En route from Chefchaouen to Fes, we spent some time familiarizing ourselves with our new guide, Driss & his sidekick (our driver), Ahmed. They would accompany us over the next few weeks as we worked our way across Morocco & by the end of our time together, through hugs & tears, we would reluctantly say our goodbyes to these two wonderful young men.
In the beginning stages of any relationship, there is the getting to know you phase. A phase where the parties involved politely ask questions & determine boundaries, if any, that need to be respected.
Keeping in mind, we are 4 moms with children around the same age as these young men, these poor guys didn’t stand a chance!
The walls quickly came down, sharing details of each others lives, openly discussing issues ranging from cultural differences to relationships & love.
We felt such admiration & respect for these “boys”, adopting them into our hearts & knowing that we would never forget our time together.
As we made our way towards Fes, Driss announced that we needed Moroccan names, something that seems to be a bit of a tradition. We were affectionately dubbed as Zara, Fatima, Ayesha & Khadija, otherwise know as Hashish.
As 50+-year-old women, it took us a number of attempts to remember our names, but for the life of us, we could not remember Khadija. Too embarrassed to ask Driss for the 1000th time what her name was, we decided to come up with our own version & one that was easier to remember. Thus, Khadija became Hashish.
Given that we had just come from the Hashish capital, it seemed only appropriate! Countless times over our trip, our travel mate would be introduced as Hashish. Whether it was a shop owner or the boys’ families, fits of laughter ensued each time she was introduced, followed by an explanation as to how we arrived at that name. Even more fun was was when Driss or Ahmed could be heard calling for Hashish at any random place trying to round us up!
Arriving in Fes, we settled in to our riad. A riad is similar to a small hotel or inn, comprised of rooms around a central courtyard, but with no exterior windows.
It was explained to us that riads were built like this in order to give people privacy, in particular women, while also providing protection from the Moroccan weather. The central courtyard/garden benefits from the shade of the surrounding walls, keeping the occupants cool in the extreme heat during the day. Intricately decorated in ceramic tile & wood, they are a beautiful place to sit & relax.
Fes is an interesting city, the oldest in Morocco, & holds one of the largest medinas in the world. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1981, with over 9000 small alleys & thousands of souks, it is best to hire a local guide to help you navigate this walled city. Rough Tours had made these arrangements for us, our local guide was a lovely young woman named Farida.
Having spent most of her life inside the medina, Farida shared a wealth of information about the city she calls home as well as the culture of the people who live there. She spent the day with us, taking us on a fascinating journey through small little alley ways, some barely wide enough to fit a single person.
Without her guidance, I am certain it would have taken days for us to find our way back to our riad!
The medina is filled with souks, containing pretty much anything you could imagine. Here are a few examples.
In addition to visiting the various souks within the Medina, we had the chance to tour a few cooperatives, the first one being the ceramic cooperative. Like many forms of handiwork, learning the trade of hand-made pottery seems to be a dying art. The cooperative provides students an opportunity to learn the various stages it takes to make a piece of pottery, using the methods that have been practiced for generations. The work is intricate & absolutely stunning.
A visit to Fes would not be complete without visiting the tanneries. It is an experience that leaves you feeling like you have just taken a step back in time. Medieval times. We stood with our aghast as we watched men standing waist deep in vats of dye, working the leather hides to achieve the desired colour.
If this weren’t enough to leave us gobsmacked, our attention was then drawn to the vats filled with a white substance. Our guide explained that these vats are filled with a mixture of pigeon poop, cow urine & acids, collected by locals & delivered to the tannery where they are paid by the kilo. It is used to break down the hides, making them more supple & more absorbent for the dye.
Lastly, here is a picture of a Moroccan door. It is easily identified as a Moroccan house because it has a door within a door & two knockers. Any ideas why?
Thanks for joining me. Next up in Morocco…The Most Incredible Day!