As I’m writing this down, I’m wondering if I will be able to stay awake till the end. My body lacks energy. It’s midnight and the first real day in Africa has ended.
I don’t know if you can be prepared for Africa and that being said I keep in mind that Morocco is one of the most civilized parts of it.
First impression of Fez during the night was “CRAZY”! Imagine cats eating smelly meat and other trash on the street, while dark men stand in the corners like shadows and look at you as if you’re the meat. The air smells like the dumpster made babies with Moroccan spices and now are getting hot in sauna. Strangely the guide convince you it’s very safe, even if you travel alone.
Our rijad on the other hand was a completely different story. Warm, welcoming and very friendly people. Every room is covered in detailed ornaments. Gold, turquoise blue, red and yellow tiles. Stained glass windows, golden chandeliers and dark wood furniture. It might feel too much anywhere else on the world, but right here in Fez, it is just perfect. It’s an art that might make ones eyes a bit sore, but that’s something worth seeing. We unpacked some things and went to the terrace with the manager to drink traditional mint tea and relax after the long day of traveling.
7 stories up we were blessed with the view to the whole sleeping Fez. The air felt a bit weird, but it wasn’t smelly anymore. There were some noises of fighting cats that reminded me of the previous images from the street, but hey, “Mama Africa, we’re here! “
Appearances: Next day (today) we had 4 hour tour around old Medina Fez, which felt like a 6 hour walk around labyrinth. Alami (our guide) took us around every corner in the old town. And if the streets were full of trash yesterday, then today they were “clean” and full of little shops. Still, I acknowledged that the smell had not left the premises. It changed from old meat, to warm smelly cheese, cats and spices, but it was always there. So glad I took my scarf with me. Somehow, walking around these little streets felt safer with it, although everybody still looked at us and said “gen Dobrij” or “bon jour”, knowing we’re not local. Blue eyes might as well be a “TOURIST” tattoo on your forehead.
Statistics: In the first hour of walking I got 2 proposals to stay in Fez and become a wife of the local shop owners. One of them even slipped his phone number in my hand and tried to convince me that Facebook is everything, even if I was leaving after a few hours. Later on, from a local leather dealer, I got to know that I’m worth at least 1000 camels and received a proposal number 3 . One camel is worth in Europe about 5000 EUR. How do I know these weird facts? I used to buy and sell animals for a private zoo.
Contrasts: While we were walking around Fez, I was surprised by the detailed ornaments on the ceilings of very luxurious Mosques nearby poor little homes. Every house from the outside looks abandoned. But the inside can make your eyes sore from the beautiful detailed art of Moroccan interior. Gold, turquoise blue, red, yellow. I still wonder how long does it take to decide how to decorate the walls and most of all the ceilings. Every Moroccan interior designer, every worker who puts all those ideas together is an artist. You can’t just do it. It’s a story, it’s a creation of something beyond material. When you look at all the lights from golden chandeliers hitting the colorful tiles, they transform the room like an imaginary world -a bit dark, but very warm and beautiful. My white wall apartment will feel like a completely different world.
A must: If you go to Fez, you have to see leather factory. The guide explained that there are about 5 steps to get your beautiful leather bag in the shop, and it takes about 2 months to get it ready. Be aware – it will be smelly because they put the leather in pigeon poop, for the acid to make it soft like “a baby’s skin”, and before that they put it in a chlorine to get rid of the wool..Yes, your hand made treasure has been in pigeon poop. And you were afraid to put it anywhere in public transportation.. That view of the men, washing, coloring and rubbing leathers all day long made me wonder – how do they ever get rid of the smell? Do they every get rid of it?
Different: you have to be prepared to hear Islamic prayers called from the towers a few times a day. It felt especially weird, when we were having lunch at European style cafe, where next to us were two Canadians talking about Giants ice hockey team.
When we were leaving Fez, I felt relieved not to see another dark street with cats. All I wished was to fall asleep on the way to Midelt, where we were staying overnight. Little as we knew, the road will not be as easy as we have imagined.
To be continued..