Morocco I – Fez

I arrived in Casablanca late at night and went straight to Fez the next day.

I spent several hours on the train, winding through Moroccan towns and countryside and came to one solid conclusion: peoples in poverty look very much the same everywhere. When you have to make shelter out of mud and scrap items; when you have to wash and dry your clothes in the open; when you don’t have plumbing or waste disposal it

Old town looking out to the cemetery

Through the medina walls looking out to the cemetery

doesn’t matter if it’s Africa, Asia or South America – slums have more in common with each other than with the wealthier areas in their own regions.

Well, they do from the train anyway – and there are many slums bordering trainlines in my limited experience. But no matter how short my time is in anyone place, I think train travel broadens the experience. Always.

When I arrived in Fez, I got a taxi to straight to the medina, the old town. I booked a room in a little hotel (clean, safe and cheap) and set out to explore the winding alleyways of the marketplace. Deep within the souk there was a medersa, a school that teaches Koranic studies.

A medersa towering over the souk's alleyway deep within the Fez medina

A medersa towering over the souk's alleyway deep within the Fez medina

I explored the medersa and wandered quickly through the souk, ignoring pleas to buy, to look, to acknowledge. “Miss”, “Excuse me!”, “Bonjour”, “Senorita”, “Hello”, “Regarder!”, “Madame”… One girl who was trying to get my attention while I was looking at postcards got really upset when I ignored her and told me I should be polite. I apologised but didn’t have the energy to tell her how wearying it was to have attention demanded of you so insistently, so often.

I ended up buying some semolina cake with cream cheese and a serving of tagine for dinner. It was freezing cold in my little hotel room and there was no heating. I’d left my main pack in the hostel in Casablanca so I only had a little bag with me but I wore every item I had with me to bed that night!

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