Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Winter Break, part 1

February 23 was the beginning of two-week break, officially Winter Break. This one, I think, was more exciting than any we've had so far.

Monday morning I went back to Chellah, the Roman/Islamic ruins just outside of town. It's springtime now, and it was beautiful, with flowers all over and dozens of noisy storks.

On Tuesday we went to Fes again. In the morning we had a guide to show us around, then he left us and we went out in search of lunch. After asking the natives (our Moroccan chaperone did the asking) and then repeatedly asking for directions, we ended up at a small, smoky, family-run place that served the best beef I've ever had. (It's great when an adventure like that turns out well, but there's just no guarantee that such food won't make you sick.) After lunch we went around for the sole purpose of shopping, which went well. I bought, among other things, a nice teapot and a common sort of Moroccan hat. We returned to Rabat that evening; the three-hour drive means that a day trip to Fes is possible if somewhat exhausting.

Nice mounds of spices (cardboard) outside the entrance of a shop selling
Argan oil products, the new craze in America. You can see women
grinding it by hand—what fun for the tourists!

Another old medersa, or Islamic school

Fes is an unmissable and unforgettable Moroccan experience; just the size of the old medina makes it world-famous, and the sounds, smells, crowds, and hustlers are legendary. I've heard its touristy nature compared to the Pyramids of Egypt, only less so. Now that I've been several times I'm glad to have gone, but I don't think I want to go back anytime soon.

On Wednesday we went to the zoo; in a word, meh. I mean, it's a fine zoo, and it was fun to have the Arabic names of the animals (especially the mahas and gamooses), but it was almost completely empty, with only a couple French families and local school classes.


On Thursday we had another class with the master calligrapher Mohammed Qarmad.

He's really good.

Early Friday morning we boarded our AMIDEAST bus and started driving north.


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