Jim is working on his pronouns at the moment (ana, heeya, huma, nta, ntee, hna) because we’re comfortably entrenched in our hotel room; and more importantly, he has sufficiently recovered from the two mistakes he made today. When I asked him a couple of hours ago what he thought the subject of tonight’s blog post would be, he guessed correctly. “When I was walking back to you guys with Mohammed, I thought, ‘I bet I’m going to make the blog’”.
Let’s begin at the end of our day and save the best for last, shall we?
After spending three hours walking almost constantly through the medina, we hailed a petite taxi for the second time this afternoon and took naps in our air-conditioned hotel room. I love opening the door to clean towels, made-up beds, and AC. Ahhhh.
We had thanked Mohammed for the very educational tour (and I wished to myself that I could “buy the book” because he shared soooo much fascinating information about Fes and I can’t remember it all). We learned about the over 9,000 streets, that since Fes is a “blind” city its houses are key to its mystery, that Fes had a huge Jewish population hundreds of years ago, and that many houses have two doors built into one – the one with a big knocker signals you’re on a horse and the host should open the large door; the small one with a separate knocker is for people. Also, he was very adamant that we are in FES not FEZ. Fez with a z is a red hat with a black tassle, which never originated in Fes. And here we thought it was just a quirky, random spelling thing.
The final stop on our tour was the tannery. Jim and I missed out on the sprigs of mint, but the smell was definitely not as pungent as the time we were here before. One of the salesmen inside asked Jim if he was Chinese. Not even kidding here… His associates laughed, “look at him! Does he look Chinese?”
Prior to the tannery we stopped very briefly at the copper and silver center, and before that the authentic Berber textile house. This is where Jim made his second mistake.
“No shopping!” our guide had expressly warned us. However, said he would make an exception for the authentic, Berber house of weaving. There are plenty of “made in China” scarves are sold in Fes, but this one particular shop is run by a family who weaves their goods right there, true to the old ways. Mohamed told us to take pictures. The college kids and I were taking plenty, but Jim got in trouble for aiming his phone camera around the room for a video, and the man working a loom did NOT want his picture taken. So sorry, asidi. Scarves and bedspreads were gorgeous of course, made from pure agave silk. Because we were with our special guide we got a special price; the price would go up if we visited by ourselves later. Hmmmm. Many of our college kids purchased scarves for themselves and their mommies back home, but I did not. Sorry, ladies.
Now for the beginning of our story. Eighteen of us – sixteen college-age students and two retired teachers on an educational vacation – had met with our official guide at Hotel BatHa (not Batha. Taxi driver gave me the thumbs up when I said it right) for a three-hour tour through the old medina. Thankfully, it was cooler the deeper in we ventured, and we weren’t as bothered by the camel’s heads, cow guts, and fly-covered cookies as we may have been on our first visit four years ago.
First we walked out the Bab Boujaloud so that we could turn around and take a picture of it from the front side. Here it is, the “blue gate”:
Next, we headed in. Guide had cautioned us that mules and carts have the right-of-way, and be ready to move swiftly to the side if we heard yelling, and (here’s the important part), if we got separated from the group, stay put. Stop wherever you are when you realize you’re lost, and he’ll come find you. Such good advice, but it doesn’t always guarantee success even if you’re very careful to follow the rules. In fact, all it takes is for the last person in line – Jim – to get stuck for five seconds behind a mule while the rest of us completely disappear in a crowded sea of bodies. I kept glancing furtively behind me while still rushing to keep up with the group, hoping to see my hubby’s floppy hat, but when the group made a left turn and no Jim in sight, I hailed the guide.
“Um, my husband is missing,” I told him. “I haven’t seen him since the Madrasa.” A couple of the girls thought that maybe Jim wasn’t the only one missing, but upon taking a head count, yep: minus one. For the next 15 minutes, I got to know the two girls as Guide took off back in the direction we had come from. He returned every few minutes asking if Jim had shown up, and looked more agitated each time the answer was negative.
From Jim’s perspective, he finally passed the mule only to realize we were gone. Thinking he was keeping his eyes on us, he kept going. But then he came to some turns and didn’t see us. Immediately obeying orders, he went back to where he figured he had lost us, which was not the place I had figured he lost us. Another tour guide, who was leading a group of British ladies asked, “Are you lost?” The ladies looked at him and laughed; “Are you lost?” Yep. Thankfully, those tour guides all have cell phones so that one called ours and the lost husband was found.
So, yet another day in Fes has ended and we’re ready to study for a bit and then sleep. Temps are still in the 100’s, only with a cloud cover. We think the difference between a hot day with no cloud cover vs a hot day with a cloud cover is similar to the difference between walking under a broiler vs walking in an oven. And just now, a thunderstorm!