Dear Sammy and Alex: I am very sorry I did not write yesterday–it was our day for touring the medina here in Fez and WHEW!! by the end we were very, very tired. The medina does not look that big on the outside, but it has hundreds and hundreds of tiny streets like the one above, so that by the time you have walked much of them you have walked A LOT. Some streets have merchants, like the one above, and some just have walls. There are no cars in the medina, so “street” in this sense just means thoroughfare for people and donkeys and mules (and sometimes, frighteningly, motorbikes!). As you can see…
…some of the roads are VERY, VERY skinny! Believe it or not, many people and/or families might live down this road! Can you imagine walking it every day? It made Daddy feel claustrophobic!
There are many important historical sights to see in the medina. This is an example, it is the Water Clock–it was designed hundreds of years ago and was used to tell the time–you knew what time it was by which window had water flowing out of it and by how full the bucket below the window was. I believe nobody completely understands how they figured out how to make it (and I suspect I am not doing a very good job of explaining it, see the link for a better description).
This is the only mosque in Fez (maybe Morocco) opened to tourists (I am embarrassed to admit I did not catch its name). It was a religious school, but now it is an operating mosque and also a museum as it is the only one open to tourists. You would not stay inside as a tourist during the call to prayer–our guide, Thami (pronounced Tommy), told us normally it would be very crowded but we are lucky to be here at a quiet time. It made for a much nicer picture!
The only stray animals in Fez are cats. This is primarily a relief, because I hated seeing the stray dogs in Thailand–cats seem much better able to take care of themselves than dogs. The cats are welcome because they rid the city of rats and other vermin–and because they clean themselves so often they seem to be regarded as clean, whereas a dog is perceived as dirty. It is a little difficult to reconcile yourself to seeing the cats hanging out with the food that is being sold everywhere, but it is better than rats so their logic makes sense. Alex, you would want to pat them but of course you have to resist because they are wild cats and probably carrying loads of germs in their mouth.
The cats like to hang out near the live chicken, butchered meat and fish counters the best, but of course there is a lot of other wonderful food for sale in the medina. Just look at all these olives! Alex and Sammy you would both go crazy for the olives!
Here is a sweets counter where we bought some pastries. Almost all of these kinds of pastries in Fez (Morocco as a whole?) are made with almond flour and honey. They were very good–Moroccans have a sweet tooth just like Mommy!
Sammy do you remember patting the donkey at that house in Oxford with Aunt Josie? There are donkeys and mules everywhere in the medina! Aunt Josie would love them! They are very calm and business-like, I worried at first about startling them into kicking me but by the end of the day I was completely convinced that these donkeys and mules here are much less ornery than the ones at home! The biggest danger from them is having your feet stepped on–I had to be very careful to stand as close to the walls as I could when they walked by in those narrow streets.
We also went to the oldest tannery in Morocco–a tannery is where they make leather and it stank every bit as badly as the guy on tv said! This seems to be mostly from the pigeon poop–those big tubs you see in the picture on the right, some of them are full of pigeon poop, which is apparently a fabulous source of natural ammonia for curing the hides. People in the medina have pigeon roosts where they gather the poop and then sell it to the tannery! Here we are holding mint leaves to our noses to help alleviate the smell (it worked surprisingly well). In Fez the leather is always made naturally by the old methods, dyed with natural plants.
After all that walking in the medina, you can imagine we slept very well last night! Today I took a cooking class at the Restaurant Dar Hatim, where we ate the first night here (with the wonderful bastilla, which I will write about more when I get home since this is a cooking blog).
Here I am wearing the dress (djellaba?) that the instructor had me put on as an apron. It came in very handy because I just removed my own shirt–the Moroccan made dress was much cooler in the stifling hot kitchen! She showed me how to make many of the salads and of course the bastilla. As a matter of fact, I am eating one right now that I brought back to the riad and heated up for dinner in their oven! It is delicious, even leftover!
And here is the kitchen that we worked in. This kitchen serves for the entire restaurant, and boy does it get hot! But it was wonderfully fun, the women of the house were very welcoming, and I am very excited to try to make you bastilla when I get home!
Tomorrow morning Mommy and Daddy go into the desert, where we may or may not have internet. If not, we will write again in a few days! Love you, Mommy and Daddy