Camel sandwich

Trip Start Nov 23, 2011
Trip End Dec 23, 2011

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Flag of Morocco  ,
Monday, December 19, 2011

With two rain soaked days behind me, today started off with a much needed, refreshing clear blue sky.  The sun shining bright in the sky and the streets finally clear of the annoying sloppy mess, my umbrella packed away at the bottom of my day pack not expecting to need it but prepared nonetheless, I took on the day with a renewed sense of exploration and sightseeing.

I started my way through the city, down Avenue Hassan II the 2km to the Medina.  The people walking the streets had probably quadrupled from the day before and everyone seemed to have a more cheerful attitude about the day.  On my way to the Medina, after walking past a couple dozen patisseries, I succumbed to the temptation and treated myself to a delicious, freshly baked pastry. 

Unable to fend off my obvious tourist appearance, I accepted my role and sported my camera ready to drain my battery with a day full of pictures.  My first stop was Bab Mansour, the main gate into the Ville Imperial, opposite the main square of the medina.  Unlike the day before, the square was alive with crowds of people and even crowds of tourists freshly disembarked from their tourists' buses.  I snapped some pictures of the brightly colored gate and made my way across the square to the entrance of the Medina.

The main alleyway through the Medina, veering off from the main square, was filled with people making their way through the stalls and tables full of everything imaginable - clothes, fruit, spices, vegetables, kitchenware, furniture, shoes, etc.  Everything had its place.  Each stall specialized in a specific product, but there was no order to the stalls.  It was like going to WalMart, where each aisle was randomly comprised in a single stall, but at the end of the day the stalls and tables had to be packed away and put up to be placed out again for the next day.  
Not interested in buying anything, but amused by the sights, I made my way through all of the stalls toward the other end of the Medina.  Unable to come out completely unscathed, I had picked up a "friend" who targeted me as a tourist able to fund his daily income.  My "friend" followed me to a mausoleum that I was headed to to take a couple pictures, and he proceeded to inform me of the history of the mausoleum and which King resided in the mausoleum.  At this point, I would have typically tried my hardest to lose my "friend" and head off on my own to avoid the cost of befriending such a person.  Today, though, I considered maybe it would be in my best interest to have someone show me around the medina even if it did cost me a little at the end of the day.  So my day of explorations, ie. getting lost and try to find my way out, had changed into being guided around the Medina by my new "friend" who knew the medina like the back of his hand.

Before getting too far into my guided tour, I tried to get an idea of the cost of such kindness, but no such discussion was possible as my guide said that at the end of the tour we would agree on a price that would make him happy and me happy.  

Well, I've got to say that I was quite happy with my tour through the medina.  Although, the cost was probably slightly inflated, I was satisfied with my investment in a guide.  Unlike the typical tour that would contain all of the highlights and must sees of the medina, this tour took me through more of the common, day to day, real life parts.  I saw the bread bakers as we delivered a families freshly risen bread to the neighborhood baker to have baked in the wood burning oven - a common everyday task for every family in the medina.  We walked through the streets, as my guide explained to me that every neighborhood in the Medina consisting of one or two streets has a mosque, hammam, water fountain, and baker for all of the families to use on a daily basis.  Then scattered throughout the streets, we walked past and admired the original, untouched relics of past centuries, exemplified by beautiful, brightly colored stuccowork and carved wood.  It was explained to me that Meknes means "people from Mecca" referring to the Muslims that came to Morocco to convert the Berbers to their religion.  Because of this, all throughout the Medina are tombs of prophets of Islam that provide a reminder of this history.  We went to the tannery and roamed around the workers pressing the leathers in the tanning vats (something I definitely would not have been able to do on my own) and then walking up to a platform above the vats to get a good view of all of the scene.  I appreciated the fact that my guide did not take me to shops to be coaxed into buying things or that he did not just show the me the sights from my guidebook.  By the end of my tour, I felt like I understood better, and became a part for just a short time, the everyday life of the people of the Medina.

The highlight of my of my tour had to be my lunch.  Ever since I had seen the head of a camel in the Medina in Fes, I had been intrigued to try camel meat.  I had been told that it was considered by Moroccans to be an aphrodisiac.  Not sure of why that was, I wanted to try it for myself.  Well, with the help of my guide, we bought some camel meat fixed up with some onions, cilantro and spices, and had it cooked over a charcoal fire.  My guide took me to a tiny little shop owned by a nice couple, where I sat down to enjoy my camel sandwich.  Before I devoured the sandwich, I watched as the shop owner fixed some Moroccan whiskey over a make shift stove.  Waiting, for the tea to boil, I was served a bowl of bassira, a fava bean soup that I had enjoyed many times before in my journey through Morocco.  Finally, with the tea coming to a boil, the shop owner started the procedure of pouring the tea in a cup and then back into the pot to get the flavors mixed and finally pouring the tea from a great height above the glass to create a bubbly head on the tea.  Now with the tea served and my camel sandwich in hand, I proceed to indulge myself into the Moroccan delicacy of camel.  

My sandwich was delicious.  The camel did not have too exotic of a flavor, but it was noticeably different from lamb or beef.  It was a little greasy, but delightfully spiced and very tender.  After devouring the massive sandwich, I can't say that I felt any symptoms of the aphrodisiacal attributes of camel meat.  With my soup finished, my sandwich gone, and the tea pot empty, we said goodbye to the friendly couple that owned the shop and my tour was complete.  I paid my guide the amount that made him happy, and I left satisfied with my day in the Medina and my explorations of Meknes.
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Hazel Meade on

Tyler, I have really enjoyed reading your blog. Sounds like you have had a fantastic experience and made some wonderful memories. Thanks for sharing.

Matthew Unzicker. on

You have been over there so long that it appears you have switched to the metric system. Impressive.
Keep the adventures coming.

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