Fes

Trip Start May 30, 2012
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78
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Trip End Nov 07, 2012


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Flag of Morocco  ,
Monday, October 22, 2012

Morocco is an Islamic nation. Some sources on the web we have read say it is 99 percent Muslim. This alone has made our visit so unlike any place we have been to on this trip. But you add in some African culture and a totally different climate, and Morocco becomes quite the amazing and informative experience. Medina means town or city in Arabic, but when people refer to it in Morocco, especially tourists, they mean the old walled city that has a high population density. Every place in Morocco that we stayed in has had a medina, but the one in Fes is the biggest in Africa! The medinas were built around the 1300's by the Moors. The roads were purposely made very narrow and maze-like to deter and confuse any invading armies. It works well on tourists now. Medinas are full of mosques, and the medina in Fes has over 200 of them! At the top of the mosques are four speakers pointing in every direction, used to amplify the prayer call that happens five times a day. It is like the church bells ringing in Salzburg, Austria. The prayers resonate through the whole city. Jess and I had the chance to hear the call from the top of a terrace in the medina. We could just about see the whole medina and we could see some of the mosques as they started their calls within seconds of each other. I took a video of it. The medinas are also full of markets selling tons of different stuff. Morocco is known for many of it's goods, but especially for it's carpets, leathers, spices, and hand crafted metal works. In the Fes medina, there are huge tanneries where cow, camel, sheep, and goat leathers are soaked in different mixtures to dye them. Almost everything in the medina you need to barter for because the initial asking price can be up to 10 times more than what a "fair" price should be. We quickly learned that bartering is quite an art, and some shop owners spend their lives perfecting it. We had some amazing experiences with some shop owners who really gave us a better view of the Moroccan tourist industry then in Tangier. We did have some annoying experiences with hasslers being "stuck" to us, but overall, we really enjoyed the Fes medina. I even somewhat knew where I was going by the end of our time there.

Also, on Friday the 26th, the whole Islamic World prepares for the goat and sheep sacrificing festival. It originated from the story in the Bible and Koran of when Abraham was told by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. It was a test of faith for Abraham because God was never going to let Abraham do it, He just wanted Abraham to trust Him. Right before Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac, God stopped him and provided a goat for him instead. Abraham's righteousness was credited to him because of his faith, not because of anything he earned. Once a year, every practising Muslim family goes out and buys a goat or sheep, or sometimes a calf, and brings it back into their home. On this Friday, October 26, the families kill the animal on their rooftops, and use the meat for the family. Unfortunately, Jess and I had to leave for Spain four days before this, but on several occasions, we got to witness sheep and goats being bought and sold and being pulled, carried, and wheel barrowed through the narrow medina streets by children. The family we stayed with for four nights had not bought their goat yet, but they said when they get it they keep it in the bathroom. The family was so kind to us. Moroccan hospitality at both places we couch surfed was absolutely amazing. A 32 year old man named Hassan was our couch surf contact for Fes. He lives with his Papa Mousa, his Mama Aziza, his twin brother Houseen, oldest brother Mohamed, and his two younger sisters, Dreams (this is her nickname because her real name means dreams in Arabic) and Zenib. Zenib is the youngest and she is 14. Hassan speaks the best English, but often times when he wasn't home we would try and get Zenib to translate. She is a very bright little girl. Over the time we spent with Hassan's family, we became quite close with them, but especially Mama Aziza. That is what she told us to call her. She is definitely the glue that holds the family together. Mama Aziza has a lot of spunk, and she is such a hard worker. Besides the days when Zenib went off to school, she would be the first up and have breakfast with Jess and I in the mornings. She made wonderful meals for us and the whole family! Moroccan cuisine is outstanding!! Pretty simple, but very good! Mama Aziza made some desserts for us too. Cakes and little pastry things that she got Jessica to help her with. The Moroccan way of eating is a little bit different from what we are used to. The food is all in one communal dish and everyone digs in with their hands or pieces of bread. I am a messy eater already, so I loved digging in with my fingers. Although I always seemed to still have a little bit bigger of a mess than everyone else by the end of each meal. The couscous was a little tricky to eat with your fingers. You had to rotate it with your pointer, middle, and ring fingers, and pack it with your thumb to make a ball so you could pop it into your mouth in one bite. I somewhat got the hang of this. Jessica only sometimes ditched her fork for her fingers, because if she did, she had to use her right hand and not her left. The left hand is considered the unclean hand, the hand you wipe yourself with, so you usually use your right hand to eat. Hassan also took us to a cafe to use the wifi. There are never any women at the cafes. The only time we saw women at a cafe, was either at a tourist cafe, or it is a very special cafe where couples go. Jess was the only woman in the one we went to, but she didn't mind. The Moroccan men can sit for hours at the cafes and do nothing. This goes well with the "Moroccian time" thing I mentioned in the last blog, but I think it would drive North Americans crazy. The showers in Morocco are also unique. You have two options for a shower, you can fill up a bucket and dump it on yourself sort of like a bath style, or you can go to a Hammam. Jess and I went to a Hammam. Very different experience. Ask us about this later.

You don't go to Morocco (or at least the places we went to in Morocco) if you are looking for a relaxing peaceful rest. But you do go to Morocco if you want an amazing cultural experience like none you have encountered before. There are good and bad things about everywhere we have gone, and Morocco is no different. Since the culture is so much different to what we are used to, we found that the best thing to do is drop most expectations and just experience it. This helps for travelling in general, but even more so for Morocco. We considered ourselves extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit Morocco and gain some knowledge and understanding of it's unique Islamic culture.

Ryan
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