Screw Fes. In fact, screw Morocco. I’m sick of the chaos, I’m sick of the heat (it’s 23 degrees here in Fes, while just two days ago I was walking in the snow), and most of all, I’m sick of the hustlers, none of whom are really my friend, even though that’s what each and every one of them uses to address me. The shopkeepers constantly trying to attract my attention and the restaurant people shoving menus in my face as I walk by can bugger off, too. Fes may be the cultural and spiritual capital of the country, but I can’t wait to get out of it. The bus ride to Fes has been uneventful, except for the start, where it turned out (at the last moment) that I needed a seperate ticket for my backpack, so I had to run back to the CTM office, with my backpack, to get the ticket and be back before the bus left. After that it’s been a smooth ride towards Fes through infinite fields of grain and olive trees – the coastal plains that made Morocco one of the bread baskets of the Roman empire – until we reach Fes, wedged in between the Rif and Middle Atlas ranges. As soon as I arrive in Fes, things turn South though. The taxidriver
The second day starts better, with breakfast on the rooftop terrace. I head off towards the royal palace, which has some stunningly beautiful gates with golden doors. Afterwards, I want to explore the mellah, the old jewish quarter. Morocco’s royalty has a long history of protecting jews and having them as trusted advisers, so in many cities, the Jewish neighbourhoods (all called mellah, after the original one in Fes) are located close to the royal palace for maximum protection. Nowadays almost all of the jews have left Morocco for Israel, and the mellahs are often the poorest part of a city’s medina. Still, they have a distinct look, with a more open feeling to the streets than in the very narrow, almost windowless alleys of the neighbourhoods built by muslims.
‘I think you are a scorpion!’ I don’t think this is meant as a compliment on my ability to survive in the desert; the man saying this to me is a hustler who started following me within minutes of my arrival in the mellah, and who’s upset that the only words I’ve said to him have been ‘I’m fine, thank you, have a nice day’; other than that, I’ve ignored all his pushy questions and comments.
‘Why don’t you fucking tourists want to talk to anyone here in Morocco? We don’t need you here, we are better off without tourists!’ I wonder if the hustler, who started following me as soon as the previous one left me alone, sees the irony in this comment given the pushiness with which he pursues his tourist targets; I assume he does, and the comment is just a desperate attempt to make me feel guilty and make use of his services after all. After these two unpleasant
Back into the streets, I now instinctively move out of the way as a donkey owner shouts ‘Balak!’, when his donkey, carrying a ridiculous amount of cargo, is on its way to supply a shop somewhere (cars are too wide for these streets). I also start to enjoy the crowds, which consist mostly of locals just living their lives; although there’re quite a few tourists, and tourist shops, for the most part the medina just exists for the locals, who happen to live in a way that hasn’t changed all that much over the past few centuries. Also, the live chickens, cats and geese, the not-so-live camel heads, and the pushcarts with everything from strawberries to garbage don’t bother me so much anymore. For dinner I go to Cafe Clock, which has a mix of local, expat and tourist guests. There’s live music with a women’s group playing Berber music, which has some hints of Brazilian music to it; some local girls use the relative freedom in here to dance enthuisiastically (but still, to Western standards at least, very decently), while everyone else just claps along and has a good time. The camel burger they serve is delicious, so as I head back to the hotel, I’m infinitely more positive than 24 hours ago. In the hotel lobby I meet Bernhard and Lorena, a German couple, along with two Austrians whose names I forgot, Daniel from Romania, and the hotel’s night manager, who studies English and is eager to practice his