Funky col Medina
Trip Start Dec 28, 2009
7Trip End Jan 19, 2010
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As we sat down eating a late dinner we were could see the Spanish coast in the distance. The comfort of my moms house, home cooked dinners and hot showers were now very far away. I shivered as I took a bite of my tajine and ordered in another mint tea. It was 10 C outside and no heat in the restaurant (or in the hotel room for that matter) but hey; it was the beginning of a new adventure!
Our travel plans changed due to the sheer amount of snow/ rain that has blessed this country the past month and the little mountain town Chefschaouen got scrached off the list. Instead we headed on a train with destination Fez; the most ancient of all Imperial capitals in the Arab world. Rain and clouds changed to blue sky as city after city swoshed by our window. The otherwise dry and brown landscape had turned bright green but also leaving large areas completely soaked in water. Lots of sheep and an occasional farmer plowing his land. It was pretty. A lady traveling in the same train compartment started to talk with us and after us trying to respond in our close to disastrous French, she called a number and handed over her cell phone to me; ehhhh hello I started and was greeted by a woman speaking perfect English. My name is Amina she continues, I am an official guide in Fez... after shuttling the phone back and forth between me and the woman on the train, we decided to go a head and meet her the following morning, The Fez medina is famous for its incredible complicated streets and narrow lanes, so why not bring a professional.
Our 10 dollar room looks and offers just about what you would imagine for that price, no hot water or heat, somewhat clean sheets and a dripping sink but it was better than some other ones where I found little black hairs in the bed if you know what I mean......But instead we splurged on a fantastic dinner in Ville Nouvelle consisting of couscous au poulet, tajine and my absolute favorite; la pastilla. A chicken dish baked in a filo doe with nuts and spices like salt and sugar. A dish typical for Fez and a reason alone to travel here in my opinion. The restaurant had low tables, served tea from the typical little Moroccan teapots and played Tracy Chapman for background music
Amina meets us the following morning. A small woman with brown eyes and henna colored red hair hidden under her shawl. A friendly face with some fine lines as a result of many years under the hot Moroccan sun. She takes us on the tour of our lives trough the massive Medina.We visit Berber medicine shops, hidden Riads, antique shops with thousands of tea pots, swords and dusty jewelry. We learn the difference between how rugs and blankets are made in-between cups of hot mint tea. Every souk smells different; the sweet smell of jasmine and rose oils mixed with sandalwood incense. The tanneries, where leather is colored, make us have to cover our noses as Amina steers us rapidly towards a place for lunch.
She knocks on a door and a woman greets us with a smile, one tooth missing in the front. Inside we are greeted with more mint tea and our jaws drop as we enter a stunning building that consists of two levels with a large patio in the middle. Carved columns in beautiful wood, red Berber carpets lining the floors. Low couches and tables are arranged the patio under large brass lanterns. Amina tells us that this restaurant has been passed down for generations over 400 years in this family. The three course lunch is to die for with everything from tagines and couscous to beans and my favorite; the Pastilla. During lunch we are discussing headscarves, education, the difference between Muslim men and women and much more. We learn that Amina has a Masters in English and is divorced, a more common practice in Morocco these days. As the rain comes to an end e decide to get out and explore more of the magical Medina, in search for the right tea pot.
Our day ends with yet another cup of mint tea on top of a roof cafe overlooking the carpet souk where vendors are closing their shops up for the evening. As the sun sets over thousands of simple clay roofs, satellite dishes dotting the the horizon, we hear yet another call from the nearby Mosque. It is time for the evening prayer.