an chronicle of my adventures in Ifrane, Morocco and travels within the surrounding area

Monday, September 6, 2010


So finally, after having been here almost two weeks, I finally took a trip into REAL Morocco (Ifrane and the University, while nice, are more like an American enclave than anything else). Fez, just an hour's car ride away, is one of the oldest cities in the world, and a veritable paradise. Our taxi ride there was an adventure in and of itself, with lots of lovely Moroccan countryside to enjoy.

Along the roads between Ifrane and Fez there is an area where there are jugs sitting on tables intermittently. Confused, we asked our taxi driver what they were. He proceeded to pull over and call over a man from the side of the road who offered Alyssa, in the front seat, a large jar of what we later discovered to be honey, but initially thought was gasoline. After she was instructed to drink, we realized that it wasn't gasoline, but had a bit of trouble explaining that she didn't want to buy the cheese-ball container sized jar of honey. I can't imagine making the rest of that ride with honey-mouth! Our ride was full of lovely views and funny surprises.

Immediately upon arriving in the medina (old city- composed of a series of long winding alleys and walkways between buildings creating a maze of a market that often requires paying children to exit), it felt as though we had entered a completely different place than the one we've been living in. This is clearly Morocco, as evidenced by the people and the scenery.

Luckily, one of Alyssa's friends has lived in Fez his entire life and served as our tour guide (and a very good one at that) showing us lots of secret treasures of the city. Our first stop was a tiny hidden courtyard where a group of weavers work on looms weaving scarves, tapestries, and other such textiles. They all spoke English and explained to us the weaving and dying process

and then befitted each of us in a traditional scarf style. I am sporting the nomadic style, Alyssa (in the teal) the desert style, and Bibi the bedouin. We also got some great deals on the scarves we decided to purchase.

Afterwards, we continued to wander through the maze of alleys and shops, persistently buffeted by people, cars, and pack mules alike. It was at first a little disconcerting to have heads turn so frequently when I passed, but after someone told me "you look funny" it all became jovial. This is the price I pay for these luscious locks, I guess.

The variety of things you could purchase there was really the most amazing to me. I expected things like fruits, vegetables and handicrafts

but you could also get everything from hair dye to a cell phone to some new Pumas in the same (relative) place. Some of the other things available which I did not photograph were meats, including but not limited to the heads of cows, sheep, and goats, all of which were displayed prominently (the eyes follow you). I also was lucky enough to witness a chicken being plucked and another beheaded. Some of the smells of the medina will stick with me for a long time, and not all of them were great.

We wandered for a while more before coming to one of our last stops, the tannery (where leather is dried and dyed to make leather goods). After climbing up a flight or two of stairs in a store, we ended up on a rooftop where the pelts were drying

and the gorgeous view overshadowed the wretched scent of drying flesh (I accidentally stepped on one... GROSS!).

We could not only see down to where the pelts are washed and dried,

but also had a nice view of the rest of the city.

After winding our way out of the medina (part of me thought we would be there forever), our guide Abdu took us to one last spot- the greatest lookout point in all of Fez. The sun was just beginning to set, and it couldn't have been more lovely.

After taking in the view, Abdu invited us to his home for F'Tour with his family. Most of the traditional Ramadan foods were served, including chebakiya (a desert of deep fried sesame dough covered in honey and sesame seeds), eggs, harira (a vegetable soup that can be made many different ways), and bread, amongst other things the names of which I cannot recall. All was delicious, and were followed by some mint tea and a warm nap on the wall to wall couches (for lack of a better term) in the traditional Moroccan salon. It was the perfect end to the long day of walking.

I will leave you with this image- my favorite from the many I captured in my delightful day exploring one of the oldest cities in the world.

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