Last night in Fes was a bit of a blur. We went out after dinner for a few beers and dancing. The music was not great but funny all the same and our guide seems to really like 2 songs, one of which sounds like “Peppermint Tea” repeated ad nauseum. The other one is less bizarre but equally repetitive. I have a name for the music here also and called it Maroc pop.
We started the day with a view of the Fes medina and its 9000+ street maze of narrow streets. From the lookout, the city could be mistaken for being dead. No real signs of life appear from the city. We headed off to see the jewish quarter of Fes which is now inhabited by muslims, then we had the compulsory tour stop to see ceramics being made in Morocco. From my untrained eye, it looks a lot like how ceramics are made just about anywhere. It was good to see how they cut tiles into start shapes. They cut the glazing side first and then a second cut bezeled the tile so it would fit with other tiles.
We entered the Fes medina properly to get very lost within its walls very quickly. Its like ant nest nest of activity. I was also comforted by the fact I’d not be getting sunburnt today as the sun doesn’t penetrate deep into the tight streets, except for where a major junction is. We wandered through the fruit and meat markets and checked out an old building. Sorry the details will be a bit blurry as we were always on the move in Fes, except when at a craft store…….. OK cynicism was at a high yesterday.
We eventually got to see the tannery. This is one of the most photographed places in Morocco and probably also the world. The hides are first soaked in a mixture of cow urine, quicklime, water, and salt. This lovely mixture helps to break down the tough leather and loosen excess flesh/hair that remains. Then there was the softening the leather, which was mostly lime and bird shit. That might explain the smell, it was strong but not overwhelming and a few paces back from the window gave you relief. After that the leather was dyed using fairly natural dyes like poppy flower (red), indigo (blue), henna (orange), cedar wood (brown), mint (green), and saffron (yellow).
The hassling then began to buy a leather jacket. The prices started well above what I wanted to pay. But I knew how much I should pay and stuck to my price the whole time even though it was half what he wanted. Now in normal bargaining you meet halfway, but i was unwilling to budge. I literally gave him my absolute best price and started to walk out. His price kept coming down and eventually he agreed to my price. I was happy, because I wanted the jacket but also aware if the price was higher I could probably buy one elsewhere. He kept saying down tell other tourist how much, so I won’t on this blog. But bargain hard, know your prices. I’m sure they still made some hefty money on this jacket.
We then had lunch, or maybe say a Koranic school first. It was a bit of a blur as I said earlier. Lunch was lovely in a cool courtyard. I had a tagine with meatballs and eggs in a tomato sauce. It was really good and tasted a lot like the one I’ve had in Australia 🙂 After lunch the shopping Tour of Fes continued to the brass works and the weaving place. I think there was a third but again I was kind of tired and over the shopping tour of Fes. Fes would be a great place to wander, you would be easily lost and probably not find anything you are looking for, so in that respect having a guide is helpful, but at each stop it seemed to be a sales pitch to the wealthy tourists. So thats something to go on the feedback form!
Tomorrow is mostly driving into the Atlas mountains and towards the desert. We are heading for a town called Midelt and I’m hoping we see some Barbary Apes in the mountains. I might be disappointed otherwise! Then we head into the Sahara desert for a night, before heading to Todra Gorge which apparently has civilisation, a nice hotel and beautiful scenery.