Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Travel Tuesday : Fes, Morocco

When we arrived in Fes -- after our looooong train journey -- we headed out to hail a Petit Taxi. The first driver wanted to charge us 50 Dh, which we laughed at and moved on. The second guy said 15, so we jumped in and he took us to the Bab Bou Meloud, the famous blue gate.

From there it was relatively easy to find Talaa Kebina, even if it was challenging to find the first riad we wanted to look at: the Dar Iman. I thought the mosaic work and painted doors were beautiful, but Wil hated it from the beginning. He didn’t like the terrace, the courtyard, and the immediate surroundings. So we moved on.

We checked our map and decided to try my first choice: Dar El Hana. We got lost a couple of times, and had to ask directions, but we found it and it’s gorgeous. More subdued, with a great big room and a lovely roof terrace. The room was, however, far more expensive – 890 Dh, but we talked her down to 700/night as we were staying nights. The owner is an Aussie expat named Josephine, and she’s lovely and thoughtful, giving us tea and water and telling us about Fes and how she came to be here.

Our room was huge, with an anteroom and desk and couch, as well as a large bedroom and shower. Beautiful floors and wooden details, and a very cute “secret window” looking out over the street from the bed.

our sneaky window 
the view from our sneaky window
Got settled a bit and then headed out to the town. We made a loop through our part of the medina, stopping to visit the shop of the man who helped us find our way. (Wil hated the brass mirrors, I failed to think of a place to put one. Eventually we would buy a beautiful carved bowl that still graces our dining table, ten years later.)

We ended up at Café Clock, a very cool “cross-cultural café” run by an expat Brit. It’s a converted riad, so there are lots of different seating areas and chill-out rooms, plus a great roof terrace. The food was good too – we split a falafel/tabbouleh/hummus plate and a “Fes tapas” plate with roasted beets, pickled carrots, little croutony things, an eggplanty pepper spread, some very soft goat cheese, a tomato and onion salad, and a couple of dates. Which made me sorta wish I had a date shake.

The next morning we wandered down to the tanneries. We just walked down, down, down past the shops and the mosques, eventually finding our way by following the donkeys laden with hides... and the unmistakable stink.

A nice man offered to show us a good view and took us through his shop and up onto his terrace. I was happy we had gone with him, since the place seemed simpler than the ones with the fancy covered terraces – we walked past trying hides. Yellow was that day's color… or perhaps the previous day’s as these were drying?

The dye pits are amazing. The whole scene looks (and, now that I think of it, IS) medieval. They were dyeing browns and reds, with men (they were all men) standing in the pits moving the hides from one pit to another. Amazing. We also saw the very stinky part, where they take the hides and tan them, using lots of pigeon poo and cow urine, apparently. The men drop hide after hide into a vat, turning them over and then mushing them down with a stick. Then they take them out and put them in the next vat of muck. It must take days to tan the leather…

After the hides are tanned, they're dyed in these big vats. 

 And after they've been dyed, they are carefully stretched out and touched up, if necessary, to ensure even color. Yellow is the most prestigious of the colors.

Anyway, after watching the tanners and dyers do their stuff, we headed back in to run the gauntlet through the shop. The first man had been nice, but he turned us over to another man who was less nice. Wil saw a good bag for the netbook and the haggling began. The seller started at 750 Dh. ($95) Wil countered with 200 Dh ($25). The seller dropped to 550, but Wil stood firm at 200. They asked our best price, and Wil stood firm. So we said thanks, goodbye, and then left. A few minutes later the man came after us, telling us he couldn’t make a profit, and asking our best price. Wil was a rock, and said “200… it’s all I can spend on a bag”. The man let us go, and I started to wonder if we had really gone too low. I man, a camel leather bag, pockets, buckles, etc…. But a few minutes later the little boy from the shop came running after us with the bag and said “OK! OK!”.

We wound our way around the narrow streets, marveling at the beams placed between buildings to keep them from falling.

We struggled to find our way back to our riad – we had to leave the medina to try and get our bearings at the city walls.

Perhaps we had been dazed by the smell of the tanneries? But we went back to the riad, stopping for food en route -- though these honey-dipped sweets, covered with bees, were too alarming for me to contemplate.

We spent most of the rest of the day relaxing on Josephine’s breezy roof terrace enjoying beverages from her icy fridge. Bliss.

No comments:

Post a Comment