23 October, 2012

Frenetic Fes

Piers arrived as the new crew for the Atlantic crossing and we immediately left for the desert! More land travel to see the country but this time we took the train, second class to Fes.  Only three hours away.  We arrived and on this occasion walked away from the station to find a petit Taxi to take us to the Kasbah where we had booked a riad.  It turned out more difficult that it first appeared so we called the hotel owner who told us to go to the blue gate and wait to be shown the way to the hotel.
Just as we stepped out of the taxi the fellow came up to us and greeted me by name and we were off to the hotel which was a converted house.  Beautifully decorated but being renovated.  We were the only guests.  Our host lived in the two rooms on the ground floor.  As is the custom we were given mint tea on arrival and shown the room and roof garden.
After a quick rest we ventured out into the souks.  Much narrow lanes than Marrakech, with more side alleys and far fewer tourists.  The Kasbah is within the walls of the city which is built on a hill.  The blue gate at the highest point.  If you get lost walk down hill, find a gate and take a petit taxi back up to the blue gate.  Fortunately Piers and I have a good sense of direction and over the two days we spent following the twits and turns we never lost our bearings.
The first afternoon I set about finding a sister carpet to the one I purchased in Marrakech only smaller.  I found a carpet shop and a similar Berber colour and pattern.  The seller who spoke good English soon dropped his price to half the asking price even before I put in a bid.  I was not convinced that the two colours would be the same so I promised to return the next day with a picture of my first carpet.  
We continues in search of a set of tiles with Arab calligraphy on them.  Nicola had purchased a set when she was last in Morocco.  After many approaches to “come to my store I have such tiles” we were finally led up a narrow staircase, four floor to a large room full of pots and tiles.  They were not quite what I wanted but were very nice so the long process of haggling started.  After the normal back and forth I established a fair price for two sets of tiles and paid in euro – the preferred currency.
The next day Piers and I packed up and headed off in search of the famous tanneries of Fes, passing on route the carpet store.  The owner saw us and called us back into shop to conclude the deal.  I showed him a picture of the large rug and the bartering started.  The final price was more than fair – about 1/3 of the larger rug.  I now have a fully carpeted saloon floor, of wool which can be washed it it gets wet.  I will roll them up when on passage.
We eventually found the tanneries with the help of a self appointed guide.  We were able to look down on the tanning and dye pits – thankfully away from the smell.  We looked in at a few shops which were clearly orientated towards rich tourist.  We followed our guide back to his shop where he had set up a loom to spin the fabric Rayon (or “pure silk”) made from the local cactus leaves.
By this stage we had both had enough of the souks, bartering and the frenetic pace of Fes so we returned to the train station and caught the next train back to Sale/Rabat.

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