After reading about Fez about what seemed to be
ages, I finally had a chance to make a visit. I was in Morocco for five days,
and decided to make the journey. I was staying in Rabat, and after a couple
days of sightseeing, took the ONCF train early one morning, and headed for Fez.
The journey altogether, from Rabat, took less than three hours and on the
way we stopped at a few places, including Sidi Kacem and Meknes. Soon we were
at the Fez Station, and I proceeded to have a walk around the very modern
downtown area. This was going to be a day visit, and therefore I had to take
everything in small steps.
The city proved to be much busier than I expected, and after a brief tour I
took a Petit Taxi and headed for the Medina. The concept of the Medina for me
represented quite an interest, since my initial interest in Morocco has always
harboured a fascination in Medinas.
I was not to be disappointed about the Medina. But I did go back on my
original promise to be my own tour guide. At the entrance I allowed myself to
be talked into an improvised tour by a young student. Although I was suspicious
of her motives I went along with her offer. In many ways she was quite
competent and confident, and I felt justified in agreeing to the tour.
The Medina was everything they say, a potpourri of traditions laced with
cultural and commercial icons. But it was its setting that made it different.
Housed in an antiquated walled city it illustrated the best example of the Arab
marketplace. Most of the traders and artists lived close by, or so they said.
Leathergoods seemed to be particularly significant, and was evident in almost
any shop or cubicle. Brassware and ceramics were also conspicuous, followed by
woven items like blankets. But it was also interesting to see it as a regular
place to buy much wanted goods by the local population. And with this idea you
could have purchased anything there. Interestingly, since there were no marked
prices and the bidding system was the rule, speculation abound. You could
possible argue about prices forever, if you were not focused. Whatever your
interest, you had to be careful how you spent your money.
I was able to see one of the tanneries in operation, and was able to
appreciate how the skins of animals became leather. Like everywhere in Morocco,
even here in the Medina you were never far from a mosque. Yet as a tourist you
were in a shoppers haven. I resisted the temptation to go wild, and restricted
myself to simple souvenirs. At the end of the tour I offered my guide a fee,
and suddenly realised that even this payment was up for negotiation. Indeed it
was a remarkable experience, though I felt it could have been longer. I agreed
with the consensus that to be serious shopper here, could take you a few days.
The first two days to get accustomed to the place, followed by the days to do
Later, I had another walk around the downtown area of Fez, pausing to have
a snack, and then I headed back to the train station. Soon I was on my way back