The Fes Medina

The Fes Medina

2/6/09

Yesterday was much better. I think that culture shock was a bit more than I counted on especially since I arrived with no sleep, disoriented, no plan, and well…I arrived and that is all that can really be said about anything.


I woke up early and walked the Medina. I found it very deserted early in the morning and lost myself in it. This was very nice. Then I walked back from where I exited it and this was also nice. After that I found an internet place and blogged, checked email, reassured my mom that I am okay, and checked couch surfing. I had messages from two CSers in Morocco. I will go stay with her today, her name is Hanine and she teaches English, the other is nearer the dessert and he has also offered to host me, I will accept if possible. As to other offers, I prefer to accept the couch surfing. I think this is the right way to travel and meet people, there is a certain safety in it.

Back in the Medina I had breakfast of some hobs arabe(round bread) and coffee, then I bought cigarettes and a razor, shaved off my beard, and decided that I will not try to hide any longer.

After this another walk through the Medina and I was approached by a young man, Mohammad who spoke English well. He offered to take me on a tour for 50 dirhams, I bargained and we reached 40. We saw the tanneries where they offered me mint for the smell of the rotting flesh, this was fascinating.






Then we visited a pottery shop,


an herb medicine shop, and finally his father’s rug shop where despite myself I bought a camel hair blanket for about $30.


I figure a blanket is a good thing to have and besides, I really liked the proprietor, Ahmed, who is the uncle of Mohammad.. I don’t know where I will put the blanket, but I will figure something out, perhaps it wil save my life since I have no sleeping bag and a blanket is always a good thing to have. I think the price was very good. Afterwards, I was pulled aside by another merchant who told me that yesterday he thought I was a Berber. This of course pleased me. He looked like a white guy and said that my features look very much like his people. He also, of course, offered to get me started in an import export business, a good idea, but I am not ready for this yet. Perhaps though, there is some future for me in bringing others here and taking them on tours…we will see. Inshahallah.

I paid the washer woman about $3 to wash my socks, underwear, and a few shirts and my levis. Also I got my shoes shined…perhaps it is only in third world countries that there are shoe shiners and this says something about the future of my country. Maybe not though, I only know that I saw no one shining shoes in Spain.
After this, I returned to the internet phone place, called Hanane, set up a place to meet tomorrow and then got a fine lunch of lamb kabobs, olives, fries, and bread. I am sleepy again.

I learn something new everyday. Today I learned that even though the washer woman does a nice job of washing the clothes, she feels no responsibility to bring the clothes in when it begins to rain. Unfortunately, these are clothes I don’t really want to abandon. Four pairs of socks, 5 pairs of underwear, one white button down, 2 white t-shirts (I can abandon these I think) and a grey t-shirt that I like quite a lot.

I’m not sure what to do with myself in the evening. I’m sure there must be more entertainment than just sitting in my room on the computer or sitting in a coffee shop, but I’m not sure.

I’ve also learned that one can ony watch LOST on ABC.com in the United States, I’m not sure how they block it, but somehow they do. That was one thing I thought to do this evening, but no, it was not possible. I used the internet for a bit and bought a mars bar for 12 dirhams, probably too much, but I think that maybe Morocco is not as cheap as I may have thought. If I were to live here, I think it would be better to live in a less tourist place than Fes.

Although I do find that if I walk around today without my bags and away from the transport stations, that I go fairly unmolested by those seeking to improve their fortunes to the detriment of mine. I do wonder what the local price for a blanket such as mine would be. I do like this blanket. Perhaps it is not the finest quality, perhaps it is only a $10 blanket, but none the less, I like that it is soft, warm, and tightly, if not finely made. And who knows, I am no connoisseur of camel blankets, maybe this one is dandy.

I’ve rigged my clothes to hang on a makeshift line I made of a shopping bag and my sarong. The sarong comes in handy for so many things. Perhaps I will have a head hole cut in the center of my blanket and stitched up and leave Morocco looking like Clint Eastwood of the Sahara.

The restaurant owner who gave me no change stopped me on the way back to my room. It turns out he is the boss of the hotel and the restaurant, I also read that tipping is semi expected in Morocco, I’ve been a bad tourist, but I think I have put a small amount into the economy in any event. I hope that my stay with Hanane is not expected to pay hotel prices and that I can instead teach a bit in her school, improve my Arabic, and see some things in Moroccan life that I might otherwise miss.

I still can’t believe I am doing this with no guide book. It’s cold and there is probably a zero chance that my clothes will be dry by morning in this cold cell that I currently live in. The call to prayers is like the sound of a dying cow, not the incredibly beautiful voice of the Imam at the Mosque I lived next to in Hawaii.

As I walked across the large square, it struck me how un-culture shocked I now feel, not too long after arriving in this very foreign country. Here I am in a Muslim nation where people in a very different style of dress from my own rush across the square to prayers five times a day.

Allah al-akbar!

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