Sunday, May 22, 2016

Fez Morocco

After spending a couple of days in Marrakesh, we took an early morning train up to Fez. The train left about 6:30 am and took almost seven hours with about 20-plus stops including Casablanca. Unfortunately, our plan didn't include any time there as it's definitely one of those places I've heard about and would have liked to see. Maybe next time?

Seven hours in a train, especially one in Morocco, could understandably be a bit intimidating. We were wise enough to cough up the cash for first-class seats, which were set in small, semi-private compartments each with six seats. I partially expected it to be like that scene in Trading Places with Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd. Well, it wasn't quite that nice. I think my favorite part was the bathroom where you could watch the ground pass by the bottom of the toilet. Yes, for real. But, they did have a guy who came by regularly with coffee and snacks, which, along with the fabulous views, made it a surprisingly nice trip overall.

After we arrived in Fez, I got to experience the Moroccan three-taxi intercity transport system. This involved taking a "small" (local) taxi from the Fez train station to another taxi station slightly away from the center of town where we got into a larger long-distance taxi. This one took us to the outskirts of Adil's hometown, Sefrou, where we caught another small taxi to his folks' house.

The two local taxi rides were each about ten minutes and the long one was well over 30 minutes. I don't remember what we paid for the long ride, which was in a well-traveled 30+ year-old diesel Mercedes, but it cost surprisingly little. A bonus was that all of the taxi drivers we had, with the exception of one, drove conservatively enough where I didn't fear for my life. Actually, it was a lot less scary than that but I had expected the worst. I still wonder if Adil preemptively said anything to the drivers...

One of the long-distance taxi stations:

We arrived at Adil's family's house and immediately settled in. His mom and dad were super gracious and welcomed our what seemed now like an exceptionally large group. Adil's mom had tea and snacks ready and we spent some time getting to know each other.

After a bit, Adil, Adil's brother, who lives in Italy and also happened to be in town. their sister, and the rest of our pack walked to the old walled Sefrou medina stopping off along the way to get more tea and coffee at an outdoor cafe. I kinda' liked the French-inspired stop-at-a-cafe culture in Morocco!

One of the entrances to the Sefrou medina:

Compared with Marrakesh and Fez, each with around a million people, Sefrou was a village. Adil's hometown feels like a suburb with working families going about their daily activities. I'd imagine lots of folks make the trip into Fez every morning so "their kids can grow up in a family-friendly area" - yeah, just like wherever you're reading this from. Sefrou's probably not on the Marrakesh-Casablanca-Fez-etc. tourist trail, which made it a nice contrast to what we had already experienced.

Around 9 pm in one of the plazas in the Sefrou medina:

When we got back to Adil's house that evening, his mom had prepared a way-to-big and way-too-delicious feast for us. I'm not sure anyone was hungry when we got there and I can assure you that we were all stuffed by bedtime! Ladhidh! (Yummy in Arabic.)

The next morning, after another incredible homemade meal (I could get used to this!), we did the three-taxi trip back to Fez to check out the medina, which seemed every bit as giant as the one in Marrakesh.

Can I just say again how much I loved all the cafes and what a view!

Some of our group with Adil's brother just about to enter through one of the gates:

It was relatively quiet when we went and kinda' felt like a recovery day or something in that people seemed to be taking it easy.

Some local kids hanging out:

Taking advantage of the bright colors for a (not my) family photo.

Another random Fez medina street scene:

If you're like me, you've probably been wondering about the hat. Before the trip, I was curious if I'd see anyone actually wearing a fez in Fez. And, really, what the heck is a fez anyway?

Let's get it out of the way, yes, I did see people wearing fezzes like the man at the bottom of the photo above and on the coppersmith in the photo below.

I learned that the fez served (and may still) as a sort of wearable anti-French nationalist symbol in Morocco. The felt-covered hat, which I read is a "modernized" turban, was being worn mostly by older men. I don't remember seeing any on younger folks although, at a higher-end fez shop we passed, there were three 20-something guys waiting for the fez maker to finish sizing a fez for one of them.

Where is Darren now? Wearing a fez in Fez, of course!

Beyond its namesake hat, Fez is also known as a place where you can buy inexpensive leather goods. There are both processing and manufacturing facilities located inside the medina. These active preparation and dying vats seen from the roof of a leather shop are one of, if not the iconic image of Fez.

A random photo - we briefly followed these three donkeys carrying construction supplies (bricks and bags of cement) through the medina.

A big ole' shukraan (thank you) to Adil, his family, and especially his mom and dad for having us (all!). You and your home were warm and welcoming, the food was beyond delicious, and the experience is something we'll never forget! We can't wait for you to visit Barcelona so we can repay the favor!

A bit of a postscript to this story. Adil's family owns some farmland not far from Sefrou where they grow olives and make olive oil. His mom served some alongside every meal and, like the homemade wine we had while in Cabra del Camp, I couldn't get over how fresh, light, and delicious it was. I was afraid that I was going overboard repeatedly telling her how amazing it was and how much I loved it.

Well, my being impressed with their oil must have made an impression on Adil's mom and dad because, about a week later, when Adil's brother was in Barcelona on his way back to Italy, he gave Diana and me a liter bottle of oil that their mom had sent us. Can. I. Just. Say. How. Amazing. It. Is? Thanks again for making our Moroccan visit to continue back in Barcelona!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Darren, you should wear the felt-covered hat with the rubber boots that you bought in Colombia. That would look super cool. = )
    Thanks for the post bud!


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