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Michael’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 30 Dec 2008

Location: Fes, Morocco

Map28th December -
First thing in the morning we (Stepanie and Jeff the Canadians) headed to the old Jewish quarter in Fes and wandered into the Jewish cemetry there. I am still trying to figure out how the whole cemetry thing worked, as it looked like the entire thing had been concreted over and painted white. To me it looked as though it must have been a mass grave, as there was no apparent break from one grave to the next. The newer graves, the most recent we saw being 2001, were clearly more stand alone, and much larger that the older graves, dating back as far as 1600.

Next stop was the Jewish museum, which can only be said to be the weirdest thing that I have ever seen, at least when it comes to museums. It looked a whole lot more like a building full of items that had been taken from the homes of Jewish people, or at least that it what I presume it is. Such interesting items included a poster of a chimpanzee playing tennis, Disney arm floaties for use in the pool, a plastic Pan Am Boeing 747 model plane and various other bits of crap that was totally worthless. That was a waste of time museum with very little, if anything of interest.

From there we headed into the Medina and made our way north, through the tanneries area, and eventually made our way to the northern exit of the Medina. Not from our exit was the plush looking Sofitel Palace hotel, home of the former vizier to the Sultan of Fes. Anyway, it was a VERY nice place, and we headed to the bar for drinks looking over the Medina. Unfortunately I would find something that would continue through my stay here in Morocco - they don't make very good Mojito's, especially when it cost £11.

After enjoying the relaxed atmosphere, and the plush toilet facilities, we headed back into the fray in the Medina, starting our arduous walk through the touts back to the main entrance. Here I stumbled across something very interesting - in the main plaza in front of the main entrance, all of the locals were getting together in a carnival type atmosphere. This was taking place at about 5 pm on the Sunday avo.

There seemed to be big groups of predominantly local people, hanging in tight circles, usually 2 or 3 deep, which made it tough to see what was happening on the inside of the circle. Some of them seem to have what appeared to be public speakers, while others had people dancing and music. One of them, which was easier to witness, was the carnival type game of having a lead donut on the end of a string hanging from a 'fishing pole' and the donut had to end up on a coke bottle. I have no idea what the cost was, nor the prize, but there sure weren't any big stuffed teddy bears.

The most interesting of the lot though was the one under an umbrella - there was a guy with a board that was painted in six separate section, numbered 1-6. He also had a dice and a tin can that he used to shake the dice and then place the dice on the table with the can on the top. Here the locals would make bets on the number showing on the dice, and then the 'dice man' would show the dice and pay all people that correctly guessed the number at 5-1, clearly a large advantage to the 'house'. Turns out the umbrella is to stop allah, or some such garbage, from noticing the gambling taking place. Alas, they were not happy for me to take any photos of this activity :-(

From there we started heading bak into the new town just as the rain set in, which was rather disappointing, but provided me a chance to witness one of the most interesting things I have ever seen; with the rain setting in, a young boy, maybe 12, was struggling on his roller blades to get any grip and make his way through a very busy round about. He was holding up traffic, and I was honestly worried that he would go down and get run over. The Sun had set, and he was dressed in dark clothes, and the vehicles in Fes didn't have the best in modern headlight technology. Next to come through the roundabout that caught my attention was a motorbike with a man riding, a (rather large) lady holding on behind the man, and what appeared to be their daughter to be riding on the handle bars - insane in the wet, and all without helmets. But it got better... the motorcycle made it through the round about and pulled over after yelling something to the young boy on roller blades. The guy on the blades struggles over to the stationary motorbike, holds on to the back, and proceeds to get dragged up the road, Michael J Fox style in Back to the Future. Amazing...

We wandered into the new town staying out of the rain as much as possible and end up at a pizza joint full of locals and decide to head in there to get out of the rain and have dinner. From there we headed to a hotel that had happy hour drinks from 7 till 8 (which was actually till 9) and stayed there for a couple hours drinking and discussing such important topics as Israel and Palestine; it helps when your two people in company are a Jew that has been giving 'heritage' tours of Israel and a Master of Political Science who's master thesis was on Israel and Palestinian national identity or something - clearly I was out of my depth! Then we headed back to the hostel, me still soaking wet, and with no heating and the cold night ahead, no chance to dry my clothes. The hotel was pretty full in the evening and there was a bit of conversation around the tables before everyone pushed off to sleep.

29th December -
Most of the day was spent traveling to Marrakech. The train left Fes at 1050, and it was 1815 before I made it in to Marrakech. It was largely uneventful, despite passing through cities such as Meknes, Rabat and Casablanca. I was surprised to see just how green Morocco is. The only real interesting part of the ride (aside from the dire state of the toilets which I expected) was when I was sharing a booth with 5 other ladies (3 old, 1 in her 20's and one in her late teens as a guess) and couldn't help but feel as if I was the butt of their joke. They tried talking to me in Arabic, and maybe even in French, but I had no idea, and shrugged, apologised and continued reading my book. Occasionally I would look up from my book and they would laugh at me, and the younger ladies I could swear were perhaps blushing. Anyway, I have no idea what the joke was, but they left the train after about an hour.

Once in Marrakech, I wandered to my accommodation for the net 5 nights - the very swish Le Meridian N'Fis hotel, which was only a 10 minute walk from the train station. This is all due to Nat's unfortunate air hostessing job in which she was required to be in Marrakech for NYE. So for the next 5 nights I was bunking with her is these 'way too lavish surroundings for a backpacker'. But it was nice to have a warm (too warm) bedroom for a while, and not have to sleep in my sleeping bag just to keep warm, as well as to dry my rain soaked gear.

Anyway, got into the hotel at 630, and Nat and one of the pilots (Jim) of the plane were there to meet me, about to make their way to the hotel bar. I dropped my stuff off in the room and we headed to the bar for a couple drinks where the other pilot (Clyde) joined us before we all headed to the hotels Moroccan restaurant for dinner. Very tasty. Eventually we ended up back at the hotel bar for another drink before all calling it a night. After the dinner I was looking very forward to the breakfast buffet the next morning. And unlike the previous part of the trip where I couldn't sleep due to the cold, the worlds biggest and heaviest doonah (duvet) ever stopped me from sleeping due to the warmth... eventually I found a happy medium, using the sheet only, and discarding the duvet altogether!

Next up, Marrakech and NYE.