Fès - the Ancient City



I took me about two weeks to travel across northern Morocco, including a five-day break at the Mouluya dam. I spent several nights at people's homes, mostly in remote, rural places, where the lifestyle is as ancient and basic as it has been for centuries.

When I arrived in Fès, the city greeted me with hustlers on motor scooters, honking taxis and buses belching clouds of thick diesel fume. Although I knew the drill, I was still overwhelmed. I rode around the Medina, up to Bab Boujeloud and checked in at the little hotel where I had stayed many times before.



Fès is a proud and intense place. The medina makes palpable the city's 1000-year history and the Fassi are a proud, complicated breed. So much of the city's character comes from the tension between its medival roots and its modern desires.



The Medina - old city - of Fès is one of the largest mideval cities anywhere. Most of the buildings are hundreds of years old. At the epicenter of this organic stone labyrinth sits Kairouyine mosque, a center of Islam for more than 1000 years.

The narrow alleys that lead to the mosque have huge wooden beams as pedestrian "speedbumps" at roughly 5 feet height, so that the mules can pass easily under them. These wooden beams force grown-up humans to bow their heads to pass underneath thus enforcing a basic sign of respect from anyone approaching the holy structure.



I stayed in Fès for several weeks, with a week-long interruption, when I took a trip to the capital, Rabat, to pick up some papers. I stayed at friends' places in the Zhak Lahjare neighborhood and at a hotel near Bab Boujeloud. After a few days the hustlers gave up on me, and left me alone. After two weeks I hung out with some of the hustlers and discussed strategies for getting tourists to buy carpets and other souvenirs from various stores.



Still, in the end, I got ripped off myself, when the brother of one of my friends stole my Canon camera. After a couple of days, I was able to buy it back for $20. After that, things got complicated. I was told that the police had asked for me, and that I would have to leave town. I had already decided that it was time to move on. Altough I suspected that this was just a way to get rid of me after the episode with the camera, I packed my stuff and headed toward the mountains. Just to be sure, I told everyone that I was heading toward the coast.