It is not easy to get alcohol here, but boy did we all need a shot of something hard after the 5 hour drive to Fez (this is why having a Mexican on a team is helpful – hallelujah for tequila!). Apparently in Morocco it is common to drive on the left (right lane country), pass when you can’t see a thing, and pass when you see a truck going right against you. We should have taken the Ali Baba airlines. Instead, we distracted ourselves with some Korean pop on the way there (true global glue)
and on the way back with a fantastic revival of the 80’s and 90’s (think Abba, Roxette, Ricky Martin, Voyage Voyage, Alphaville, Modern Talking) from everyone’s iPods. The girls particularly enjoyed the ride and car dancing.
The city of Fez is called the Mecca of the West and used be the capital until 1912. The history is amazing and I can’t really describe it deep enough so will send you to wikipedia for more. The medina is huge, a largest car-free urban area in the world, over 300 hectars big. Simply, it is one giant maze and no maps exist. Our first test was to find our ryad (converted old house/palace).
On Saturday, we took a tour of Fez – it really felt like we stepped into medieval times. You need to listen for “balak balak” which means get out of the way because a donkey is coming. You need to watch your step so you don’t step into something the donkey left behind and don’t bump into the thousands of people walking by. You need to look up to see beautiful houses, decorated with Moroccan tiles or fabulous wooden carvings. And you need to watch your wallet, so you don’t spend it all on leather, silk, souvenirs and cookies.
The medina is so rich in crafts – the whole country is. Everywhere you go, you see people sowing, doing embroidery, blacksmiths making knives, copper workers, leather craftsmen making shoes and bags, silk and wool products, carpet making, basket and hat makers, pottery artists, argan oil making – the talent is truly tremendous. You really get to appreciate the variety of arts and history that Morocco has – and how much of individual’s heart there is in every piece you buy. (I couldn’t take pictures of some of the best ones as they asked not to.)
Until I got to Fez, I didn’t even know what tannery is. So for those of you who don’t know either, it is where you turn the animal skin into the leather we buy. It is not a particularly glamorous place or job – in fact, it is the most difficult job in medina, mostly because of the conditions they work in.
It did smell bad and we got a mint flower to sniff – but after a while it was hardly noticeable. Greg summarized it the best by saying “having a crap day at work just got a new meaning”. I am not about to complain about rough day at work ever again. And this dead camel head right under my feet on the balcony overseeing the tannery makes my point.
More photos are on the pictures site, going to bed after a long but fun weekend with great company !! Check out my team’s blogs on the right – as there are some funny writers over there, I particularly love Rikard’s sense of humor. #ibmcsc