Morocco Travel Diary Day Three- our full day exploring the city of Fez a place that challenged me a lot.
THE GRAND IMPERIAL CITY
Fez is Morocco’s grandest imperial city. When I read in our Lonely Planet guide that the narrow winding streets of the Fez medina were a true assault on the senses I had no idea how true this would be. To say that Fez is bustling, alive with tradition and a hive of creativity is an understatement.
The day (and possibly more importantly the night) in Fez would be one that I don’t feel I will ever forget.
I promised in my last Morocco diary entry to fill you in on the drama that unfolded and I will. If you missed Day One of our journey through Morocco with Journey Beyond Travel, do yourself the favour and click back to it here and Day Two here.
In its 1200 years, the city of Fez has no doubt seen a lot of changes. It is the medina of Fez el-Bali (Old Fez) that most tourists come to explore in all of its aged busy glory. If you look closely, all of the doors and walls of the medina are dinged with knocks and bumps from carts and donkeys. A lot of the medina is under repair, but a lot of it too is worn, and crumbling.
The craftsmen work in tiny places where they then sell their work, open flames heat copper pots on the side of the street, men punch metal sheets between their toes to make stunning lamps and trades are passed on through the family with pride.
LOCAL GUIDED TOUR OF FEZ
After our local guide Fettah met us at our Riad, we wandered through the Medina and out to the palace in the new part of Fez. Dar el-Makhzen is the 80 hectare royal palace, which is not open to the public but a good starting point to learn more about the history and culture of the city and its people. As we stood and chatted, men in white coats scrubbed the brass doors with lemons while tour groups posed in front of them.
It was possibly standing here that my mind began to tick into a momentarily confused and pretty destructive thought pattern. There is so much to take in about other cultures and part of the travel experience (if you travel further than to say a resort) is to seek out this knowledge.
Listening to our guide explain matter of factly the way that Moroccan people value family had me thinking. The truth was up until that point in time I hadn’t seen my family in months and knew that they were going through a tough period of change back home.
My Nana was being taken out of her home as the family packed up her things and moved her into a nursing home. It’s a pretty standard story by our terms in Australia. I remember clearly as a little girl my Nana telling me she never wanted to go into a nursing home. Knowing how stubborn she is and how rapidly the dementia had been taking over, I knew it was not an easy time back home.
Added to this I was aware of other issues with some family members for which, I feel guilty in being unable to offer any support. I see my parents and brother at most twice a year and my extended family once every two years. We live on opposite sides of the country, yet it was wandering the streets of Fez that I felt furthest from them than ever.
Guilt sunk into my heart in a way I wanted to shake off but couldn’t. At least, not right away.
MOROCCAN FAMILY VALUES
The way our guide explained it, Moroccan people value family above all else. He described how grateful they remained to their mothers for carrying them and giving them life, something they could never show enough gratitude for. They spent their lives working to make their family happy, to be able to give back and look after their parents.
Standing there I was thinking “I love my Mum, but we are so different there are times she just drives me mental” (sorry Mum, please don’t be shocked or upset to read that, I know the feeling is mutual!).
It began to add up as during the course of our week in Morocco I was asked again and again how long Mario and I had been married, how many children we have, how close our parents live etc. It is funny that such simple questions trip me up, is it not? We eventually stopped mentioning that we aren’t convinced we want children and are in no rush to be married.
Having kids is not for everyone. I don’t think it is for me.
VISITING THE TRADES PEOPLE
Hamid picked us up and took us on a drive up to visit one of the pottery workshops to see how they hand make the beautiful pots, plates, bowls, tiled fountains and tables. The attention to detail in the painting, spinning the pottery wheel, hammering the tiles into patterns are creating these pieces is so incredible. I loved watching them work and seeing the giant kiln (no such thing as health and safety).
BEYOND FAIR TRADE MOVEMENT
In 2014, Journey Beyond Travel became the exclusive partner of a ‘beyond’ fair-trade movement in Morocco. Pioneered by former Peace Corp Volunteer, Dan Driscoll, Journey Beyond Travel was the only tour operator who responded with enthusiasm to begin promoting (and offering the option to clients) to shop directly with artisans in their locales.
This pride in sustainable travel was one of the draw cards for choosing them as a company to work with when were planning our trip. Though neither of us were doing any shopping, visiting the workshops allows visitors a chance to shop directly with the country’s artisans, thereby helping them receive industry-standard wages for their hard-earned work.
EXPLORING THE CARPET SELLERS, KORANIC SCHOOL AND TANNERIES
Between visiting the carpet sellers, seeing how the women weave the carpets (and giving it a go myself), we visited historical monuments such as the Bou Inania Koranic School and the famous Chouara Tanneries. The tanneries were sadly under repair, so there was not a lot to see over looking the dyeing pits which are famous for being colourful and perfect tourism photo fodder. The smell of the skins lingered, I won’t be forgetting that smell!
After a lot of walking, I was ready for a chance to sit down at lunch and rest for a little while. We ate at a local restaurant before deciding to head back to our Riad and rest.
BEING SICK IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY
I won’t go into full detail, but that night got a bit dramatic. I couldn’t eat much for dinner, my stomach was feeling off and had swollen hugely. My mind was super anxious thinking over the family values we had discussed that day. I tried to sleep but woke and was soon calling Mario for help as I began to feel worse.
I didn’t learn the full story till Mario told me when we got back to Australia, but essentially I fainted, fell backward and knocked my head on the top a thick stone wall in our bathroom while vomiting. Mario had to open my mouth, clear my airway and try to get me to gain consciousness as I continued to be sick. I am talking worse than gastro sick.
Thinking back on it all now, the pain from hitting my head and being that ill was a nightmare. Unfortunately I was then sick for a few weeks, I saw a doctor once back in Australia. Being that sick in a country who’s medical system I knew so little about possibly made me worse for anxiety and honestly for part of the trip thereafter I just wanted to get back to Paris.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
The lesson I think is to make sure to do your homework before you go and take precautions where possible. I eat a super healthy diet at home for the most part and have a sensitive stomach, so I think I’ll have to stick to a bland diet in future when visiting again. Before I left I didn’t look into any vaccines or travel advice, thinking it would be okay. I would reccomend, particularly if you have a sensitive stomach, before you travel to Morocco, seeing a travel doctor and getting any shots they recommend.
The part about family? I came to terms with the fact that we are all different, I love my family and share this with them in my own way whenever I can.
PHOTOGRAPHED BY: MARIO RECCHIA AND JENELLE WITTY
TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT CREATING YOUR OWN TOUR OF MOROCCO WITH JOURNEY BEYOND TRAVEL, FIND THEM HERE AND BE SURE TO ASK QUESTIONS!
Follow our Morocco Journals below:
Diary Entry Day One: Chefchaouen
Morocco Diary Day Two: Volubilis
Morocco Travel Diary Day Three: Fez
Travel Diary Day Four: Marrakech Food Tour