May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets’ towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkey’s howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches where storms come and go as lightening clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you---beyond that next turning of the canyon walls. ---Edward Abbey (thanks Trudy Hall)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Marrakesh Express to Fez Hats to Tangier by the sea

October 8-12
Our guide Khodija

Palace Bahia Door
We weren’t satisfied with the guide that we met through the tourist office (his English was not so good and I couldn’t communicate that we didn’t want to shop), so we called the one my childhood friend Barb Shoemaker suggested named Khodija, and we spent 3 hours walking through the beautiful Palace Bahia (name of the Grand Vizier’s favorite wife), learning about the patterns of Islam faith, mixed with Judaism, and the Berber lifestyle. 
"Don't take my photo!"

The best part was that a man yelled at all of us for taking his picture, and she argued vehemently with him about how we were taking a picture of how the market looks, not of his face.  We apologized, but she said that this kind of interaction is very normal, and that there are no hard feelings.  This made me feel braver when countering someone who wanted more money for a tip, which happens quite a bit! I learned a lot from Khodija, whose specialty is to take groups of girls and introduce them to the ways of Morocco and knows quite a bit about how the Muslim and Jews have settled this Berber area. She would be an excellent liaison for a spring break trip to help our girls understand some traditions of women here: cooking, social structures, countryside living, the arts (henna, weaving, embroidery, play), service to others and the hammed.  She gave me an address of a traditional hammam, rather than a touristic one; I went to find out the difference. 
Over the medina
EVERY restaurant has a cat
We were regulars at this cafe every morning
Wow, it was very different and reminded me of women washing themselves in a cave.  A maid from the hotel named Fatima took me there and introduced me enough to get me started.  I paid the man at the entrance 12 Dirham instead of 300 for the full spa experience at the tourist place.  We walked in, and she indicated that I could leave all my stuff with the woman at the desk (she asked me if I had anything valuable, as it was important that I did not), and told me to take off my clothes here and she knotted up my bag so it was harder to access and gave it to the woman.  There were others with kids dressing and talking, most took the hammam with panties and shower shoes on.   
Week at a glance
Fatima and I went deeper into the cave-like structure, and each room got a little hotter.  They gave me two buckets and we filled them in the hottest room with really hot water and then some cold. She cleaned off the floor with a bucket of water for me to stay and sauna, then said her goodbye.  It had one light in the center, women would come in and out filling buckets and shoving them across the wet floor to another room.  Feeling awkward by myself, I started soaping up and another woman who spoke English told me to sauna first.  In the end she scrubbed my back with the hand scrubber I bought along with the black soap at the herbalist where Khadija took us.  I went to the coolest room to rinse and scrub and saw why it was important to rinse the floor; dirty suds and hair was streaming down the corridor from the highest/hottest room out the drain near the entrance.  Yuck. 

"Tangia" in the jars at the bottom
Other than having exquisite “tangia”—lamb cooked in delicious sauce in the ashes of a hammam with a side of salt and cumin for dipping, and olives—at the center of the medina, Les got his beard and hair trimmed. 
expensive hairdresser
The man gave quite a show of how professional he was with the aesthetic arts and gave him a neck rub and head massage, that when we were done, Les asked the price and he said 200 Dirham.  That was what one would pay a guide for 3 hours.  We didn’t know enough to argue and the man took his money from Les’s hand.  We were taken.  The taxi driver wanted a lot more than a normal fare too.  Maybe it was the hoopla around the soccer game that night?  
Go Morocco for African Cup
 Folks were crazy!  They were beeping horns, standing in horse carts and on the back of motorcycles, cheering and hooting for their team against Tanzania.  Les went out with a guy who wrote us through Couch Surfing and I got home without a key to the room so I sat with the Spaniards and had some beers as the big game commenced.  Morocco won and the streets broke out in celebration.  It’s a great way to end our days in Marrakesh.
Jack at the rail station

The train ran most of the day and we saw such dryness!  People were living with a wall of cactus (with the colorful balls on top that you eat) around their homes, and piles of hay that were covered with mud for protection, and families walking their livestock around. 

There were sections of track strewn on the side of the rail; and I wanted to ask brother Jim if they were constructing or deconstructing. 

We arrived in Fez in a beautiful rail station and Les lead us to our hotel. 

It was a bit dirty, so he went to look at another while I sat with the luggage.  This was our best bet, but after the Tachfine, this was roughing it.  At 140 Dirhams (about $21) it was ok. We walked around and found a little place for food and a walk.
Got fit for new glasses I lost in the sea in France
Where's Sue?
Fez Medina
Tannery--White is Pigeon Poo

October 11 was our big day in the medina.  We finally found some simple rings we liked that were copper and brass twisted together.  They were 3 for 40 Durham.  I’m keeping my eye out for an ankle bracelet for Cathi, my second cousin.  Not sure if it will be here or India.  The touts were a bit more aggressive.  We saw so much: men banging copper and brass into humungous bowls and plates for weddings, the pots where they tan leather in pigeon poo, lots of henna and herbs, embroidery and fabrics, tons of leather items (cute shoes!) and the ornate doors, walls and floors of mosaic tile, carved cedar (aromatic!), and metals of all kind, and furniture to carry a bride and groom in.  We had asked someone to cut a bracelet into rings for us, and while they did that Les stayed and a boy took me to look down into the tannery pots; I am sure they expected me to buy something.  When I came back, the rings were so small!  We had given them ours to match for size, so I didn’t feel that bad about not paying them.  They were nice rings for someone with smaller fingers.  We gave the boy 10 Dirham (I thought 5 was appropriate) and he became angry and wanted 20. (The bracelet was 50!)  This happened over and over: a man wanting more for cactus head, a boy who ran ahead to guide us toward a taxi, etc.  That first boy followed us saying, “Remember me?” and I replied that I was sorry he was disappointed with the tip we gave him.  He said to forget about it.  This made me braver to reject the rest of those who ask for more.  It’s hard to know what’s really right.  Ugh.
Mid Fez

The moon is full these nights J.  Today, October 12, I’m sitting in an Internet café with free Wi-Fi sipping sweet mint tea, trying to catch up and find out why my email won’t send.

October 12-
It’s near the end of our time in Fez.  We have been spending a lot of time at the Internet areas, maybe to catch up on our blogs and research for our future plans, but also the medinas are pretty chaotic and a little aggressive.  It’s difficult to negotiate when one doesn’t know the culture, prices and procedures.  I feel like I should have gotten out there to learn more about dance or the hammam culture, but I stuck close to what I know these few days.  I did finally get info about “Work X,” which is an organization like WWOOF, but it includes other work than farming.  There were several in Jordan that sounded like great fun.  They were mostly Bedouin men organizing trips with camels into the desert.  Some wanted help with that, others wanted their children to learn English; many of them wanted assistance with computer and running their business.  One said we could stay in his cave with him!
School kids
We passed by the school to take a photo and 3 boys stopped to engage with us.  We asked names and info about the school; then when we were to leave, on asked for money.  We declined and they followed us, when they touched my arm I turned and shushed them.  One picked up a dirt clod and hit me on the shoulder!  That was so out of bounds!  I wonder how that would be ok in the culture—it made me want to ask a local.

Only men in coffee places

Arabic Puzzle from Newspaper

I have been in many coffee places where there are NO women.  We met a couch surfing man, “Mohammad Mohammad” who met us and he eventually wanted us to buy a trip into the desert.  It sounded great but was about $300, and we didn’t have time.  He said the men in the coffee place are doing business, or are a certain kind of businessman (taxi, guides, etc.) on break, so if you wanted to find a guide for a friend, you would go to ___ coffee place.
Boutayna and Achraf (means "honesty")
Plus Hassane!
Oct 15-Right now we are on the way to Tangier.  I love how a man and his toddler son welcomed us. When a woman came in, she immediately took the stranger’s child in her lap.  It seemed very normal.  Of course the taxi wanted too much money, but our friend from the train set him straight and got us a fair price.  Of course there was a poor man there when the taxi let us out touting another hotel and followed us practically into the one where we made reservations for tomorrow.   

Outside one window... They are tearing down a ?? Mosque? Home?

We arrived in our fancy hotel and washed clothes and took a shower and watched some BBC news before going out for dinner.  Tangier’s cool breeze actually made me shiver—it’s been hot for so long. 

Grocery Couscous Isle
We looked at the sea from a high point and dove underground to the supermarket to see what’s different and to buy water and juice.  One more day in Tangier, then off to Crete via Madrid and London.
View in "cheap" hotel room
View from "Fancy" hotel lobby

October 16—I slept terribly, with horns honking past 4:30AM, and we both felt a little icky like a cold coming on, so we slept quite a bit in the morning.  We changed from fancy ($75) to cheap ($37) hotel, and this one is MUCH quieter and has a splendid view of the sea instead of the street—AND internet that works tonight!  We wandered the streets, eating Spanish food, sauntering through the medina and walking out to the end of the pier/jetty along with a parade of locals.  It’s a beautiful city.
Moon, Mom!
Moon over Fez

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