Updated: Feb 20
The details elude me now, but the details wouldn’t change a single thing.
It is the twelfth day of us being on the road and it is an exhilarating experience. A blink of an eye - and we are already in Fez.
“Why are you not visiting the usual tourist places? Why are you not walking the central squares and enjoying the views from the numerous tourist articles?”. It’s simple - we are never going to understand the country that way. These are not the places where the real moroccan life is. Do the Danes often hang out near the Little Mermaid, do Russians usually spend time at the Red Square, do people in Kathmandu climb Mount Everest a lot? Nope.
Knowing beforehand where you will go and what you want to see is bound to limit you to those things only. You will come and see what you want to see. That is definitely not what we aim at.
That is why our movement around Morocco and the cities may seem erratic and chaotic. Because it is.
The first twelve days have been a mere adaptation to the climate and the lifestyle. I won’t be able to recollect any of the things that happened. In short - there was a lot of work. Filming, meeting, writing, cooperating, learning and so on.
This log will be an informal diary of the expedition and it starts from day 12, after our arrival to the city of Fez.
It is not cold anymore. Finally something good. We couldn’t find a place to stay, that is why tonight we were sleeping in a local hotel near the entrance to the Medina.
Such hotels are called Riad. The term comes from the Arab word 'ryad' (meaning 'garden') but is applied to townhouses built around an inner courtyard or garden. Ours didn’t have a courtyard, but it was the cheapest option in the city.
The day was spent in analysis and work on the materials we gathered already. I went for a walk around the Medina of Fez (the biggest and oldest labyrinth in the world) and tried making a circle around the block. We were told that it is dangerous to go around without a guide, but I knew that it was a scam for tourists. Luckily, no one paid any attention to me since I was wearing traditional moroccan clothing djellaba - a comfy thing, good for such temperatures as well.
Of course I got lost in the Medina. There is no way you can walk around and not make any mistakes. The tangled passages are very confusing - numerous dead ends, twists and turns. You think you are heading north, but the street tangles in a way you get confused pretty quickly and head south instead. A magical place indeed.
At one point I sat down on a chair on one of the streets and drank some water I bought. A local man approached me and asked if I was fine just because he thought I was saddened by something, I replied in Arabic that I was fine. He smiled, touched my hair gently and left.
The Medina was alive. The sounds, the smells - they were all enveloping me in a dance that goes quiet after the sun goes down. I didn’t want to wait until dawn, so I took out my compass and headed North.
The engraving said “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined”. That is how I imagined it. I was out of the Medina in a matter of minutes.
My lunch was an experience in itself. I wandered into the Medina again and stumbled upon a stall with a man selling soup. I greeted him and sat on one of the three white chairs. He poured the soup, some oil in the soup, a bit of spicy stuff and some lemon juice. This chickpea soup was very nutritious and I was full after finishing the bowl.
“You want some more?”, the vendor asked (his name I learned later is Ahmed). “Just a little”, I answered in Arabic.
And he went on to pour me another whole plate. “It’s like meat”, he said in French. At that moment I felt happy - sitting in the Medina covered in bread crumbs, eating local soup. Some would call the place dirty and point out the cockroaches roaming around, and donkeys passing by, or the absence of a way to wash hands. For me it was a perfect way of unity with the magical city of Fez.
The minarets have been broadcasting religious songs all day. I was working on the terrace of the Riad all day, relaxing from the exhausting 12 days and preparing for the days to come.
Before going to sleep I went to the Medina again in to a small hidden cafe, where local men were playing cards - mainly Ronda and Ballot. They got used to me coming in a fez, taking a chair, and sitting at their table, watching them play. The don’t pay attention to me or try talking to me. They laugh, argue, smoke and drink coffee while I sit among them and sip the mint tea and scribble in my notebook, trying vigorously to understand the rules.
The people of Fez are preparing for a new week. So will I.