TWC'S ODYSSEY

AL MAGREB

Tan Wee Cheng's Journey Through  Morocco, Land of the Furthest West

28 Feb: Fes (II)

Fes With Friends

Once again, I turned down the hotel manager's suggestion that I should engage a guide.  He's quite disappointed that I have already gone to the souk.  I then had a long breakfast at a café in Ville Nouvelle, people watching like the locals do.  After breakfast, I walked along the City Walls towards the Merenid Tombs, which was located on a hill overlooking the city.  It was a long walk but the sight of Fes' imposing walls, that stretches for many miles, was indeed quite amazing.


The monumental walls of Fes

I met two young Moroccans near Borj Nord Military Museum, which was within an old fortress, about midway to the Tombs.  I had a nice chat with them.  Mohammed (Yes, the umpteenth person I met in Morocco with this name) and Samin were preparing for their high school examinations but decided to accompany me to the Tombs, as they felt that they had studied enough for the day.  They walked me to the Tombs, not via the road, but taking shortcuts across the treacherous cliffs overlooking Fes El-Bali.  It was quite an adventure, with these two agile young chaps hopping from rock to rock, oblivious to the heights below.  I, on the other hand, was struggling well behind them, and also trying to make sure I would return home in one piece.
 

Merenid Tombs
Lonely sheep around the tombs overlooking the city
View from the Tombs

Up there on the hill-top, among the ancient tombs of the Merenid sultans, I was invited to share their lunch.  This was one of the few occasions in Morocco when I felt that people were really hospitable without any ulterior motive.  After this, they brought me down to the outer gates of Fes El-Bali, this time via another equally treacherous route down the cliffs.

The two then brought me on a walk through the tourist-free parts of Fes El-Bali, where craftsmen manufacture tourist and non-touristic merchandise on sale in the more tourist-popular parts of Fes.  This is the "hidden Fes", away from mass package tourism.  And people here are really friendly, and unlike the other parts of Morocco, people aren't trying to sell me something.
 

Friendly members of the Firadus World Friendship Club
View of the Merenid Tombs from the city below

Mohammed and Samin then brought me to the clubhouse of Firadus World Friendship Club, a club that promotes friendship with foreign countries, through normal correspondence as well as short-wave radio.  Really friendly people who served me with lots of tea.  I had a great time chatting with them about Morocco and Singapore, and they showed me the postcards they received from their correspondents from all over the world.  There were quite a number from beautiful Algeria - the unusual rock formations of the Hoggar Mountains, the even grander sand dunes of the Algerian Sahara and its exotic oasis towns and palmeraies.  I will be rushing there once the war is overů

Mohammed and Samin also brought me around the souk, and with them around, prices of things seem have to suffered from a deflation.  I bought lots of bananas and oranges with their assistance.  It was a great day with them, and that redeemed all the bad impression that miscellaneous crooks and touts had made of this friendly nation.


Another view of the great walls of Fes

I returned to the Ville Nouvelle and had dinner at a rather expensive restaurant that the hotel manager recommended.  I had read about the legendary bastilla - Morocco's most famous pigeon pie with not only pigeon meat but also walnuts, eggs, almonds, and other nameless spices and fillings.  It was costly by Moroccan standards - DH 100 - but it tasted great.  The portions were huge and I could hardly finish it.  Returning to the hotel, the manager wanted some gifts from me and to his disappointment, I gave him a few postcards of Singapore.  That's life, he's always asking for so much.


1 Mar: Meknes (I): A Visit to Volubilis

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