The next day of the trip was my birthday (yay turning 28!) so I was really excited to do something interesting. A tour of the Medina fit in perfectly with that goal. For a pretty small fee we were able to have a half a day with a knowledgeable English-speaking local. It was well worth it. We visited the self-proclaimed oldest university in the world. Where these blue steps lead to the library that despite the din of the Medina was completely silent for the local students.
On our own we would not have know which mosque would allow us to enter as tourist. This was a great opportunity to see the mosque (more of a religious school than a mosque) from the inside and experience some of the life outside of the market place. We learned how to recognize the writing of the name Allah in the tiles that lined the walls. And learned about the hours of the 5 daily prayers. A question that had been lingering in my mind since March. It was a great lesson in history and religion for us all.
As we walked down the street, every once in a while making way to let a donkey carry a load of leather pass by, we felt more at ease having someone who knew exactly where he was going. Our next stop was at a weaver who made a wide variety of colorful silk scarves with a hand-operated loom. There was a smaller one for only 2 colors and a much large more complicated one for multi-colored scarves (pictured above). It seemed like very tedious work.
In an attempt to get us to buy something the show owner insisted on dressing us up, starting first with putting a scarf on me like this. I think you can tell my level of amusement from the picture. There’s an even more horrifying one of me in sort of a princess Jasmine outfit over my current clothes, but I’ll have to say that one for the grandkids.
This other very decorated mosque was on our way to the Tannery. Unfortunately it was not one that we were allowed to enter as non-muslims. It was under construction, as was this whole portion of the Medina, so we peered inside from the narrow doorway and snapped as many pictures as we could without getting in the way. The guide made sure to point out what American’s were financing the restoration of this area.
Our tour guide pointed out this circumcision costume for boys of about 7 years old. I don’t know why anyone would want to wait that long to remember that pain! Our tour guide said he got his done even later in life! That reminds me of a scene in Robin Hood Men in Tights…but I digress.
Yes another mosque we past during our journey, but this time we were able to catch a glimpse of the women’s section. They are of course separated from the men, always, and given the most remote and unsightly portion of the mosque to worship in. It’s quite depressing to note. I could never be devout like some of these women who believe so strongly in something that excludes me and treats me as less than another person.
Our next stop was the tannery. Man! What a rough life it must be to have to spend days in a cold barrel of colored liquid dying hide after hide by hand. I can imagine that it would stain the skin and cause all kinds of health problems. These guys are miraculous. What’s even more are the ones tanning the yellow leather, which required special care, in the upper portion spending all day bent over so that fashion will no go without its variety!
As we meandered more through the market we came across this camel head for sale in the market. I must say it both amused and disgusted me. Poor camel.
The end our tour, our lovely guide took us to a local restaurant we would not have found by ourselves to end the tour. I am very certain he is getting some sort of commission by bringing us there. And interesting system in Fez. The meal was great and quite large. The picture above showed just the appetizers. Even three of us could not finish all of this and then have two more course. Unfortunately this was the last of good food for us as everything was quite repetitive and a less desirable version of this meal. I expected consistently great food, but I must say I was disappointed. I’ll gave to get better suggestion the next time I travel to Morocco. Still, it was quite a birthday to remember!