Because of omicron, our only “traveling” these days is in our minds, with a memory boost from photos of days gone by.
We fully recognized how fortunate we were to be able to have ONE international trip in 2021. Before the borders slammed shut two months later, we spent three glorious October weeks touring Morocco. Sadly, as of late January, 2021, Morocco’s borders remain closed.
During our trip, our focus was on experiencing this fabulous country, so my blogging fell way behind. What better time to write about the three previously neglected cities of Fes, Marrakech and Casablanca than over the next few days, when there is little else to do in New Jersey but cook, eat, read or shivver.
Although I devoted one blog post to our spectacular Fes riad, we were too busy enjoying the wonder and glory of that city for me to blog about it.
Every souk in Morocco is quite an experience, but I think the one in Fes is the most elaborate and labyrinthine. Even Mostafa, our excellent guide, needed help from a local guide to get us through the marketplace.
You see just about everything in the Fes souk. Take a look: The head mounted outside the stall is thought to be proof that the vendor sells authentic camel meat.
Somehow, we managed to make it through the trip without being offered a sample.
You are probably wondering why I included the next visually unimpressive photo. Don’t worry. I’m going to tell you. That equipment you see on the trucks is for shooting the next Indiana Jones movie. Timing, however, is everything in life. Had we arrived a day later, Harrison Ford might have been on site, and perhaps we would have caught a glimpse of the action. Of course, what is far more likely is that the entire area would have been blocked off–probably with those barriers you see on the left. Anyway, watch for that cafe in the movie, and remember, you saw it here first.
Weddings are a HUGE deal in Morocco. Like Indian weddings, they go on forever…and necessitate multiple clothing changes. The souk has a whole area devoted to shops like this one, selling wedding caftans, which, as you can see, are LOADED with bling.
Weddings are expensive events, and not just for the bride and her family. You see, it is customary for the future groom to present his intended with baubles, including a jewel encrusted gold belt, as part of the marriage proposal. That is her “insurance policy” in case the marriage goes south.
During our time in Fes, we had dinner with a Moroccan family, who graciously showed us the video from their niece’s wedding. The bride changed her caftan SIX times during the many, many hours of the ceremony! Because of the colossal expense, our hosts told us many brides opt to rent their outfits.
Take a look at how narrow some of the passages are in the souk. They veer off into different directions, acting as natural protection from foreign invaders, of which there were many, back in the day.
Hint for future travelers: When I purchased my Sketchers, my purchase was placed in a bag that can also function as a backpack. When I tossed it into my luggage at the last minute, I had no idea how much I would use it! My regular backpack proved to be too heavy and HOT on my back, and this freebie from Sketchers was perfect for the trip.
Here’s another hint for future travelers:
When you visit the tannery, bring along either Vicks or Tiger Balm to dab under your nose, unless, of course, you think the stench is part of the experience that you don’t want to miss. Although the guide will give you a sprig of mint to hold under your nose, I definitely needed something much stronger. I don’t know how the workers can stand the smell of the hides being dyed and softened with materials like pigeon urine!
Like the rest of Morocco, Fes is a city of contrasts. After spending the day in the centuries old souk, we felt like we had time traveled when we arrived in the modern part of the city. Look at this beautiful avenue, complete with motorized vehicles the kiddies can drive. When we visited Ouarzazate a few days later, THEIR avenue included larger play vehicles, for kids of ALL sizes.
Our evening ended with a walk through this beautiful gate (one of MANY beautiful gates in the city) into another marketplace near our riad.
Volubilis and Meknes
During our three day stay, we had the choice of remaining in Fes, on our own, or taking the optional trip to view the ancient Roman ruins at Volubilis, then visit Meknes, the imperial capital of the late, great Mouley Ishmael.
Since Mike has never met a Roman ruin that he didn’t love, it’s not hard to guess which option we chose.
Although it was interesting, I have seen many Roman ruins and mosaics, so I was more fascinated by Meknes.
Sultan Mouley Ishmael started Morocco on the road to greatness, after he ejected the British from Tangier. But that’s not his only claim to fame. He made The Guinness Book of World Records for fathering more children (888) than any other human, at least so far. No doubt it helped that he had about 500 concubines and 4 wives to share that monumental task! But what I want to know is whether he remembered all those names — of the kids AND their mothers. And how did he have the time or the energy to conquer so much territory?
With that huge a family, it is not surprise that the sultan went on a building rampage, utilizing Christian slaves to help construct his enormous structures in Meknes. When the slaves were exhausted, and thoughtlessly died on the job, he simply had their bodies tossed into the walls, to become part of the structure. To me, that’s taking recycling to the extreme.
I can’t remember whether this door was in Moulay’s stables or the granary (that’s what happens when you blog months after the fact–you forget so many details!) Whichever it was, it was massive, as you can see from the photo of one of the doors. It dwarfs my 6’3″ husband.
That’s all for today. Next post will be our memories of Marrakech.