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packed with adventures and the weeks with schoolwork and homework to be done in anticipation for the weekend. On the 24-25th of Jan we went to Fes, then on 31 Jan to 1 Feb we went to Rabat (the capital of Morocco), the 14th-15th Feb we went to Kenitra (a coastal city just north of Rabat), and the 21st-22nd Feb we went to Asillah which is close to Tangier. Before I go any further I have to preface our travels by saying that the traveling we have done thus far has mostly been with other international students that are roughly 5 years younger than us. As a result our trips have tended to be more about partying than either Alicia and I would have liked and so consequently many of the historical sights that are off the beaten path have been missed. We do aim to change this theme of our adventures in the future. So lets begin with our trip to Fes. Going to Fes we had only one real objective, which was to explore the old Medina as it is one of the largest in Morocco. When we first arrived we had a rather large group that made it nearly impossible to find reasonably priced hotels that we could all stay at. After some looking we were able to find one and immediately set out to find food (the story of our lives here), after a bit of searching we were finally able to find a kind of hole in the wall restraint that served remarkably good food. Our biggest achievement of the night, though, was finding a café to smoke hookah or sheisha (flavored tobacco). After spending a few hours at the café we decided to call it a night to rest up for the trip to the Medina. The next day we headed out reasonably early and with the help of Mike, a student who studied in Fes at the American Language Institute, we not only made our way to the Medina, but also some decent places to eat that served an assortment of breakfast items. A big deal, especially for Alicia. After passing by the Kings palace, we soon entered the Medina and it didn’t take long for the hagglers to latch on to us. After getting past the main entrance through the old fortified wall (a classic characteristic of medinas), the hagglers left and we were finally left to explore markets freely. Animal lovers beware, the souks are not for the faint hearted as most are lined with freshly butchered carcasses along with a variety of birds hanging outside shops. Exploring further in we did find a carpenter who was crafting, at the time, handles for masonry tools. But after expressing some interest in his work he quickly demonstrated his lightning fast ability to make a ‘top.’ The man had to head for prayer, but Alicia and I
were so taken with him that we bought a wooden container, I suppose its now a jewelry box. We had also wanted to visit the Mosque, but since it was now prayer time non-muslims were not allowed inside,so we decided to try and make our way to the renowned tannery. Apparently in the medina there are two tanneries, one that is tailored to romanticizing the process and the other that is crude uncensored work of leather making. We got the latter, and Alicia and I will never be able to smell leather the same way again. We were lead to first the courtyard where they separate the wool and fur from the skin, then to a creek where they wash the hide, then to a courtyard that was more of a maze of vats that contained everything from lime to dye that the hide was left to soak in, to the leather softening rooms, and finally to the shops where they fabricate the leather into shoes, padding, etc. One of the big plusses of this experience, besides seeing manual laborers working to create something beautiful in the end, was that we were lead up onto a hill where we were treated to a overlook of the entire medina. After returning to the Medina and being suckered into paying our tannery guides for their service we were able to visit the old mosque of Medina. My first time in a mosque, it was a pleasant experience and is set up in a way that you feel secluded from the outside world. There wasn’t too much to explore, so we soon left and headed back to our hotel in Fes. Ironically some of the Moroccan students Alicia and I had met here at the university were in Fes that weekend so we spent about an hour looking for them and then getting picked up by one of their parents to go have dinner with them. It was nice to visit with them although, they had their friends with them and the language barrier seem to prove difficult especially in a restraint environment. The next day was mostly spent commuting back to the University which was relatively painless and concluding our first real trip to Fes.
The next weekend we made the trip with Mike again, and few other people to include Emily, Kendra, Britney, Leah, and Jamie to Rabat (the capital of Morocco). Because of taxi complications that emerged as a result of the taxi stand turning into absolute mayhem on Fridays after 3pm, Alicia and I ended up left behind in Ifran. Fortunately we met three Moroccan girls who were also student at the university here and, with a tremendous breath of fresh air, allowed us to ride with them and their parents to Meknes to catch a train to Rabat. Unfortunately we arrived too late and had missed the last train, so we called Imame (one of the girls that gave us a ride who is as sweet as can be) and asked if she could show us where to find a taxi to Rabat. Next thing we know her and her dad are driving us all around Meknes to find a taxi and before letting us go her dad negotiates a spectacular price with the taxi driver. A two hour cab ride later we are dropped off in Rabat and have no trouble meeting up with Mike and the rest of the gang. It should be said that on this weekend both Alicia and I were especially under the weather with some sort of illness that we have yet to fully recover from, so that night was a early night. The next day we left the hotel and eat breakfast in the medina. After finishing we dropped our bags off at the hostel for that night and left for our first destination, Chellah. Chellah is an ancient fortified city that commands a view of the valley below. Once inhabited by the Phoenicians, it fell to the Romans, and then to the Berber. An interesting outpost, remnants of all previous inhabitants still exists with Latin writing,
roman statues, a mosque, and a prayer well with eels. After spending some time sight seeing and taking in the view from Chellah we then headed to Mausoleum of Mohammed V (the previous king). Entering the outer wall one quickly notices royal sentries on horse and foot. The next would notice if you hadn’t already from a city away is the Hassan Tower standing at 44m. Walking through the entrance you then see hundreds of free standing pillars, The tower was initially intended to reach 60m in 1195, however after the death of the Sultan it fell into disrepair, to further the destruction in 1755 a earthquake leveled the mosque that the minaret presided over, leaving only the columns and the outer wall remaining. On the opposite side of the complex is the Mausoleum of the former King. The Mausoleum designed and built by its inhabitant was to house the king and his two wives. As a consequence it is perhaps one of the most spectacular tomb one can visit in Morocco. After visiting the Mausoleum we then headed to the Kasbah like a medina only known to be the prominent fortified inner city were local leaders would reside. Because of the historic wealth associated with the Kasbah all the buildings are whitewashed with blue doors and windows making for a tranquil atmosphere. Unfortunately Alicia and I were not feeling good to say the least and after stopping to eat at a Syrian restraint which was remarkably good, we went back to the hostel to sleep (more like a siesta). Woke up in a couple hours later and we were off again, this time to meet Mikes roommate, Rashid, at a club which ended up being a complete bust as Rashid wasn’t there and the club was lame. Leaving the club somewhat early because we had a curfew at the hostel, we got back and Alicia and I went to sleep while some others stayed up. The next morning we decided to split from the group due to not feeling well
and headed back to the university.
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