Sunday, November 25, 2012

Fes, Cats named MoMo and Dinner with Neighbors!

This is going to be a long post, partially because of all the stuff that's happened and also because of the loads of pictures I'll be posting from Fes!

It feels like a lot has happened in the past week or so. ISP is continuing to move along…sort of. I feel as though I need more time to do this project justice. My adviser has been great and is pushing me to get things done but there are so many other things I’m trying to do too. I really wanted to get to the Sahara and a few other places, but as I only have three weeks left here, I’m not sure I’ll get to them L (I’ll just have to come back, right?) People are being so incredibly helpful though with the project and I have so many resources.
In the middle of all this crazy ISP work though, my friend’s parents came to visit. Her mother and cousin got here first and they were all going to Fes. I hadn’t been yet, so they invited me to go with them. (This was officially decided about two hours before they were leaving.) When we got off the train in Fes, we haggled with the taxi driver who said he didn’t have meter (but he did.) I swear, the taxi drivers think we’re stupid.
Our cab pulled up to the wall of the Medina and we got out to walk to the hotel. I swear, there was a castle in front of me. This place was HUGE. The doors were held open to us, we were offered scented hand towels, which when we were finished were collected in a brass looking hand bucket. As we checked in and filled out the appropriate paper work, we were brought tea and cookies. (All of which were phenomenal.) Our rooms had beds that were so soft and hot showers (obviously).  We hired a guide for the Medina. It’s the largest Medina in Morocco with 6,000 streets 60% of which lead to one ways and it is the home to 120,000 people.  Our guide, MoMo (Short for Mohamed) lead us through the narrow streets giving us a good history of Fes, which is the religious center of Morocco and the center for crafts, and bringing us to good touristy shops. After a full day of tourism we headed back to the hotel to get ready for what would be a fabulous dinner. We went to a riad and had a huge dinner with appetizers, then soup, then pastilla, followed by our main course, which was topped off dessert and then tea. We basically had to be rolled back to the hotel.
Day two consisted of a brief tour up to some tombs and a stop in the Medina. My friend Kelly and I had to leave shortly after that because of obligations for our projects.  After our close to three hour train ride back we arrive and look to hail a cab back to the apartment. One cab driver, (yet again) thought we were stupid and tried to charge us over double what it would normally cost and told us it was because there were only two of us and didn’t have a full cab of three. (Literally, this is the just bull because after living here for close to three months, that has NEVER happened.)We tried to explain to him that we aren’t tourists and that we live here and that we know it doesn’t cost that much…I think he got embarrassed that he got shown up by a couple of American girls, because he then proceeded to walk away with his hands up without saying anything.  Needless to say, we found a cab that cost far less.  Here are some Fes pictures! :) 

The narrow streets of the Medina,

 Taxi station! No cars or scooters allowed in the Medina, so they use donkeys and mules. MoMo the tour guide referred to them as taxi's.

 The tannery's in Fes! Yes, I saw some in Marrakech. However, the ones in Fes are far bigger and older.

 Market time, free range chickens.

 Snails bizzeff.

 Some of the doors and architecture.
 The mint man!

In a madrassa.

 Rug factory. All handmade.

 Fabric maker.

Petite taxi

In a Koranic school


Berber Pharmacy :)


 On one side, it overlooks the Medina

 On the other, it's the country side

 Kelly and I!


After getting in the cab though, Kelly and I saw something I hadn’t really seen here. I’d heard about it, but I had reflected on a bit in the blog post about the Morocco I know and the Morocco other people seem to know. There was a protest going on, per usual, and the riot police were out, per usual. Some people started running and we watched the police pull a young woman aside. She couldn’t have been much older than us. She was cornered against a van and had her arms crossed. She wasn’t lashing out at them or trying to hit. They were clearly yelling at her, she said something back, and then they started shoving her. Then, one of the officers raised his night stick and smacked her across the head with it. We watched her lock up and then fall over to the cement unconscious. The police officers ran away, leaving her in the middle of the road to be picked up and moved by pedestrians. Kelly and I were surprised and unsure of how to react as our cab drove us away from the scene that happened only about 150 feet away from us. It was and still is hard to process the differences in the Morocco I have been exposed to and the other layers that I don’t witness as a student.

On a happier note though, some other good things have happened this week. We “adopted” the neighborhood cat. He was meowing around our door one night, so we gave him a piece of chicken. Now, he comes around every night around dinner time. We leave him some milk out and feed him left overs. We named him MoMo. J
Also, we came home last night and we ran into our landlord/neighbor. He and his family invited us over for a couscous dinner and tea at his house for Ashura. He once again emphasized that we’re his family now and that he wanted us to participate in celebrating. We, of course, agreed and were told to be ready by eight. Shortly after that, as we were getting ready to go on the hunt for rife (a delicious pastry/bread/fried thing) we receive a knock on our door. There stands our landlord, HAVING READ OUR MINDS, holding fresh homemade rife from his wife. It was the best rife I’ve had since I’ve been here. This of course made us excited for couscous dinner.
At 7:15 we were summoned and brought over for dinner. We met his brother, mother, wife and three kids. The family was so welcoming and made sure we were all comfortable on the terrace before serving us more homemade breads, couscous with vegetables and the several cups of tea. The kids were playing with their presents from Ashura. The little girl, who is three, got a doll and a princess set type thing. The doll, when squeezed sings “Barbie Girl.” (We woke up to the sound  of the song this morning…) The young boy, who was six got a toy sword. The conversation was an interesting mix of Arabic, French and occasional English. The best part was that we didn’t need to have great language skills to have a good time. We played with the kids and talked with the parents. I think the grandmother was just excited to have us over. She kept patting us on the arm and smiling.
We have officially been invited over on Monday to learn how to cook. We’re learning how to make a special type of chicken and maybe couscous. We have been adopted by our neighbors! It was a great day and hopefully she’ll teach us how to make rife some time too…


  1. Hi Kiley,
    Silver Lake here. We have a few questions this week.
    First, Fred asks,"What were the tombs like? What is the jewlery like that you may have seen?
    Zack wants to know, "Is there a lot of desert area in Morocco?"
    Paige would like to know how the "modern part of Rabat compares with Boston?"
    Thanks for your time. We're looking forward to your visit later this month.


    1. Fred: The tombs were really cool actually, they’re called the Merenid Tombs. They’re really old, built in the 14th century and ruins now. When they were originally built, they were designed for people of importance, most likely the royal family at the time. (There’s nothing known quite for sure.) They have the best view of the city of Fes actually so it was beautiful. On one side you have the old Medina, it’s the biggest Medina in Morocco, home to about 120,000 families. Then on the other side you look at the country side and the Atlas Mountains. So it’s a pretty phenomenal view and really cool to walk through the ruins.
      As for the jewelry I’ve seen, it kind of depends. There’s Berber jewelry which has designs in it from old traditions, so they all mean something. That kind of jewelry is usually bigger and has silver and a lot of stones in it. It’s all about the colors too. Then there is more traditional jewelry that we would see in the U.S, just gold and silver pieces. Some jewelry styles also vary by region, like the mountains, or desert area. But everything I’ve seen so far has been really pretty and colorful.

      Zack: There is the Sahara desert actually. It’s down in the southern part of Morocco, it’s like a twelve hour drive from where I live to get to the start of the desert. I actually just went to the desert this week and I’ll be posting about it in the next couple days. It was really awesome, we rode some camels out to part of the desert (not to far) but like 45 minutes to an hour on them and then spent the night camping out. Fun fact though, it gets REALLY REALLY cold. We were all frozen even though we slept in several layers and under the equivalent of four blankets. It was completely worth it though.

      Paige: So, compared to a lot of Morocco, Rabat is one of the most modern cities as it’s the capital. It’s the second largest city (next to Casablanca) in the country. It has a tram system, the biggest university, parliament, etc. Everyone has running water, electricity, televisions; most have hot water, etc. (There are exceptions because there are slums in Rabat, however, this is compared to a decent part of Morocco.) There is one part of the city however that is very European. Morocco was a French protectorate until the 1950’s, so there is heavy French influence. So, a lot of the people who come from Europe live in this part of the city. There’s McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut and even a place that has the menu of TGI Fridays. There are all sorts of European clothing stores, hair salons, European café’s and restaurants, etc. Also, this is where most of the bars and clubs are that aren’t just for men. Going to Agdal can feel like a different world. I’ve talked to other students on different programs that live in Agdal and they don’t feel it’s much different than home a lot of the time. There are still differences between Agdal and Boston, but Agdal is certainly very different than the rest of Rabat.