I woke up eager to explore Fez on my last day. Ramadan is over and Eid-Fetr was yesterday. Also, today is Saturday which is not a holiday in Muslim countries. Or so I thought! Actually, Saturday and Sunday are also part of the weekend here and on top of that Eid-Fetr is four days not one and so the banks and museums were still closed! I resigned to my disappointment and started walking around the medina bazaar one last time. Surprisingly, most of the streets looked familiar and I could easily navigate my way around, not that I was going to anywhere in particular.
I still had to pay someone to go up a roof and see the famed tanneries in action. The place was smaller than I thought but the smell was as bad as I had heard it to be. The range of natural colours was beautiful to watch and I remembered they are made from everything from pigeon poo to cow pee to pomegranate juice!
After that I visited an old oil shop with rows and rows of herbs on the wall. The shrewd owner gave me a tour and let me try Argan oil and musk oil. I felt I was in the medieval times, travelling through the Middle East.
Walking further down the streets, I became fascinated by the craft of a man who was making a “wind blower”. I bought one from him as another addition to my growing collection of tangible designs from around the world. These now include pipes from the Amazon, an Apache axe from Mexico, a Kukuri from Nepal, a singing bowl from Bhutan and a prayer wheel from India among other things.
I was again fascinated by doors and fountains around Fez. They are so beautiful and ornate that they can mesmerize you!
After some more walking down the fascinating medina streets, I walked back to the new city via a large garden where I sat exhausted by the lazy afternoon sun and wrote Farsi beat poetry.
One of the fascinating aspects of life in the medina is the collaboration of people who work there. It seems each shop has only one thing that is shared with other shops when a customer wants it. I sat in a shop and they brought water from one store, the food from their place, coffee from the cafe across the street and milk from a grocery store. All of these items were on the one menu of the same restaurant!
I had an interesting chat with a yogourt vendor who was puzzled that I could read Arabic and gave me a mini-lecture on the apparent incompatibility of wearing earrings and being masculine enough. I love to hear honest opinions!
In my hotel, after a second cold shower, I went for a meal. Before eating, I found a small music shop with a good collection of Moroccan music. The owner upon learning I am from Iran, kindly showed me around his shop and said his cousin has married an Iranian man and lives in Casa Blanca now. Upon hearing that my brother is a musician he gave me a CD of Berber music as a gift. I bought some Sufi, Andalusian and Gnawa music.
For dinner, I ended up at a quaint restaurant where I shared a table with two Italian scholars I had met earlier in the medina. One of them teaches and studies Arabic-Greek Middle Age texts and the other is a Byzantium scholar. We had a conversation about Iran and its history. They both were very interested in visiting there. We all lamented the possibility of tourists inadvertently washing away Morroco’s unique identity by their desires for pizza, milkshake and dreadlocks! A very interesting culinary experience at the restaurant was that they brought sweets (similar to Persian zolbia or Indian Jalebi) to eat with the soup.