Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tangier-Fez

My friends Valerie and Colin were planning on moving to Tunisia at the end of this summer, but then a day or two before they left, Tunisia happened. Luckily for me, their Plan B ended up being a move to our southern neighbor Morocco! RyanAir flights from Madrid to Tangier are pretty cheap, so even though RyanAir is probably my least favorite airline, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to jet down to Morocco to visit my friends.


Although they live in Rabat, we met up in Fez, which meant I had to make my way from Tangier to Fez by train on my own. I befriended the two women in my row on the 1.5 hour plane flight on the way down and one of them, a Moroccan, shared a cab with me into central Tangier after yelling angrily at our taxi driver (or maybe this is just what Arabic always sounds like. I'm still not sure).


As I arrived at the train station a heavy downpour drenched both me and the many dirt sidewalks, leaving just as suddenly as it had come. The wet landscape in the touristy district near the train station turned pink as puddles and the sea reflected the setting sun.


My train ride was an adventure, as I didn't know that I had a transfer and then I didn't know where to transfer. It takes a village to ride a child and apparently it takes a trainload of Moroccans to get me to Fez in one piece. At one point, I had gotten off the train and was trying to understand while two Moroccans hung out the window of the train, arguing with each other about whether I should get back on the train or stay standing on the dark rural platform. I'm glad I reboarded rather than getting stranded here.


I arrived in Fez at 10pm, its winding narrow streets reminiscent (as Colin so appropriately noted) of Agrabah. The three of us stayed in a beautiful home we found on AirBnB in a tiny little alleyway.



The next day, we wandered Fez's streets...



...browsed its markets...


...discovered the secrets of leather dyeing...


...and weaving...


...wandered an old madrassa...


...drank tea in a giant palace...


...and spent the evening on our roof drinking wine and eating dates and olives like ancient Roman aristocracy. My favorite moment of the trip came as we sat on our rooftop and the evening call to prayer began: musical chanting echoing from a dozen different tinny-sounding speakers from a dozen different minarets, enveloping the darkening city with a solemn but caucophonous reverence.