Monday, October 31, 2016

France&Fez Day 10, Back to France

 On Wednesday, Oct. 5, we enjoyed a quiet couple of morning hours in our lovely dar. (A dar is a large home, not as big as a riad. A riad must have a courtyard including a garden and doors on two different streets. Our Dar El Oudeghiri had only one massive door, and the courtyard was enclosed.) We breakfasted on the roof, reorganized in the room, read in the lovely sitting room, and then went down the endemic spiral staircase to follow a driver back to the wall of the medina and his car to the airport in Fez.

Favorite things about Fez: Moroccan hospitality, the textures and smells and history of it all, something so different from our "normal", the beauty of the architecture and handicrafts, the resilience of the people, the proof of God's guidance and protection for us even in a place far from and different than home.

Least favorite things about Fez: a stolen wallet and dealing with the Fez police (though they treated us well!), feeling like we were out of our comfort zone and at the mercy of others in some ways, not being able to use the water or eat fresh foods due to my immune-suppressed state, the sense of oppression and loss there, politically, culturally, and spiritually.

Fez was a magnificent adventure, and we are so glad we were able to make this trip!  But soon we were lifting off over desert olive groves and heading back across the Mediterranean to the southern coast of France.  J. met us at the airport, and we spent the evening doing laundry and telling stories, and resting up for our final days in the Cote d'Azure before heading north.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

France&Fez Day 9: Fez

I have been struggling, Gentle Reader, with how to describe our day in Fez in some succinct manner.  it is a sensual city-- by which I mean it is full of sights, sounds, textures, smells, all unfamiliar and crowding on your senses like the crowds in the narrow streets.  It is like stepping back into the middle ages, and like grieving the loss of a civilization.  It is just so many things, and I experienced them all in a rather dazed state of mind!

The village streets in France were narrow, but nothing could prepare us for the medina (the old city).  We followed a guide all day through her twists and turns (the man you may see in the blue robe ahead in some photos).  This city was made the royal seat of Morocco in 802 or so, and is still a site of pilgrimage for Muslims because of its fine mosques and shrines.  Now, it is a source of handiworks, a place called home by the poorest of the poor, by those doing 'urban renewal" and turning old homes into guest houses, and UNESCO folks who are shoring it up against collapse as a World Heritage Site. We spent 7 hours wandering the maze of streets. The next 6 photos give you sampling of streets from the largest and busiest to some of the smallest.

Our guide, was a retired political philosophy professor, who dished up a fair dose of Marxist political philosophy with his history, and made for an interesting day.

He explained that every quartier (or neighborhood) in the old city had five things:
1. a gate that could close for security of the neighborhood, though most gates are gone and only posts are left.

2. A fountain that provided drinking water and washing water

3. A mosque

4. A nursery school-- often with smaller doors for the children

And 5. a communal oven for baking bread

We toured the tanneries, a restored caravan house where caravans crossing north Africa would weigh and sell their wares, and a madersa, where university students lived. (Our guide made the distinction that these were not schools of Islamic stuidies, but full university residences.  You did, however, have to ahve most of the Q'uran memorized to be able to attend the university.)

We saw a taxi stand.  There are no motorized vehicles allowed within the walls of the medina, so donkeys do the work of carrying.

We took a taxi to overlook the city, and heard the late afternoon calls to prayer all rising from the valley in an eerie cacophony, and then entered through Bab Boujaloud, the famous gate.

This barely scratches the surface of this amazing city!  The textures, sounds, and taste of mint tea with remain with me always.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

France&Fez Day 8, Calanques, Cassis, and the corniche

We woke to a lovely Day on Monday, Oct. 1, our 8th day of travel.  The sun was calling, so we hit the road and drove east of Marseille through the Parc Nationale des Calanques.  Calanques are the French Mediteranean version of Norway's fjords: sea water flowing between limestone cliffs.  It was lovely territory, and the view of Marseille from up above the city was lovely, too.

From there, we headed to the lovely seaside village of Cassis.  The cliffs outside of Cassis are the highest maritime cliffs on the Mediteranean, and afforded wonderful views.  And the village made a charming spot for lunch.

On our way back into Marseille, we took the Corniche (the scenic seaside road) to its end on the east of Marseille, and enjoyed the sun and sea all the way.

After dinner, we would head on the biggest adventure of the trip: a two-night stay in Fez, Morocco.  We had just confirmed that very morning that our trusted friend and guide, J., would not be able to come with us, so despite my deer-in-the-headlights sensation, we headed to the airport that evening for our 10 PM flight, set to arrive around midnight in Morocco, sure that God had ordained something special for us. We were flying the discount service Ryan Air, and the whole flight was a surreal experience.  We were surrounded by a clan of happy, partying Moroccans, and the whole flight was a duty-free shopping time, with the stewardesses selling first perfumes, then handbags, then lottery tickets. We were met by a driver at the airport, after finding the ATM empty so we didn't have any local currency (dirhams).  The drive took us, in his non-air-conditioned car without seat belts, to the walls of the medina in Fez, where the manager of the Dar (large home) where we were staying met us, and guided us into the medina (old city).  It was about 15 minutes' walk from the wall, straight into the middle ages of narrow, winding streets.  We could not have left there on our own if our lives had depended on it! Most exotic date EVER!! More on our adventures there next time...