The house is rented I have said my goodbyes and following a quick visit to a friend in Barcelona I have now arrived in Fez and feel like I am traveling again. Fez is in northeastern Morocco. it has the largest Medina in the world.
It has been a long break, thank you Covid, you shook us all and made us feel uncertain about our futures. Passion for travel had somewhat become frowned upon; losing its appeal for many. The world is definitely not what it was and although I am a couple of years older, I have not forgotten the thrill of adventure and how it inspired me to get up and go.
“I am not as brave as you,” people at home tell me. I do not think I am brave, I just want to travel and know of no other way to do it. I am a single woman with grown-up children and the time for me is now or never. If I want to see and experience the world, I need to pack my bags and go.
Dare I say it, I have reached pensionable age, however, my lifestyle still has to include some purpose. I love to write, and I have got involved in creating an art platform to help local artists sell art. Check it out – Xaloart.Cafe, This should all fit in nicely with my forthcoming journey. Going on an organised tour is not practical for me and not in my budget so I have other interesting plans to keep me occupied as I travel. There is an upside to traveling solo, you do what you want, how, and when it pleases you. The downside is you do it alone, sometimes taking the easy option.
A cheap flight of Ten Pounds, courtesy of Ryanair flew me out of Barcelona to Fez in Morrocco where I have been lucky to find accommodation in the Riad Haj Palace situated within the ancient walls of the Medina. I arrived in the evening as the dark skies over Fez were illuminated with thunderstorms and lightning. Luckily I was met at my taxi and then accompanied by young Muhammad who graciously carried my bags through the dimly lit alleyways to the entrance of the hotel. I felt pretty safe.
This is my first time in Fez but I have spent some time in Marrakesh. The Medina can be chaotic and this time I am on my own so a little anxious. I hate getting lost. Unfortunately, they tell you it is essential; getting lost is part of the experience.
My first day: I just unpacked and tried to settle. News of President Putin’s cautionary words to the world simmered my enthusiasm. I am finding it hard to turn off the news, it’s all adding to this continuous dribble of uncertainty. The ending of an era, new politicians, and climate change. What am I doing here? I will be able to tell you in a few years or perhaps weeks. I turned off the news.
Pay a guide in Fez. It’s a good start.
Following the best night’s sleep I have had in ages and a good breakfast I ventured out with a guide. 25Euros for a couple of hours should give me a feel of where I am in the Medina apparently the largest in the world. I learned there are 5.000 dead ends in this 9th-century Medina and there are over 12,000 narrow lanes and alleyways.
Explaining to my tour guide that I did not have a house at the moment so there is no point in taking me to see carpets. I tried to explain I would love to hear more about the culture and history. He just shrugged promising me that I was not obligated to buy anything but guided me down an alley where a man was eagerly waiting, to usher me into his showroom. There I was met by a group of young men waving rugs at me. Ok, now he is wasting my time but I was soon sitting down and sipping mint tea. Of course, I saw carpets I loved, especially when he brought them out in my favorite colours.
My time was not wasted because sitting there I learned all about Agave silk which comes from the cactus plant and is wonderful for people to sit on if they are allergic to wool. The silk that is. – not the cactus.
You know how I love anything organic and cactus silk is pure, plant-derived silk that is harvested from the aloe vera cactus in the Sahara where craft women traditionally from Berber tribes, wash and hand spin the fibers before weaving them together. The salesmen are aware of the appeal to tourists when they talk about artisans and I have had the same conversations in other countries. I stroke my fingers across the rug. The touch is less scratchy than wool and more delicate. Thinking that all is not as it should be I later did my own research and was sad to learn that the yarn was probably rayon. Another romantic story dreamt up to tell you everything is natural and if you buy it you are helping the nomadic women.
Take a read, The truth about Moroccan Sabra Silk.
Finding sustainable authentic and organically produced products is a passionate interest of mine. But we all must be open-minded and ask questions. Always ask for a certification or a fair trade certificate if it is important to you.
And did you know this…….The yellow dye they use comes from Saffron. It is used in rug making to repel snakes and scorpions. Very useful in the desert. “I will remember that,” I told the sales guy but determined to never give it a try. (No evidence was found of this on google but if you can shed any light, I would be grateful.)
My guide sat in the corner falling asleep, He had heard it all before. He took me to a museum and sat in the bar opposite whilst I looked around for 20 minutes. Our final visit was to a herbalist selling also soaps and spices. There are many shops like this here “Try this,” the young woman said as she started to cover my hands in cream. My guide had found his favorite chair and was about to have his third snooze when I said it is time to go.
My guide left me at a point where he said the hotel was just around the corner. Maybe it was but I could not find it. As I ventured further through little side alleyways, kids ran past me on their way home from school. I sensed I was lost. How do you try and look not lost when you clearly are? I have learned this in India. Walk as if you are in a hurry and do not stop to look at a map. Eventually, I stumbled past a small open studio. A lady artist was sketching. She invited me in to sit on a wooden box. I breathed a sigh of relief as she scribbled a map for me. Her art covered the walls inside and out. It is too dark to paint in here I remarked and she agreed. Her map got me home and I promised myself I would go back and take her a coffee.
I cannot be rude to my tour guide, He was charming and polite. His job is what it is and I was glad he gave me the experience of getting lost. I am not so anxious now. Furthermore, I am ready to venture out and find out what I want to do on my own terms. Travelling makes you think and you are constantly learning new things, good and bad, you will always find a good story.