Rohan, Fazilah and I arrived in Fes after a delightful ride from the desert in a taxi. Our taxi driver, Hosein was a very sweet Berber. On the way, we passed through many terrains, as we crossed the Middle Atlas Mountains from the desert to the Maghreb, the fertile plains.
The Riad where we were booked is in the Medina of Fes, the warren of maze-like narrow streets that dates back to the ninth century. The French lady at the Riad had emailed me that the Riad is deep inside the Medina and would be impossible to find by anyone not intimately familiar with the Medina. I was to ask our driver to call her, so she could guide him to the nearest Bab (gate) into the Medina and then she would meet us there and walk us to the Riad. Well, our Berber driver from the desert didn’t speak much rench and the Riad lady didn’t speak any Arabic, so after various phone calls, we were still lost. Finally, the Riad lady got her cook to talk to the driver in Arabic and we eventually arrived at Bab R’cif, the nearest gate to the Riad. Joelle met us there and off we went with her into the Medina. Our three days in the Medina of Marrakesh had not prepared us for this. The Medina of Fes is a good three hundred years older and stepping into it is like stepping back in time, way back to the ninth century. We were walking through a maze of narrow lanes, twisting and turning, lined with tiny shops of all kinds, selling vegetables, fruits, dates, fresh meat, fish, food stalls, barber shops, all sorts of things. There were tons of people shopping. Joelle kept pointing out landmarks as we twisted and turned, so we would be able to do this by ourselves later, a fountain here, a pink line on the wall, a public telephone in a vegetable market, etc.
After a few minutes, we entered a narrow, quieter alley in a more residential part and after a few turns, an even narrower alley. As we followed that, it got even narrower until at one point, it was no wider than a couple of feet, with walls on each side rising up for dozens of feet in a claustrophobic squeeze. “A lot of Americans won’t be able to go through this”, said Rohan. Joelle laughed and said “yes, it is like the labyrinth of Minotaur, you know, like in the Greek mythology”.
After we squeezed through the narrowest part, a quick turn to the right and there it was, Dar Faracha, our Riad.
As we entered, we were transported into another world. To be continued…