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Adjusting in Fez, Morocco

· Iris

Our itinerary in Morocco went like this:

Fez (3 nights) - Meknes (2 nights) - Casablanca (2 nights) - Marrakesh (7 nights, we were going to head to the Sahara for a few nights but Joey got the stomach flu so we stayed in Marrakesh)

Fez is an extraordinary city. It was founded in the 9th century and had the oldest university in the world. The entire Medina is walled in, with numerous tiled gates surrounding it. The streets inside the Medina are so winding and confusing, many don't even exist on maps! Living inside the Medina really felt like being transported back in time - we shared the same tiny dark alleys with donkeys and horses, we also marveled at the numerous traditional shops that line the bigger lanes where craftsmen still hand-make everything from textiles to leather shoes.

One of the numerous gates around the Medina​.

View of the Medina from the terrace of our Riad.

There was so much going on in the Medina; as it is so densely populated, we encountered many different situations on the street:

When we first arrived, we saw a group of men carrying something wrapped in a beautifully made green rug on a stretcher. From the sombre atmosphere, we could only guess that someone died and the men were carrying the body out to the cemetery that's just outside the gate.

Joey feeling out of place (?!) in the dark alley.

We also met lots of kids playing on the narrow streets - some were playing football, some playing hide-and-seek (genius! the Medina is such a good place for hide-and-never-find), some were playing what looked like machine parts that spin. Most of the kids were friendly and gave us the warmest smiles mixed with curiosity and mischief.

Daily scene in the Medina.

The strangest / most exciting experience we had was our encounter with a Berber man called Mohammed, who caught us just outside one of the gates when we were trying to find a bus that goes to Sidi Harazem (a natural spring not far from Fez recommended by our Riad).

Mohammed told us that 'with me, you get Moroccan price for taxi'. Having heard many sales pitches like this already, we walked with him suspiciously to the grand taxi stand. He successfully got us on to a shared taxi at 'Moroccan price' - 5 dh per person (that's less than 50p), but as the taxi was about to drive off, he also jumped in the front seat and asked us to pay for his ride. I said to Joey: 'I think he's trying to be our guide for the day'.

Sidi Harazem - turned out to be a popular tourist spot for locals. Apparently many people come here to drink the spring water, eat tajines and swim in the giant swimming pool.

So Mohammed did follow us (or more like we followed him). He took us slowly around different parts in Sidi Harazem (it's really not a big place) and told us things like 'the Berbers come and drink the spring water so all their problems can be cured'. Be it true or not, Mohammed provided us with a good amount of entertainment. He also took us into one of the shops and I was persuaded to buy a kaftan, which I wore during our remaining trip.

Me in the kaftan I bought in Sidi Harazem.

Mohammed also walked with us to our lunch spot where he helped us order a lamb tajine and some mint tea. He said he would go have some coffee and shisha while we eat. We suspected that he went to collect his commission from the kaftan shop (how suspicious of us! yet this is what we had to do in Morocco as we just couldn't tell who's being friendly and who's trying to scam).

The eatery where we had lunch also acts as a butcher. Locals who visit Sidi Harazem would buy meat from here and cook their own food around the spring in little makeshift tents.

After lunch, Mohammed appeared again and hinted that if we wanted to go back to Fez he could get us a taxi again. We told him that we wanted to go climb the nearby hill (more like a desert mountain), at which point he said 'I'm going home'. We gave him 10dh for the taxi ride, and he seemed sufficiently content and didn't ask for any fee for acting as our guide. We all smiled and parted amicably.

The hill we climbed.

And so we continued to wonder - was Mohammed bored and just wanting a free day out/ to make some friends? or did Mohammed get enough commission from the shop and eatery so he was happy?

What do you think?

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