Friday, August 10, 2012

Day 1: Of Sandal Tans and Marriage Proposals

That's right, two hours out of the hotel and I'm sporting my trademark sandal tan, the annual epidermal nemesis that like a cancer, just won't go away (until winter time). 

Anyway, this morning, we woke to a wonderful breakfast spread of muesli, yoghurt, deliciously pulpy orange juice, flat bread with cheese, a bowl of fruit salad and some mint tea. After being slightly suspicious of the fruit salad and being assured that I would not die if I consumed it, I decided I was in gastronomical heaven.

Yum. Mere words cannot describe the experience that only comes with sight and taste, so I'll leave it at that until I can find somewhere with an SD slot to upload my photos.

We decided to explore the medina of Fes today, and wandered around the old quarter, circling the mosque - which we are forbidden from entering, but managed to catch some tantalising glances through open doors. Not sure if we were allowed to take photos, probably not...

During our explorations, I finally had my first experience with the local tout, the guy who follows you around, convincing you that he is your best friend in the two minutes you have known him, the guy who does his utter best to part you from your cash, yet cannot hope to go against the likes of the five of us. We tried several times to evade one particular tout who was determined to take us to his tannery, and eventually lost him, after a lot of backtracking and time wasting.

However, we did end up in a tannery, on Big Matt's recommendation, and we made a pact to help each other resist the shopkeeper's advances, should he try to sell us anything. Climbing up many flights of stairs, we reached the roof and gazed out onto an incredible sight - vats upon vats of dyes, and so much wool strewn everywhere. I think these vats are pretty ancient, hundreds of years old!

Walking around the small streets was pretty awesome, especially when there were so many shops and stalls to look at. The souks sold everything - instruments, slippers, jewellery, all with a Moroccan twist. And the cats...cats, cats everywhere! They were tiny, tiny little things, roaming the streets like pigeons. We saw so many donkeys as well, lugging around bags and goods. In some stalls, I saw turtles, pigeons and chickens for sale - in fact, one of the men tried to shove a pigeon in Angela's face, much to my amusement.

What I found weird was that everyone here thought I was Japanese - I had konnichiwa yelled at me all day, which was extremely disconcerting - guess they don't get many Chinese tourists here. Pretty lady, and various marriage proposals also seemed to be normal forms of sexual harrassment. So, girlfriends, if your self esteem is in need of a boost, then rock up to Morocco and no matter what you wear, even if you cover yourself from head to toe and have bug eyed reflector shades on, rest assured that you will still have at least three marriage proposals per day.

The heat made it difficult to get about after midday, with a high of forty three degrees. Everyone became extremely lethargic, and had the hunger sucked out of them, but I insisted on eating and determinedly made my way - solo - to a pizza place I'd spotted, realised they only spoke French, and ordered...not a pizza, but a sandwich and chips that inspired another traveller at the hostel to follow suit! What a trendsetter. ^_^

In the afternoon, we visited the not so old part of Fes, but didn't make any of the attractions - the synagogue or the Jewish cemetery simply because we were being harassed by too many locals, all wanting money from us. Massive shame, but at least we got to wander through the souks and look at lots of Hello Kitty tshirts and fake Ray Bans.

In the evening, we planned on heading to the tombs to watch the sun set and the cannons go off to signal the end of fasting - again, this didn't happen on account of us getting lost and losing too much daylight. Given that we can't communicate too well here, the last thing we wanted was to be stranded up on the hills with a broken ankle, scrabbling around in the dark - perfect start for a horror movie.

Dinner, however, was something we all managed to make - Big Matt strategically played all the restaurant touts off against each other and managed to get us free drinks at the place we ended up at. We had cats eyeing up our meal, and the only way to deal with them was to scare them away. Loved the complimentary bread and lentil dip. I ordered a beef tagine with vegetables, and boy was it delish. The meat was so tender, the flavours so mouthwateringly tasty that I am now resolved to figure out the secrets of this dish and bring it back home! ^_^

Finally, we got back to the hostel, and after a shower interrupted by many scary horror movie style power cuts, I headed up to the roof to join the others for some mint tea, after attempting to handwash my clothes and having the same Moroccan woman as yesterday turn up magically and take over, completing what I couldn't do in a mere minute before my very eyes. Seriously, she hand washes clothes like a boss.

Highlights of the day:

Breakfast, lunch, dinner, Moroccan oranges


Too much "Konnichiwaaaaa!! Arigato!" ~_~
43 degree furnace

Day 1, survived. Roll on the next...


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