Fes and Marrakech

Trip Start Aug 25, 2003
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Trip End Jul 18, 2004


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Saturday, July 10, 2004

Fes. -OR- Sarah's Got a Shiv.

The next morning came in Fes and Sarah and I begrudgingly got out of bed and headed out into the city. After switching hotels and catching some breakfast we headed to the Fes Medina (Medina is a Moroccan term for the "old town" area - when the French came they typically built "new towns" next to the old ones leaving the old towns intact). This was where things got a little dicey.

Thanks to past tourists, a unfortunate "tradition" of touting exists in Fes. People try and be your guide for a fee and they take a commission on anything you buy. Unfortunately the first such person to approach us must have thought that coming off as a
psychopath was the best way to drum up some business. After we turned down his persistent offers to guide us, he went to his plan B: to up the ante and threaten us. His threat to "break your (our) eyes" at the same time his was digging his finger into Sarah's back, I think in his mind, seemed like a no-can-lose sales pitch. That must have been it because really seemed surprised and backed off when, after that "offer," Sarah
and I both spun around, and Sarah (I think realizing how much smaller he was than her) shoved him back and said "If you threaten me I will kill you, you evil little man." It was at this point that I thought Sarah was actually going to pull out a shiv and "stick" this guy. As we left, he shouted some obscenities (a last ditch attempt at our business, no doubt) but didn't follow us again. Maybe he was contemplating why his approach to guide us did not work, or maybe he also thought Sarah might have a shiv. In all seriousness, my heart was beating pretty heavy after this incident. We got a soda in the Medina to try and relax, unfortunately I think our enjoyment of Fes was a bit tainted from this incident. Thankfully we never had another such incident in the whole of
our time in Morocco. In fact it was just the opposite, most Moroccans we met were extremely friendly.

Marrakesh, My New Favorite City

After our brief stay in Fes we headed off to Marrakesh. We weren't even going to go there at first but thankfully, for reasons I can't remember now, we took the long, boring, hot, did I mention boring?, train to Marrakesh. We arrived shortly before dusk, dumped our bags at our hotel and headed out. This time we were staying in the Marrakesh
Medina so finding the nightime action was easy. Which was good because I have never seen anything like it. We headed toward the main square just before dusk and the sights before us were amazing.

Thousands of people filled this square, there was an area of just performers: snake charmers, henna tatooists, storytellers, what I'm guessing were magicians, musicians, and dancers all vying for the crowd's attention. Then there were the food stalls, more like outdoor restaurants, that serve up delicious Moroccan fare at cheap-even-for-Morocco prices: cuscous (a North African grain) with "the fixins" (my term, not Moroccan), tanjine (a Moroccan stew), olives, calimari, pastella (a dinner pastry) and more. The food was great! After gorging ourselves we could head out in any direction for a huge
glass of fresh squeezed orange juice (only US0.25!) and to end the evening get some tea and a sweet at one of the many cafes in the Medina.

I was so excited to get back to the square the next morning that it was a bit of a shock to see everything except a few orange juice sellers' stands gone. Apparently these festivities are set up and torn down every night. Perhaps it was for the best because I don't think I would ever leave if that kept going 24-7. This way we were given the chance
to explore some of Marrakesh's souqs (specialty markets) and visit the Saadian tombs located nearby.

Another night in Marrakesh meant gorging ourselves again and just watching the nightime spectacle. This time we watched the square from a rooftop cafe sipping delicious mint tea (the stuff is everywhere and it's addictive like crack), the festivities really are as huge as they look from the ground. It's hard to believe that festivities this
grandiose go on every night, but I guess that's why most people, including us, come to Marrakesh.
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