Saturday, March 10, 2012

Day 1: All around Fez

I felt safer in Fez.  We've been to Medinas in Rabat, Marrakesh and Fez and I thought all these would just be the same but I noticed that the people in Fez are less aggressive.  They tend to smile more than the others as well.  I also noticed that some of the sellers here speak English so it was easier for us to bargain. 

As soon as we arrived in Fez Yamanda, we just dropped our bags, waited for Thami (our guide) and off we went to a seven hour walking-tour around the labyrinth medina.  According to Thami, there were over 80,000 souks in the medina.  It was soooo large that it’s easy to get lost in it. You can’t tour the medina via a car as the alleyways are so narrow.  Also, it is best to do the tour on foot as you will be able to see and experience more of the city.  

Khlea (preserved beef submerged in animal fat -- very healthy, eh? >.<)

more Khlea

For lunch, Thami led us into a small door with no signage.  Again, we wouldn't be able to find this on our own. The restaurant is called Dar Hatim and it is located within the medina. It is a family riad turned into a restaurant which is actually a smart way to earn -- earning at the comfort of your own home, yeah? :-) 

Most of us ordered their specialty called pastilla. The set meal which costs 200DH consist of 9 different salads (beets, eggplant, potatoes, rice, carrots, lentils, etc), chicken pastilla (a meat mixture in a thin pastry with sugar and cinnamon sprinkled on top), and fruits for dessert.  

the owners of Dar Hatim

After lunch, Thami took us to places we wouldn’t be able to find on our own. He took us to the tannery where they process animal hides (goats, cows, camels) into soft, rot-proof leather. First, they remove the hair and flesh, then they'll soak these in vats which are like big holes with tanning solution, then they hang these out on the terraces of the medina to dry. 

Once tanned and dry, the hides are passed on to leatherworkers.  The odor here is really unpleasant.  They gave us "gas masks" in the form of mint leaves to block the unpleasant smell. 

with Rahul and Tracey

tannery market where they sell the hides

leather goods

more leather goods

After the tannery, Thami also took us to a riad co-op where beautiful rugs were made.

We also went to another co-op where scarves and bedspreads made from vegetable silk or wool were being produced.

with Prince Rahul ^_^
He also let us in a small entrance to see an old man whose job is to put sawdust into the fire to produce steam in the hammam steam room.  The room was so warm; I can’t imagine how hot it would be during summer time.

old man with his cats

We were also able to see El-Attarine Medersa which is a residential college designed for local students from the town or city and those from distant rural areas in search of learning. It was built between 1323 and 1325 by the Merinid sultan Abou Said Othman.  It is an institution where they study religion, law, science and arts.  The medersas of Fez were the most highly esteemed in Morocco as it is a home of the greatest scholars in the country.

I find it cute to see a lot of donkeys in Fez.  I remembered our client Ilham telling us that we’ll hear people say “Balek! Balek!” which means watch out because these donkeys are everywhere!

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