Aquiring Pots, Appropriating Numbers

fes tagineI really hope you have a large mug of tea right now, because I loved Fes and have a lot to say about it!

Our first night in Fes we were completely shattered after a day in the van. Still, our guide decided to push us on and make sure we experienced everything. We all wanted to go to a fancy three course dinner and a show, so we all congregated in the hotel atrium at 8pm. We were taken to a beautifully mosaiced palace in Fes Medina and were sat on poofy chairs, right near the stage.

For three hours we delighted in a variety of berber (turns out Moroccan ‘berbers’ do not call themselves ‘berber’ due to racial appropriation of the term by Moroccan Arabs – you should call them Amazigh) music, belly dancing, and magic! It was quite dark and I’m not the best photographer, so I didn’t get many photos. I do have some videos that I’ll clip together and put up… eventually.

While in Fes it was essential we try their delicacy, Pastille, a sweet pigeon pastry pie. I think ours might have been chicken or duck rather than pigeon. It was the next day, in a more local restaurant, that we are 100% certain that they brought out the pigeons. In yet another fine example of me not being able to accomplish mind over matter in any circumstance, I never finished my pastille.

fesThe next day was a full day’s walking tour of the Medina. In true G Adventures style, we met a local guide who took us up to a beautiful panoramic view over the old city.

fes panoramaAfter gazing down on what we were about to enter, we were whisked into a nearby pottery studio to learn (quickly and briefly) about the process of making the tagines and dishes we were already so familiar with. There were some seriously talented people here. First, we saw a man turn a tagine in seconds, all by sight. We applauded when the lid he made perfectly matched the base by pure experience. Everyone there was amazingly skilled. The women painting the designs did it so deftly, making it look easy.

Perhaps the most impressive were the men chiseling ceramic tiles into tiny shapes which would go on to be used in mosaics. It’s painstaking work, but the results are outstanding! Naturally, at the end of the tour, we were led to an on-site store where we everything was stickered pricing and we were allowed 20% off. I managed to hold off my desire to by the whole store, although Brigette did buy me a mug for my birthday…

fes potter fes pottery fes pottery fes pottery

Not wanting to lug purchases all the way around Morocco, many of the girls decided to hold off on the shopping in Fes. Shopping wasn’t really in my budget at all, which is pretty typical for Rachel travel. I love nice things, but I like travelling too much I can’t wait the extra few months to save spending money. Anyway, we assumed we’d be able to get much the same stuff in Marrakech. My advice in hindsight is: do not wait. Fes had the best craftspeople of the whole trip (save carpets in Todra Gorge). G Adventures took us to all manner of studios there and visiting the artisans made the pieces seem more special and authentic. Those who didn’t buy in Fes wished they had after we arrived in over commercialised Marrakech. Lesson learned.

fes fes

With about ten tagines in the back of the van, we made for the medina. Our guide gathered us together in front of the Bab Boujloud gate before we entered Fes’ old city. Our guide told us to stick close. At first we dawdled along a road running around the outside of the medina, looking at dates, and getting distracted by kittens and stalks. We soon learned why we had to stick together as we were forced into single file and began winding our way into the depths of the medina and its labyrinth of markets.

Perhaps the most interesting thing our guide taught us that day was the origin of our numbers. I did know prior to this trip that the numbers 1 through 9 come from Arabic, but I definitely picked up some cool facts I didn’t know. Did you know that the reason the numbers are shaped the way they are is because of the number of angles in each number? Well, in the original style/font they did. 1 has one angle, in the original number, 2 has two and so on. Our guide drew us a picture.

guide

That way, illiterate people could count the angles. It really goes to show that math is the universal language. Not only do we all use math regardless of creed or race, but it actually transcends literacy. I was very impressed.

And since this is my longest post in ages, you’ll have to wait for tomorrow for the rest of the tour! Bye bye x

Budget

I mentioned in the last Moroccan post that we went to a dinner and show deal. That cost MAD250 for three courses and about four straight hours of entertainment. Aside from this I stuck to my traditional budget of approximately MAD70 per meal.

Some shopping guidelines:

  • My Moroccan cup cost MAD160 (about GBP10)
  • Decorative, large serving tagines (i.e. not terracotta) were from MAD1080 (GBP70) from the pottery studio. Definitely on the expensive side (especially compared to Marrakech), but we saw them being made, they are gorgeous, and for large purchases the studio will ship them back to your home country.

Travel Fashion

T-shirt, with a long-sleeved shirt over the top. Long loose trousers from Thailand to keep things breezy. Excellent walking shoes! Fes is also the city where wearing a headscarf got the best reception.

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