Sunday, December 4, 2016

Fesian wandering

I wrote this while in Marrakesh.

I got away from writing when we left Fes because we were in a car for most of the time. It’s pouring in Marrakesh right now (at the time of this writing) and Chris and I got separated (again), so I’ll use the time to write something more about Fes.


On the second day, Chris was ailing, and I wanted to give him an easy day. We taxied to the “new” city, which is still old, and looked at the Royal Palace. When I see the poverty and filth in this country and see all the royal palaces, I must bite my tongue until I leave this country. It’s the story of the world, really – the rich keep getting richer, keep take take taking, while the rest of us are left with scraps.

The “new” city isn’t as interesting as the old medina, but its souks, while fewer, are wider and easier to navigate. I was tired, too, but we ended up walking more than we wanted to anyway, because that’s just the way things work here. At one point, a friendly policeman warned us not to walk down a narrow alleyway because “there are criminals.” Good to know.

That reminds me…on the day before, after we bought the jacket, we were led to a bland restaurant that at least had some decent rooftop views. We had some bad tajine and some mint tea and a rest. The guy who had helped me find Chris suddenly saw a money making opportunity and he wouldn’t take no for an answer after we finished eating (and overpaying)…he wanted to give us a tour of the medina. This is tiresome. You aren’t allowed to just look around, to wander, without being harassed constantly. 

views from the rooftop

I drank a lot of mint tea...

I am interested in Moorish history because of its intersection and integration with European history. What I am not all that interested in is seeing the same architectural designs over and over and over again, the same shapes, same tiles, same conformity of color and mentality, and I am definitely not interested in being led to a site I have no interest in seeing.

Here in Marrakesh, I am interested in seeing the places where the great Islamic thinker Averroes dwelled after he was expelled from Cordoba, Spain for promoting a rationalist interpretation of the Quran. Or something like that. It all sounds rather petty, like other philosophers were jealous of him and sought to get him in trouble. There’s a story about how they took part of one sentence of his writings and showed it to the king, who was outraged by the fragment and didn’t care about the context, which had nothing to do with what his accusers said.

Anyway, I am interested in that sort of history, but looking at all the various madrasas and the walls of mosques I am not allowed to enter, is, well, let’s just say it’s not high on my list of sightseeing desires. I’m more interested in the people, so I like to wander and look at things, not for things. Which is why these wannabe tour guides are so irksome, as you can’t stand still for a second without them hounding you or telling you you’re going in the wrong direction, that the [insert nearest tourist site] is this way, let me show you, I want no money, I lie.

In wandering, I found these street sights interesting: 

Too bad this is blurry. Had some camera issue for a few minutes. Guy is carrying tanned hides.

We don't need no stinkin' child labor laws!

door with Hebrew written on it

old oven

dyed hides waiting to be sewn

The outside of buildings may look rundown, but you can find some amazing interiors.

UNESCO World Heritage Site

But, you also have to be careful when wandering. As what little sunlight there was that filtered through the narrow gaps between the buildings began to disintegrate, we wandered through dark passageways with the shadows. While Chris lagged behind, I turned a corner and some twenty-something boy with a beard and no future tried to take my camera. If he had tried harder, I would have put my foot in his gut and sent him tumbling down the hill. He should count himself lucky he gave up.

But he had destroyed my sense of adventure. Instead of heading towards the gardens I was hoping to find, I turned around, wishing Chris could pick up his pace so we didn’t get robbed by the youths down the hill looking bored and suspicious. I felt bad that I had made him come all this way just to back track, but that’s the way it would have to be. Everything I value was on my person – my laptop, my passport, and my camera. One robbery would be devastating. Not to mention all the lost photos from this trip!

Because I was tense, I wanted a beer, so I found my way to Hotel Batha, a foreigner-oriented hotel with a bar in the back. As it turns out, beer is not all that difficult to find in Fes – you just have to know where to go. The internet was not all that helpful.

I had a beer and then we taxied to our hotel, where we descended into a deep sleep. Even insomniac Chris.

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