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  • Day8

    The Artisans of Fes

    September 27, 2017 in Morocco ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    Fes is one of Morocco's oldest cities founded in about 809AD. The present King's wife is from Fes and, as there is yet another Royal Palace here, the King is often here. So we started off looking at the grand gateway of the Palace then followed Aziz and his two local helpers through the, at times, very narrows streets of the city. UNESCO has made it a World Heritage site and helps to fortify any crumbling buildings as structures within the Medina cannot be changed. At times we were instructed to keep well into the right or left of a street by the shout of "Ballac" or that's what it sounded like, as a laden mule would come bowling through at a fast pace and one was in danger of being flattened!! Today was all about visiting the various artisan workshops where a demonstration was given then a chance to buy the wares. First stop was in the bronze/silver metal work shop where it was revealed that 37 workers from this firm had partaken in working on the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca. We were shown some beautiful plates of all sizes (to suit all purses!) and some silver teapots, the latter being subjected to a battering from a strong file to show how it would not be damaged or tarnish because it was a good quality silver (not plated!) teapot. I, of course, fell for this and bought one along with matching plate to put it on. Second up was the inside of a traditional Berber house which happened to be a carpet factory. My worst fears were confirmed when, after a demo of the most beautiful carpets, mint tea all round and an invitation to use the "facilities", no-one was up for making a purchase, unlike the flurry of sales at the metal workers. The owners of the factory and their underlings desperately tried to worm their way into our hearts, bringing out more and more carpets, thinner ones, cheaper ones etc until we were in danger of drowning in carpets and Ted and I had to make an exit to escape the embarrassment. On then to the tannery! Here we gratefully accepted a large sprig of mint to waft under our noses before climbing up about 3 floors of the leather wares shop to reach the viewing platform above the very smelly tanneries below. Thank goodness someone in the group also had a pot of Vick to help out. Then it was purses, bags, jackets, slippers, belts, or boots-whatever anyone wanted to haggle for and eventually buy or not buy. Last stop was the silk shop with a weaving demo and scarves and pashminas for sale. Some had lost the will to live by this time and were getting a little shirty when pressed by the shop owners to buy but it's all part of the culture. We had also seen the dyers street where material was being actively dyed and Aziz took us to the bakery and we all had a piece of bread. Time, at last, to go back to the bus and wend our weary way out to the pool and a spot of lunch. This "5 star" hotel is a bit hit and miss service wise so a few problems for some as about 20 people all descended on the unsuspecting pool bar staff! However, snoozettes by the pool were then in order for a couple of hours before it was time to get ready for the evening meal and show out.

    We gathered in the hotel foyer at 7.45pm and were transported to the Jewish quarter where we had started the day for our meal and evening entertainment. It was a most beautiful building inside with a stage for the "turns"! My appetite is not the best at the moment and I felt neither Ted or I did it justice really. Starter was cooked vegetable salad which was very nice and varied followed by 2 main courses, yes 2, and BOTH chicken. The first was the sweet one cooked in the thin pastry that we had in Rabat and the second was the chicken tagine with olives and preserved lemons which we had also somewhere else. Dessert was fresh bananas, peaches and grapes and then some almondy biscuits. The restaurant had now filled up with Australians and other tourists although we had all the front tables. A local band played all through the meal (traditional Arabic music) then another band came on. We were particularly amused by the man who appeared to be playing a large pair of kitchen scissors and were desperate for him to do a solo but unfortunately he did not have the chance to do so! So on to the, shall we say mature, belly dancer who was very good and dragged the older men then the younger women up onto the stage to put them through their paces. Ted beat a hasty retreat (remembering his Marrakesh experience!) and watched from the back! A magician with a dove came on and did some good tricks especially with a glass of water folliwed by a younger and more scantily clad belly dancer/fire eater - equally at home with both skills it turned out. About 10.30 pm we filed out dutifully to the coach and so to bed! Alarm set for another 8.45 am start.
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