Search This Blog

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Out of Africa

Tuesday spent the day in the Medina without a guide.  We took a taxi to the King's Palace and walked through the Medina back to our Riad.  We found that the shopkeepers were a little more aggressive but not too bad.  If you would look at something they would come over and try to get you to buy something.  But it was pretty easy to just walk away.  But if you would ask a price then it was very difficult to get them to let you get away.  One time Cindy asked about an item and the shopkeeper said $500 Dirhams (local currency about 11 cents US), she offered $100, well he got offended and told her to "go away, go away".  Pretty funny.  Later on she found a similar item and tried bargaining again, started at $500 Dh and he would only come down to $200 Dh, Cindy wanted to only spend $150 Dh.  As she walked away another younger guy came up with a much nicer quality item and after bickering back and forth, with Cindy walking away a few times, and him waiting then chasing her down she got him down to $170 Dh!  We think he worked for the same shopkeeper.  Way to go Cindy, and she got a much nicer item.  It can be fun and frustating to bargain with them.  Once you start bargaining it is very difficult to leave without buying something.  But at some point they'll just say "no problem" and leave you alone.  Overall we found the Moroccan people friendly and helpful, but they don't hesitate to ask for a few Dh's if they think they have given you something.
Later on we passed by a small 1 room school and peeked inside.  The teacher invited us inside to visit with the children who were about 6-8 years old.  We all had a great time playing with the kids.  They were very interested in hearing us speak.  Cindy showed them how to count to 10 in American and they loved it.  Beautiful kids.  Of course the teacher asked for a small donation to help with the school, so we did.
After getting back to our Riad Cindy and I did a cooking class with the chef, Fatima.  It was pretty interesting to see the different spices they use.  Of course one time when I forgot and was stirring a pot with my left hand she seemed shocked that I would use my left hand to prepare food.  She said that they don't use their left hand for preparing or eating food.  I had to explain that I was left handed and it was difficult for me to remember to not use my left hand.   She was surprised that Americans use their left hands for food.  Difficult cultures, but this is really a cultural/religious Muslim tradition.
It was really difficult to remember to eat only with my right hand.
Well, we ended up missing our 7 am train so took the 10 am train to Tangier where we would take the 4 pm ferry to Tarifa.  Nope, train took longer than we thought and got to Tangier at 3:40.  Got a taxi to the ferry station, went to passport control and hit a bottleneck.  Finally got through and literally ran to the ferry only to see it pull away as we got to the dock.  Oh well, so we sat in the shade and waited an hour for the next ferry.  Finally got into Tarifa, David went ahead of Denise, Cindy, and I with the luggage so he could get the car out of the parking garage before it closed.  Then an hour and half drive to Marbella for a couple nights.  We passed by the rock of Gibraltar and saw it lit up with spotlights, pretty impressive.
So today we're just relaxing and resting from our difficult day of travel yesterday.  Tomorrow we catch our 9:30 flight to Madrid, then Dallas, and finally the Big Easy!  Scott is planning to pick us up at the airport.  I just hope we can sleep when we get in so we'll be rested Saturday to see Ella!

won't see women in these coffee shops

Cindy bargaining hard

sometimes you think the walls might collapse

Monday, September 10, 2012

a different world

This morning after a wonderful Moroccan breakfast we met our guide Hassan.  Hassan took us for 4 hours walking through the medina.  Fes has the largest medina in the muslim world and was first built 1400 years ago.  The medina has 230,000 people living in it and is a UNESCO world heritage site.  We could only walk through some of the numerous alleys where there are countless shops selling anything you could image that the people need for daily use.  Most of the items are made there at the shops and are almost all handmade.  The hide tannery for instance uses only natural lime, salt, dyes, pigeon poop! and no machinery is involved.  The tailors use either needle & thread or OLD sewing machines.  Not much technology except for cell phones.
All of the items brought from outside like food products or wood or even the animal hides are brought either by hand cart or donkeys or mules.  Quite a few times Hassan would tell us to hug the wall as a heavily loaded donkey would pass by.  The alleys are quite small.
The sights and smells were overwhelming at times, especially at the tannery.  As we entered the building to climb to the terrace and overlook the tanning pits they handed us fresh mint to sniff when the smell became too bad.  Fascinating to watch the workers standing in the various pits either stirring the hides with a wooden pole or just using their feet to stir the hides.
There were shops selling fresh meat, vegetables, candies, olives, handmade sandals, just about everything to support such a large community.  A lot of the people probably have never been outside of the medina.  Their houses have no windows facing outside only an entrance door.  But inside there is a courtyard and the windows open to this central courtyard creating a private space.  Similar to our Riad, but I'm sure not quite as nice.
One thing we noticed were the difference in the generations- the older people all wore the traditional gowns and were mostly very colorful.  The younger ones wore less of the traditional garments and the kids usually just wore shorts and teeshirts.
Of all the place we've been to on our 5 week adventure this was by far the most exotic.  Certainly it will remain in our memories for quite some time.
cutting thick brass with a hammer and chisel

the hide tannery pits

beast of burden

sewing thread

many different candies

various salads for our lunch

makin' groceries

fried chicken?

David learning a new trade

Cindy can't decide what to buy

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Lions and tigers and....burros? Oh my!

Well after an enjoyable night in Tarifa we took the 9am ferry over to Tangiers, Morocco and met our driver.  We set out for Fes about 10am stopping at a roadside stand to taste fresh picked melons, delicious!  We then drove into a small fishing village and picked out fresh fish at a small market, had the guy clean and filet them.  Them brought them to a cafe next door and had the guy grill them, with the heads on of course.  They were delicious, and we had more melon for dessert. 
Then we were back on the road which became a two-lane country road with a speed limit of 60KPH, that's pretty slow about 40 MPH!  It ended up taking 6 hours riding in a small van to get to Fes.  Our guide was pretty good and talked about all of the area.  They grow a lot of wheat, corn, sugar beets, sugar cane, almonds, and olives throughout the area we traveled.  But they drive pretty wild, a couple times Cindy thought we were going definately going to wreck.  But our driver swerved or stopped quickly and said "don't worry, I like to live".  Pretty reassuring huh?
Fes is huge.  Our Riad (hotel) is in the old city.  Our driver pulled over and waited for a guy from the hotel to come with a pushcart.  He loaded our luggage in it and pushed it uphill through narrow streets, really alleyways since cars can't go into the medina.  The Riad is gorgeous, once you enter through an un-assuming door you enter into a very nice courtyard with a fountain.  Our host greeted us with cold towels to refresh ourselves with and cold mint tea while we checked in.  Then we took a tour of the Riad.  We have a traditional Moroccan dinner scheduled on the rooftop terrace tonight.
Tomorrow we will have a guide to bring us around the Medina and bring us back since it is a huge maze.  We are definately in a foreign land. 

burros are used quite a bit

hey buddy, you gonna eat that fish head?

recently harvested cork tree

paradise found!