from above. The workers were working the vats of natural colored dyes made from raw materials. Different colors were made from pomegranate, roses, saffron, mint, henna etc. The skins and hides are scraped on site, soaked in pigeon poop to get rid of the smell of the animal, and then soaked in the colored dye. Then, the skins are stretched and dried in the Moroccan sun. It is such a labor intensive process but the results are absolutely stunning. I could not help purchasing a large reddish leather worked bag to take back some Moroccan treasures in before I left the country. The smell of the tannery was rather potent… we may or may not have shoved mint leaves up our noses.
An unexpected event happened after our tannery adventure – the Police Chief of Fes sent us a police escort to tour us through the city, and then treated our group to lunch at Restaurant Nejjarine. Our lunch consisted of the traditional couscous with tagine dajaaj (chicken) with vegetables, fava beans and raisins. Semolina bread was difficult for us to keep on the table because everyone loves it so much. There was also an epic spread of appetizers for our ‘salad’. Mint Tea and dessert of sliced banana, oranges and strawberries sprinkled in cinnamon and some powdered sugar was completely irresistible even thought we were all completely stuffed from our lunch itself.
- “Salad” — an appetizer to be shared between guests. It took up the entire table!
After this we went to a clothing store to search again for outfits for our formal dinner. On the way out of the city, we decided on visiting a Museum called Moresque which is currently being built by master tile-makers and is not currently open to the public yet.
- Kayla and Casandra got behind a shuttle loom and learned about weaving wool.
Flickr Video: “We learn how to use a shuttle loom in a Fes Shop”: http://www.flickr.com/photos/97085118@N08/10831604474/
- Kayla gets decked out in Moroccan clothing at a shop.
When we arrived at Moresque, (a museum not yet open to the public) we viewed the beautiful work on the main floor and how the tiles are made and laid. We were given personal tours of the building and shown how the tiny tools work to create such magnificent pieces of artwork. The work that is being done at the Moresque Museum is completely funded by the King. He was impressed when visiting once and wants to see their work finished. The ceiling of the museum was a kaleidoscope of colors. Carvings in the clay and plaster, wood work, inlay were all done to perfection.
- Moresque, a museum funded by the King of Morocco not yet open to the public.
Tile workers inside Moresque show us how to make tiles, Flickr Vide0: http://www.flickr.com/photos/97085118@N08/10831673253/
A Video of our walk through the unfinished Moresque Museum: http://www.flickr.com/photos/97085118@N08/10831393836/
Patrick and Christopher were gifted little plaster figurines by a gentleman who has been working on this project for many years.
Flickr Video, “A Quick ‘PANORAMA’ of Fes”: http://www.flickr.com/photos/97085118@N08/9692784611/
This sun was setting rapidly into the mountainous horizon but we were able to stop at Borj Fes which translates to Tower of Fes. There are actually two towers but we were able to enter one of them. Our group got there right at closing while a call to prayer was happening at dusk. The attendant at the gate let us in briefly to see the sprawling old medina nestled in the countryside hills. So beautiful.
A quick regroup at our Hotel followed by a 30 minute allowance to get ready for dinner and we were off again for dinner and a show.
This restaurant was wonderful and had performances with magicians, musicians and a belly dancer who danced and played with fire.
Fire/Belly Dancer Flickr Video: http://www.flickr.com/photos/97085118@N08/10831242486/
After that, Kayla, Olivia, Casandra and Pat were all able to participate in different parts of the show. Again, Mohamed works miracles. Olivia was part of a magic act, Kayla did a little dancing on stage, Casandra and Pat got married in a traditional Moroccan style. Pat had excellent dancing moves and Casandra was lifted high into the air while everyone danced around her. It was stunning. Very fun! Tea was served (of course) after fruit dessert.
- Arabic for “Coca Cola”. It tastes nothing like American Coke. A little sweeter and more syrupy, perhaps.
A short clip of dinner and the ambiance — Flickr Video: http://www.flickr.com/photos/97085118@N08/9696013504/
Pat learns some new ‘dance moves’, Flickr Video: http://www.flickr.com/photos/97085118@N08/9692948451/
- Sooo…. Casandra got married to Pat on our trip in old traditional Moroccan fashion. What happens in Morocco… doesn’t seem to stay in Morocco!
When the show was over and everyone left, the manager of the restaurant gave us a tour of the rooftop to see the surrounding buildings at night all lit up on a terrace.
On the way back to our van, we were accosted by street people trying to sell clothing for very cheap. It was very sketchy but we did some quick wheeling and dealing and ended up getting some excellent deals.
We returned to our hotel too hyped up to stay inside to blog even though it was very late. Everyone was talking in the hallway outside of our rooms. After a quick conference we all decided to take a walk around the block a few times in our newly purchased Moroccan garb. Omar came with us as our body guard and we did not go too far.
Mohamed had been in the lobby and saw us outside, he came to talk with us and we were discussing how cool it would be to go to a Moroccan wedding — and then a wedding party drove past us. They pulled into the hotel next door!
We ran down the street to congratulate them. It was a joint wedding where many brides and grooms were getting married at the same time.
It was a perfect ending to a perfect day. Our group animatedly talked about our eventful day as we were walking back to the hotel. I filled Christopher in on what happened on our walk.
End of Day Three.