Goop, scarves, and a magic carpet

Trip Start Oct 19, 2010
Trip End Nov 04, 2010

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Where I stayed
Hotel Olympic

Flag of Morocco  ,
Saturday, October 23, 2010

How can I describe today? We saw so much and experienced so much that I can't possibly convey the magic onto the page. 

The day started with coffee near the hotel (where I am now writing, in fact) in a little coffee shop on the corner.  Similar to Paris, you can sit outside, or at a small table inside, or at the coffee bar.  The waiter (there’s only ever one, at these places) comes round takes your order and brings it to you, and when you pay you have to give him a small tip too. 

Later I joined the others and we met with our guide for the day, Hakima, a lovely Arabic woman with a great sense of humour and a bright purple hijab, which we were very grateful for in the crowds of the medina!  We started in the mini-bus, all rugged up in our rain coats against the drizzle, and headed first to the main doors of the royal palace, then some other building, then some other building, getting on and off the mini-bus in what seemed to be a never-ending morning.  I was sure I wasn’t going to enjoy the day at all. 

The only thing of real interest, apart from a stop at a look out to see the city from above, was a visit to a mosaic and pottery factory, where we watched intricate mosaics being made and pottery plates etc being decorated by hand.  I bought a small plate (easily transported) and wished I could allow myself to splurge on a mosaic table top for the balcony.  But no – my big purchase came later!.......

Just before lunch we were dropped off at the medina, which is the oldest part of Fes, and Hakima led us inside.  I say 'inside’ because I felt like I was entering a different world – there are ten thousand little streets and passages throughout the old city, each of them paved with cobblestones and twisting and turning, branching off this way and that, lined with shop fronts or old wooden doors or a little gap through which I could see stone steps disappearing up to who knows what or down into darkness.  There is no rhyme or reason to the layout of the medina.  No planning that I could discern – streets headed off in all sorts of directions or curved, or forked, or ended in an a-symmetrical courtyard, all the while sloping upwards or downwards, but rarely flat.

We visited a tannery (there are four, apparently) and looked down on the workers in their vats of tannic goop from the relative safety of a second or third storey balcony.  The smell was a bit off-putting, but it was like looking down onto a multi-coloured game of shells-in-cups, or down on a bizarrely-coloured muffin tray.

We also visited a cloth-weaver’s place, through a tiny door set in a non-descript wall into a big square courtyard about which were situated a number of looms, each of which had a guy click clacking away, producing some patterned cloth or other.  I bought two scarves for 100 dirham (about $12) and admired the coordination of the guy working one of the looms – right hand passing the shuttle back and forth by means of a clever rope system, left hand compressing the threads at each pass, feet working the pedals that switched the warp over, if that’s the right term, each time the shuttle passed by.  Amazing.

We had lunch in a little restaurant with no ventilation but a real character for a host, and old man who insisted on having his photo taken with a couple of the guys and then did a handstand for us in the middle of the restaurant.  Much laughter.

After that, we visited a carpet-making house.  Similar in layout to the weavers’, the carpet house was a series of rooms on two or three floors opening off from a central (but closed-in) courtyard.  I think the Romans used to call it an ‘agora’ (?).  We watched in one of the upstairs areas as a couple of women worked on separate carpets, their fingers absolutely flying as they tied the knots.  I took video footage – (the video clip is below - make sure you watch it!) - there is no way to describe the process without writing a book.  It was absolutely incredible to watch, however, and for the first time I really appreciated the work that goes into making hand-made carpets.

So much so, in fact, that I bought one.  :-)

Mine is made of silk and cotton, and is about five feet by 6 feet.  It’s pinky and browny and gorgeous and I talked the guy down from $3700 plus shipping, to $3200 with shipping included.  Happy to pay it.  Can’t wait to see it on my floor at home!!

We also visited an apothecary / spice shop, where I bought some oil thing or other to put on my heat rash affected ankles.  Let’s see if it works.

The whole experience of the medina was amazing, and exactly what I was looking for in a tour of and old city in Morocco.  Getting on and off a bus is not my style! 

When we got back to the hotel (we were in the medina for a good five hours) Bonnie and Gail and I took Hakima for coffee and a chat before she headed home.  Then Bonnie and I met up with Judy and Colin and we had soup and bread for dinner (only FIVE dirhams!!) before both retiring to bed to read. 

Wonderful day!!
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