A little bit of Fes

Published Fri 14 May 2010 21:01 (+1200)
  • travel (188 posts and 1102 photos)
  • morocco (27 posts and 182 photos)
  • fes (1 post and 4 photos)
Our Fez medina guide talks about the Qaraouiyine mosque
Our Fez medina guide talks about the Qaraouiyine mosque
Decoration in the Qaraouiyine mosque
Decoration in the Qaraouiyine mosque

I can't say that Fes and I got on too well, by the time we got off our minibus from Volubis / that lake I was feeling a bit shit so I just stayed in that night reading my book.

The hotel was on a really noisy street with only shuttered windows so I was sleeping with earplugs in, which turns out to be quite disorientating when you get really nauseous in the middle of the night!

So that was a bad night. Food poisoning is never fun.

The next day I was too sick to go out but the tour group headed off for their guided tour of the famous Fez medina (old city). I was feeling a bit better towards the end of the day so sent some txts and arranged to meet them up – took a taxi around the city and they sent a nice dude from the shop to find me.

From the outside, the old city certainly didn't look anything like the famous town I expected – just kinda dull and with little clouds of smoke puffing up out of some of the areas. What happened next was pretty cool though – to get me in to the part of the medina where the team were, we ducked into a chest-height hole through the city wall, and walked crouched over down and around through a pair of tunnels of maybe 10m going through the wall and under buildings, joining in an inner room of someone's, and eventually popping out in a shop shed, which opened onto one of the busy medina streets. Very secret squirrel – you couldn't get around those bits without a local!

The group was just finishing up in a scarf-weaving shop, we headed around a couple more shops – an instrument shop (one of the guys from which tracked the group down a full half an hour later holding a different instrument he tried to sell to one of our group who'd looked a bit too interested!), a pharmacy where the pharmacist explained various indigenous remedies (when he made us all smell the strong-smelling stuff I went a bit green and decided I had strayed too far from my vomitorium!), but I think probably the most interesting bit was a mosque where (unusually) one is allowed to look in and take photos.

Wedding chair shop?  There's a shop for everything in the medina...
Wedding chair shop? There's a shop for everything in the medina...
TV, always the first outreach ministry of western-style consumerism :(
TV, always the first outreach ministry of western-style consumerism :(

The Mosque Qaraouiyine (no shortage of vowels in Morocco, maybe they should lend some to Wales) apparently dates it founding to 859! It was in fact one of the most significant sites in its heyday, once it grew past its humble beginnings; it used to have a great multidisciplinary university and was considered a leading mosque in Fez from which others took direction.

It was cool to see a “working” place of worship rather than the historically significant but ancient disused palaces. Same styles of decorations – but maintained paintwork etc., it did have an interesting style to it.

The medina is very crowed and busy, with all sorts of shops mixed in together – halal butchers just around the corner from instrument shops, just around the corner from the pharmacy, just around the corner from a place that appeared to exclusively make big sparkly sequined or gauzy chair conveyances for weddings!

Disappointingly I failed to find a good fez to buy.

We ate at a place down the corner from our hotel, which was tasty enough though they gave me a beef tagine instead of vegetarian as I asked for… oh well, managed to stomach it anyway.

I wasn't feeling a hell of a lot better sleeping the second night there – bastards turned off the AC (which we had asked them to leave on since I was still a bit feverish). Not my favorite time in Morocco.

The next day we left the crowds to head towards the mountains.

I checked the news before we left. Pakistan had launched another major offensive against the Taliban resulting in a lot of deaths, but at least there hadn't been any more major natural disasters for a week – 2009 had been a pretty rough year for a lot of people, so I wasn't doing so bad!