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Magic carpet ride


sunny 75 °F

Touring the medina in Fez today is something we've been looking forward to. Lots to see and what makes it even more exciting is the fact that there is no traffic. No cars allowed! We enter thru the Bab Boujloud a.k.a. "Blue Gate" and visit the Al Bou Inania Madrasa which is a mid-evil educational institute and a mosque.


We have no cars but mules are allowed. The sights and smells are stimulating the senses. No stop to Fez is complete without visiting the carpet quarter of the medina. Here's a noteworthy fact: If travelling to Fez to see the carpets and the tannery and anything else in the medina...be forewarned: the vendors are aggressive. Again.....AGRESSIVE VENDORS. They won't stop until you are out of the medina. Just an fyi. I was told about this fact, read about it, you tubed it, and thought...no problem. Don't get me wrong, I had no problem but I did not expect the persistent attempts to get us to purchase. This is not your typical shopping experience. Don't pick anything up or you'll be followed and constantly asked how much you want to pay. You can say no a million times, they don't take no for an answer.

Here's a little story...we enter an area where they make carpets ... they are beautiful and colorful. "Welcome!"....and here comes the "Moroccan Whiskey" and the spiel. "All of our rugs are handmade (which they are and they are gorgeous), we have Berber and Moroccan carpets, we have all sizes and we can ship or you can take with you. We package them to carry on plane." Then they start rolling out the different types and sizes.... and the colors and designs are dazzling. I'm loving the "show". When my father travelled to Morocco many years ago, he bought two carpets which I now have in my home. (He was an easy target and knowing him...paid top dollar and did not bargain), so, nonetheless, I don't have the room for any more at the moment. Not that I wouldn't have loved to buy a few but I had no need.

There are different rooms which are offset from the main room from which we are in at the moment. Several men come to each of us and tell us to follow them to come and see the different rugs and colors etc. Rick disappears (don't know where he went). A gentleman comes over to me and introduces himself as Hassan and tells me to follow him to see the "magic carpets". I laugh and tell him I am in no need of a carpet and proceed to tell him the story of my dad and the carpets he had purchased. (I look around for Rick..no Rick in site) The story doesnt dissuade him from trying again...and again, I repeat the story. Nope...not working...still wants me to come and see the "magic". I'm fine and stay planted right where I am.

Here comes the "backup brigade", as I call them. Two more guys come out and join Hassan and now they are rolling out carpets in front of me. After about 10 carpets, (Rick appears) I thank them very much and ask if we can walk around and take some photos. Lots of Arabic going on to which I realize how little I learned. " Of course, you are welcome! More mint tea?" "No thank you, we will just wander and wait for the others." I say. Rick and I start wandering around taking photos and Hassan mentions that we can look over the city by taking the stairs to the roof. We do, take a few more photos and head back downstairs. Finally everyone starts filtering into the main room once again where we join them. We have a seat and guess who comes over again? Hassan. "How about a beautiful wall hanging?" Luckily our tour guide was ready to move us along to the tannery. Lots to see on this tour yet.

Well, I did love the place and the carpets...here are a few photos:






We continue thru the medina and head to the Chouara Tannery where we see how leather is cut and dyed using traditional techniques. On the way, people are walking around handing out mint because as you get closer the smell hits you hard. We are told to crush it in our hands and hold it against our noses. (I can't imagine how strong this is in the summer.) It was pungent in Spring and it was only 70-80 degrees. Apparently, the locals collect chicken poop and sell it to the tannery to strip the hides of all the hair from the camels, goats, cows. The hides are then put into vats of dyes. It is quite a site:


Of course you can also buy anything and everything made of leather and at very good prices.





Making our way thru the medina we stop at another gem, the Nejjarine Museum which is home to a collection of wooden arts and crafts before stopping for lunch.


We stop at the Jewish Quarter (mellah) and visit a Jewish cemetery which was built in 1438. The dead are not buried. They remain above ground so their transition to the next life is easier.


I had read about Hammams before I came to Morocco and was dying to have the experience....just because when in Morocco...do as the Moroccans...

Hammam is a Moroccan spa....so to speak. I've never heard of it before I planned this trip. Maybe you have. In my opinion, it is a "must-do".
Each hammam experience is slightly different. I knew I wanted to try this so first thing this morning, I made arrangements so I could go to the hammam when we returned from our tour. It would take about an hour and a half. Good! Nice relaxing way to end a full day in a dusty medina.
I'm escorted to the "hot room" by a woman... floor to ceiling maroon marble and a marble well filled with water. There also seems to be a marble ledge for sitting with a leather mat on it....and lots of steam. She doesn't speak English, of course...so hand signals and body language have to be our mode of communication. She gestures to undress. I do, and so far...so good. She gives me a few more signals and ...OH! I get it....everything off! OK. Well...the room is very steamy and I can hardly see her anyway so,... ok. That means she can't see me either...good thing. She instructs me to sit and as I do she takes a large bowl with hot water from the well and dumps it on me. She starts dumping more and more and throwing the water so fast I start holding my breath. It is hard to breath without getting water in my mouth which I now start to think about. We cannpt drink the water in Morocco so I'm doing all I can to breath through my nose but this is feeling like a workout. The water is hot and coming on strong.
After about 10 minutes of this, she gently pushes me and says something in Arabic, then French which I understand to mean: lie down. I do that.

She has another bowl with a black gel-like soap in it. She holds the bowl for me to see and says "savon beldi" and nods. So I nod. Yes, sure, why not. I have no idea what is going on but how bad can it be. She rubs this gel all over me and I can see I'm black. She takes my arm and I flip over and now I'm sliding off the leather mat. I get myself positioned where I feel motionless and she indicates for me to take a deep breath. I do and she leaves the room for another 10 minutes. I think I'm supposed to be relaxing which I am in a way but...I'm wondering whats next. Curiosity killed my relaxation time and replaced it with anticipation.

In she comes and has me sit up. Here come the bowls of hot water again. All of the "savon beldi" gets rinsed off. Now... the interesting part. She has a mitt in her hand which is an exfoliating mitt called a kess (I later found out) and she starts to scrub. Hard. Everywhere.
It really feels good but I'm sliding all over the place on this mat (maybe this is the magic carpet ride!) and she's trying to position me to stay put but it is slippery. I start laughing and cant stop. I'm grabbing the mat to hold myself in place but with the aggressive scrubbing ...let's just say it's impossible. She has me sit on the edge of the ledge now as she climbs behind me and starts scrubbing my scalp. My head is getting a workout too!! She shampoos and rinses with some orange-blossom scented something and then again....throws bowls of hot water. Now I'm all rinsed off and my skin is smooth. She signals for me to stand in the center of the room and I'm thinking she's getting me a towel. Its taking a few minutes and I'm standing there waiting and all of a sudden....swoooosh!!! Ice cold water comes spraying out of the ceiling and the walls. OMG! I scream and laugh and I dont even know what to do. I'm jumping around in there trying to find a spot that has no water. It stops! In she comes with a towel and a robe. When I'm ready I step out of the room and she hands me my clothes and sets me free. My skin has never felt so soft and I....have never been so relaxed. It was a real treat! Would I do it again? Absolutely!

We are invited to a local family home this evening for dinner and enjoy a delicious Chicken Tagine with all the trimmings. We are even given the recipe which I will definitely try when I get home and which I'll share with you at some point. Wonderful desserts and great conversation top off the night. The priority of daily Moroccan life is family unity whether it is lunch or dinner. It is the important part of their day to spend time together and converse about each other's daily lives and what is going on in the world.


This was a great day!

Posted by Linda Fluckiger 07:40 Archived in Morocco Tagged museum carpet fez hammam moroccan tannery mellah chouara nejjarine

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I had the same experience with the carpet people!!! Beautiful carpets, but I had no need and they wouldn't take a polite "no" for an answer.

by Tina Gordon

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