vendredi 16 mai 2008

Fez day 2

In general the nights may have been slightly more restful if it wasn't for that dawn call to prayer, which the various mosques do a minute or two off from each other. You'd hear it starting at some mosque far away, and soon enough, the mosque a block away would be doing its call through the loudspeaker. In general the medina was a slightly noisy place to stay, perhaps in particular because our hotel was fairly central. Although we could have been hearing the call to prayer anywhere, I imagine.

On the second day we hired a guide-- the going rate was 250 dirham for a half-day, which is equivalent to 20 euros. Here are some of the things we saw.

We were first taken to the old Jewish quarter, and taken to see an old synagogue. Here is a pic.An old rabbi took our picture. This is the main gate of the city, which was only built in 1968.The Bab Boujeloud Gate at the entrance to the medina. One side is green-- the color of Islam-- and the other is blue, the color of Fez.
This sign means the sell cigarettes.
The place Seffarine.Some metal goods for sale.
A pretty door in the medina.
One of several tanneries in the city. Stinky!
We were also taken to a ceramics school, where groups of students were alternately throwing on the wheel, painting, taking tiles to the kilns, etc. The group below was taking baked tiles and cutting them down to use smaller pieces in mosaics.

dimanche 11 mai 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

Congratulations to my friends Janine and Mike, who had their first baby, Laura Gabrielle, on Friday.

My friend Joseph posted this awesome clip from youtube onto his facebook page in honor of Mother's day, because his mom used to have a beehive hairdo just like gospel great Vestal Goodman. In the clip, Vestal Goodman and Johnny Cook have a sing-off to see who can sing higher. Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there!

mercredi 7 mai 2008


For the long holiday weekend B and I headed down to Morocco. It was my first trip to Africa. Fortunately for me, B generously let me have the window seat so I got to thoroughly soak up an eyeful of the landscape as we flew in. In fact, Morocco was much more mountainous and greener than I had expected. As we approached Fez, which is in the northern central part of the country, I was struck by the fields and fields of orchards. Once we landed I saw that many of them were olive trees.

We had already arranged the hotel, Dar Mernissi, which I must have found off of Lonely Planet or Rough Guides or some such place, I forget. They had someone meet us at the airport and we were driven into the city by an English and French speaking driver. He was just one of many Moroccans who were adapt at trying out various languages with us until they found one that would work. I was impressed by how many signs there were in French-- perhaps I shouldn't be given the colonial history-- but nearly every street sign was written in Arabic and French, if not English. It sure made our lives easy, even if there hadn't been dozens of people around who would talk to us and help us if we needed anything-- or sometimes when we didn't. People were constantly coming up and saying, "are you hungry? there is a very good restaurant right over here," or whatever other suggestion of a potential sales transaction. But these weren't restaurant employees, but rather, boys and teenagers (all male) who were just walking by, who I imagine get a little tip from these places when they bring tourists over.

In that way it was kind of the opposite of France, where you have to beg people to help you. There was a woman staying at the hotel who lives in Egypt, an American, who was saying that in Egypt, if you need anything, at any time, there is someone-- usually a young boy-- who will go and get it for you. If you buy something, there is someone who will carry it to your house for you; it is unthinkable that you would carry it yourself. Of course, they all except to be tipped, but that is the economy. Morocco was similar in that people were always willing to show us anywhere; if we were lost, they would help us; if we needed something, they would get it.

I can see how a certain laziness might set in after living in Africa for a while. I am remembering those Isak Dinesen novels where fleets of servants took care of everything.

Here is a pic of our hotel room. Fancy!And here is a picture of the rooftop deck, from the second deck above:This was the view of the city from the roof, in differing directions.Here is a peek into a neighboring riad.The view to the south, towards the Atlas mountains.
That night we were kind of beat after flying, so we walked out of the hotel, which was right in the old city, the medina, and headed down the main drag, the Talaa Kebira, to find a place for dinner, after which we went to sleep.