Thursday, December 8, 2011

Family in Fez

My Swarthmore friend’s brief Thanksgiving visit coupled with the upcoming holidays has made me long for some familiar faces. Luckily, my wish was answered and I’ve spent the last week with my second set of visitors of the year. The last few days have been filled with long walks, exploration, delicious food, catching up, and (especially) enjoying my new online subscription to the New York Times crossword puzzle (thanks Chris!).

Hailing from Washington DC, these three are very dear to my heart especially after I lived with them for a few months before my junior year at Swarthmore. My cousin, Ella, is a sophomore at Carleton and her family decided to take advantage of the genius Carleton trimester system (yay for no school between Thanksgiving and Christmas!) to come visit me in Morocco (armed with my requests from home: peanut butter and bobby pins). I feel so lucky to have this time with them; not only do I love them all dearly, but after months of solo travel, being able to share in new things with others feels like such a gift.

Ella in the medina.

I’ll write more once my visitors depart this weekend, but for now, I thought I’d post a few pictures of our three days in Fez. Fez is one of Morocco’s four imperial cities and is supposedly the spiritual and cultural center of the country. It was founded in 859, right after the Arabs arrived in North Africa. One of its universities claims to be the world’s first (as the Lonely Planet points out, it would have been centuries older than Oxford and Cambridge, for example). The Moroccan independence movement was born here, and the entire medina was named a World Heritage site by the U.N. Fez is second only to Casablanca in terms of size.

Medina Gate (Bab Boujiloud)

Streets of Fez (outside the medina).

Motorcycle/Horse conversation

Breakfast at the Riad

We stayed at a Riad (traditional Moroccan home converted into a guesthouse) in the thick of the iconic medina, and spent a few days getting happily lost through the winding streets and shops. It's a pretty bustling and chaotic place and at times it felt to me like it was closer to India than to Rabat. From Fez, we were also able to go on a tour throughout the Middle Atlas region of Morocco which is said to be a microcosm of the entire country because of its has mountain ranges, desert areas, and tiny Berber villages. In other words, at various points of the drive we all felt like we were in Arizona, Vermont, Switzerland, and Egypt…often at the same time. We drove through the small towns/villages of Ifrane, Azrou, Ain Sefra, and Mahfouz.

Peanuts for the monkeys.

We’re back in Rabat now, and I’m enjoying the realization that I know this place well enough to act as a guide. I’m off to watch the Kate Winslet movie “Hideous Kinky” (supposedly it takes place in Morocco) with Ella before getting some sleep in preparation for Christmas present bargaining in the Rabat medina tomorrow. More to come….

1 comment:

  1. So many donkeys and scarves and wonderful relatives!