26 May 2011

Photo Friday #40


We tried to get lost in the Fes Souqs. It was easy to do. And fun. Hubs has a supernatural internal compass that we relied on heavily, nonetheless it was good to pull out the map once in awhile and gaze upon the thousands of pathways and alleys throughout the old Medina. Literally.

It's such a pleasure to see so many people making stuff with their own hands. From wood working to sewing to metal work and on and on. At every turn the sounds and smells and sights change as you meander from one theme of the souq to another. Here they are making wooden furniture.

And thrones perhaps?

And the leather tanneries. Here I am with fresh mint pressed to my nose to reduce the impact of the pigeon poo which is used in the tanning process. Thank you to the sales person who gave us the mint before showing us the tannery. And sorry we didn't buy any of your leather. I do regret not buying a pouff now that I'm at home. They are selling up the street for $400. Probably could have got one for $25. Great.

Oh, and of course the food. This was our go-to hamburger joint for lunch in Fes (ground meat with Moroccan spices and fried onions inside a pita, for next to nothing!). We loved it there despite the fact that they called it Big Mac.

Here we are shopping for heavenly dates and nuts in Marrakech, getting equipped with snacks for our bus trip through the Atlas mountains to the desert in the south.

But Spud was the most fascinated with the wooden stuff. He bought a secret box, made of local cedar, with his own money. The sales person threw in this funny wooden box with a snake hidden inside. Sorry to all the staff at our riad in Fes who got bitten too. Especially to the manager who apparently has a legit fear of snakes and flew back a few feet upon opening the drawer. Only to be met with great laughter from the kid.

While we are at it, let's also say sorry to this seller and the dozens like him — we really don't want your trinkets. He looks happy here but that changed pretty quickly when he realized we were completely serious when we said we didn't want to own fake pink crystal-like thingys. I imagine it's a tough life running a tourist shop.

Because we travelled with carry-on only, there were a few items that we needed to buy on arrival. Like nail clippers and a small pair of scissors. Maybe we could have brought them on the plane but it's hard to keep up with the ever changing rules on in-flight contraband. It turns out that shopping for everyday ordinary, not necessarily touristy stuff, is way more fun and all around less awkward and stressful. Here we are browsing through some scissors options. We checked some baggage on the way home so we got to keep them, which I'm pretty happy with. While it ain't no hoochie orange leather pouff, they are sharp and work like a charm.

The other fascinating aspect of life in the the souq is how dang crazy-busy and crowded they can be. This is particularly true in Fes and Marrakesh. Besides the crush of people, there are bikes, mules, donkeys, horses, carts, motor bikes, and even cars (well, no cars in the Fes Medina actually, thank you Fes!). You have to be prepared to press your bodies up against the wall at a moment's notice of "ATTENTION!" being shouted urgently behind you. I wanted to catch some of this action digitally but of course I was too busy trying to save my life and that of my son's also.

But the hardest part? The motorized vehicles. As they spew their exhaust into the covered areas of the souq it gets pretty hard to breathe. I'd take a donkey braying in my ear any day.

The souk life in Essaouira was significantly more laid back with wider streets and a beach town sort of tempo. While we didn't witness as much manufacturing here, the stores themselves were just as colourful and enticing.

En route to our riad, this little book shop is spilling into the street. Unfortunately there are no books there for us.

So in all, I would say that the souqs are probably best suited for people who are natural shoppers, natural bargainers, and who can withstand large amounts of carbon dioxide. We are none of those things and yet our experience of trundling around the myriad of shops and alleyways was an incredibly rich experience that was a highlight of our Morocco trip.

And yes, they sold pouffs in Essaouira too and I still didn't buy one. But I do have a great pair of sharp, little scissors. OK, and I suppose I should mention that the scissors were actually made in Germany. But the memories of buying them were made in Morocco.

Check out other posts about our travels in Morocco.

Thanks to Delicious Baby for hosting Photo Friday. Pop over to see all sorts of other travel adventures.