01 July 2009

Quick Ramblings

As we enter July, our final month of the trip a lot of thoughts continually fly through my mind. First, I am amazed at how quickly the time has passed. Last night Kristen and I were taking a look at our pictures from Japan. In one way it seems like a distant memory, but in a way it also seems like it was only a few days or weeks ago. A trip like this will do that to you.

Another thing that I’ve thought about is how I haven’t been bored or homesick on this trip that much. Typically when I’ve gone on a long vacation there will be a few days when the travelling is frustrating and getting to me. On this trip I have rarely felt that way. Perhaps it is because we are seeing so much in a short amount of time. In a way other than Thailand we haven’t had the chance to sit down and relax enough to let boredom set in. This is a good and bad thing. While we’ve done a ton, we haven’t had a chance to get the understanding of a place that you get when a few weeks are spent there. In my opinion this is fine though, we can go to the places we like later when we have more time and money to enjoy them. Alternatively, if there is a place we don’t like we know we never have to return. This is better than the guilt we would have if we had spent thousands of dollars on a two or three week vacation.

As our time here in Morocco draws to a close I’m surprised on how much we have gotten to see and do. Yesterday as Kristen and I were standing on the roof of our pension, overlooking Fes, I was reminded of a story which I told her.

Back in 2003, I was studying abroad at Oxford, which was my first time I was in Europe and out of the country by myself. A group of friends and I were trying to decide where to go during our couple day break from school.

“How about Morocco?” someone said. I thought at the time, wow that seems so exotic. Maybe a little bit too wild for my taste. This was only a few years after 9/11 and I knew that Morocco was Islamic and in Africa. Did I need a visa, would they be friendly to Americans? Too many questions ran through my mind for it to be considered a viable thought.

I ended up going to Berlin where my Aunt lives. Granted, this was a new experience for me and one I thoroughly enjoyed. But part of me knew that there were more places I wanted to visit in the future.

Fast forward six years. I’m standing on a rooftop overlooking Fes, Morocco. Two weeks ago, Turkey, a month ago I was in India, six weeks ago, Cambodia. All those places I never, ever thought I would have the opportunity or fortitude to visit. However, here I stand looking back knowing that I did it. I saw what I had set out to see, surprising myself (and Kristen) in the process.

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Medina Maze

Today was our first full day in Fez, if you can count waking up at 10 a full day. Our courtyard facing room, gets no light when we pull the curtains closed so we didn’t begin to stir until we heard noise outside. Charlton had arranged for our tour guide to come around 9:30, and we assumed we would have breakfast at about 8:30 giving us plenty of time to get ready for the day. With sleepy eyes we glanced at the clock and saw it was 10! You can tell we have been really pushing ourselves that the first time we don’t have a train or a plane to catch time goes by the wayside.

We grabbed a table in the courtyard and were brought Moroccan bread, olives, butter, cream cheese, apricot jam, coffee and mint tea. At first neither of us thought that would be enough, but surprisingly it was very filling. Perfect for a whole day of touring the medina!

Our guide, Halim, showed us all around the old town...not like we saw everything. There are 947 alleyways in the medina, and we probably walked 100 max. We learned the history of Fez, and got a glimpse of what life is like here. We visited the Attarine medersa, one of the many religious schools, which was absolutely gorgeous. We walked through many of the old souks, or marketplaces, that used to specialize in just one product. Now however, many of the different goods are intermixed, so you can go buy a goat head right next to the vegetable stand. How convenient! We also got to peek into the Kariraouine University, founded in the 10th century, the world’s first university (it predates Oxford, Nathan!) as well as a mausoleum.

Fez is the handicraft capital of Morocco, a fact not lost on us as we visited a shop for almost every type today! We got demonstrations on carpets, brass work and fabric making. We also visited a shop that takes seeds from Argan trees (only native to Morocco) and extract the oil to use for beauty supplies and cooking. I got practically a full body treatment with all the samples of moisturizers, lip balms and perfumes…not to mention the spread for some bread! We also visited one of the tanneries that Fez is known for. We were lead to the upstairs terrace that had a fantastic view of all the vats used for dyeing. It was around noon when we went and we both were apprehensive of how strong the smell would be after reading all the guidebooks, however, the terrace was far enough away that we were not assaulted by the smell of all the sheep, cow, goat and camel hides. They had beautiful jackets, bags, belts, ottomans, and of course shoes, all very nice pieces.

We got back to the hotel around 3ish, a full day of sightseeing. We relaxed in our room reading and napping for awhile and then ventured out for an earlier dinner as we hadn’t had lunch. We headed back to Café Clock’s rooftop terrace where we ordered the Fez platter, a sample of Moroccan tapas, and chicken couscous. Both dishes were delicious! The couscous was amazing!

On the way back to the hotel we did a teensy bit of shopping, making sure to pick up a hand of Fatima to add to our Christmas ornament collection for the trip.

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