Day 92: Morocco, Fez

We finally fell into a deep sleep in the early hours of the morning having been awake listening to the busy work overnight to clear the medina of garbage, only to be woken up an hour or so later by the mosque-ophany of 365 mosques as they called the devout to the first prayer of the day. I have a skill, I can reveal this now.  I can operate on full power even after a few hours sleep – the gorgeous Mr T calls it my Ninja Skill!  So I quietly dressed and crept outside for the most beautiful sunrise that was slowly making it’s appearance over the Fez Medina. 

But I soon crept quietly out of the freezing cold morning and back into bed to warm up ……. and promptly fell asleep again.  We finally rolled out of bed for a coffee as the sun baked down on Kaya and the heat drove us out.  There is such a discrepancy between overnight and daytime temperatures in Morocco in winter.

It’s Friday today – a day of attending Mosque, spending the rest of the day with family, a day to eat couscous and a day for us to explore the Jewish quarter and find and photograph the Blue Gate and the Palace Gate in relative peace.

Up and over the hill, we entered the medina but this time on our own, braver now with yesterdays experience tucked under our ever-diminishing belts.

As you enter the Blue Gate, the striking cobalt blue on the gate greets you – blue is the colour of Fez.  Turn around as you enter and the gate is emerald green on the other side – this faces the city as it is the colour of Islam.

Then round and round the median we wandered, “Haven’t we seen this minaret before?”, yes!! 4 times now.

Falling by happy accident into the Mellah district or the Jewish quarter in the medina – alive and trading on a Friday. But it is without the city crowds and a great place to spend the day wandering around stalls for us tourists. Then finding an oasis of calm behind big wooden doors and entering down a cool passage for a glass of mint tea. It took a few minutes to realise that a large majority of the clientele were men (we had asked permission for me and was told “of course”) and they were relaxing back in their chairs smoking kif. *sharp intake of breath*

Then popping out of the medina and finding our own sort of peace as we wander around the Jardin Jnan Sbil. Founded in the 18th century and built in the Andalusian tradition (again the Spanish connection) similar to the Lost Gardens of Andalusia. It provides a cool break from the frenetic world outside. Somewhere to slowly drift in the shade of over 1000 species of trees and plants, where fountains gently fount and provide a place of tranquility and peace to perfect your recitation of the Quran or sit on a cool park bench for a moment on your own, away from the hubbub of the city.

And finally we found the palace gates. Dar El Makhen, is a functioning palace, the interior of which is off limits to the public whilst the exterior gate is accessible for all to gaze upon. And it truly is awesome.

By the time we found it after an 8km wander through the medina and Mellah district, we were a bit shattered especially after yesterday’s 12 km walk. But when we saw it, our spirits revived (or it may have been the caffeine in the 2 nous-nous that we had just gulped down, kicking in). There was no-one looking at it, and I mean not a soul so we took a few pictures from the side, before a palace guard invited us into the space right in front of the gate and we were able take pictures of the gate in the noonday sun with not a single person in front of them. #FeelingVeryGrateful

Then back to Kaya to make it a round 12km walk but we weren’t finished yet. After lighting up the brazier and preparing a lamb tagine, we got that on to cook. Yes, we are in a parking lot. In Morocco, even the most unusual sights are not that unusual as locals and donkeys walked by without batting an eyelid. Although I think that the hotel overlooking the parking lot have the shiniest, cleanest windows this week as the cleaners there were a somewhat fascinated that some strange tourists from England were cooking a local dish in a local tagine outside just like a local!! For the 2 hours that it simmered, we crept inside Kaya and snoozed inside the cool van waiting for the sun to drop behind the hills.

As the sun started to set, we shrugged on our big coats, packed Grandaddy Moose and our flasks of coffee in the backpack and took ourselves up to the Marinid Tombs. I say that so glibly as though this is just a short drift up the road. Not so!!! This is a hard slog up what must be at least a thousand , ok may 200, steps. But when you want to watch the setting sun over the old city of Fez, this is what has to be done!

And as the sun dropped lower and lower behind the hills of the city graveyard, and the oranges and reds turned to dark blue and then black, lights slowly flickered into life in the medina.

The call to prayer drifted from the R’cif mosque and echoed across the hills and the city settled down to its nigh time activities, never sleeping, never still.

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