We stepped off of the plane, onto the tarmac and into the blazing hot African sun. Cool. We’re in Morocco! We buzzed through customs and into the parking lot where we climbed into a Mercedes for a lift to the famous Blue Gate. Riding in style! Too bad it seemed as if it was one of the first Mercedes ever produced as it was held together by a combination of rust, wire and fading hope. Shame that all of the handles for the windows were missing as it would have been nice to roll them down and have a little air in the back of the car in the 37 degree heat. No big deal, we’re in Morocco!
We passed though the famous Blue Gate into the Medina of Fes and nothing could prepare you for the assault on the senses that this 1200 year-old city tossed in your face. The myriad of smells, sights and sounds – food cooking, food rotting, roosters roosting, a crazy guy shouting “Allah” while kissing a door, cats everywhere, stifling heat, rotting meat, chanting of prayers, restaurant guys pressuring you to eat at their place “Is it me you’re looking for?” asked one eager chap. There were donkeys and mules laden with all kinds of brick-a-brac, flies a buzz all around, tons of people everywhere – old, young, destitute and well off. People without limbs and people with lots of limbs. It was like a movie set. It was overwhelming and scary and exciting and I loved it!
On a fun walkabout we ventured into a tannery located somewhere deep in the bowels of the Medina. It was both an amazing and a terrifying sight. And the smell! It reeked of skin and death and shit. It was quite hard to take, especially for Swanson. I could not imagine working a tannery. That what was so terrifying to me – the thought of actually doing this back-breaking, stench-riddled work. I wouldn’t last half an hour down there. Christ.
If you’re old like me you may remember way back in the day that whenever you got into trouble and your parents were mad they might exclaim, “I’ll tan your hide!” I wonder if they actually knew what that meant or where that expression came from. I’m hoping that they didn’t because if they did they were actually threatening to slit your throat, drain your blood, flay all of the skin off of your body, soak it in a combination of water and pigeon excrement, dye it with various herbs and spices, condition it on a giant wheel, dry it in the sun and then fashion it into various products ranging from hand bags and jackets to pants and bean-bag chairs. Oh, and then they would feast on your meat and organs. I imagine that our parents thought that it just meant a spanking, or a paddlin’ in some parts of the world, but if they knew what it actually meant then they are all stone-cold psychopaths! I mean seriously, that’s pretty harsh treatment for a little spilled milk or lighting your sister’s Barbie on fire, wouldn’t you say?
We made a couple of day trips outside of Fez into the beautiful countryside. One of them was into the Middle Atlas Mountains (they sound bigger than they actually are). The place was overrun by monkeys (not the poison kind I was relieved to find out). Swanson loved it. I think it was his favourite part of this leg of the trip. He doesn’t really like Fes all that much – “Too many people, too many bad smells. It’s too old. It’s not really my style.” At least he’s honest.
Here’s a hilarious little video Swanson made of the monkeys playing some monkey games and, er, playing a different sort of game. (make sure you have the volume up)
I wasn’t planning to have “The Talk” on top of a mountain in Africa surrounded by monkeys.
Some other notable highlights included many many cats (which Swanson just loved) roaming the streets of Fez looking for a handout, a tour of an old timey jail in the town of Meknes – man, it was a grim place with the only light coming through a few holes in the ceiling (hello Game of Thrones!), walking the tiny streets and just the general mayhem of everyday life in the Medina.
Enjoyed lots of great food – tajines, couscous, dates, kabobs, some beefs, chickens, camel, hummus, fries, lassies, and many more enjoyable food items. Take that Spain and Portugal!
As much fun and as interesting as Fes and the surrounding countryside is, we’re looking forward to leaving this place and heading east…to freezing cold Romania for Halloween!