Yesterday we took it pretty easy, as  five days  of nonstop travel were starting to take their toll, both mentally and physically.  Plus we had a lovely house to laze around in.  So we only went out into the medina twice, first in the late morning to scrounge some lunch from the food stalls, and later on to hear some live Moroccan music we’d seen advertised at the cafe we ate at on our first day.

The first time, we wandered around an area quite different than the more touristy shopping district we’d explored the day before. We were treated to workshop after workshop making ornate silver wedding thrones, intended to both carry the bride and groom and to house them while they were photographed. Shortly after, we passed through the jewelry street, where store after store displayed huge rows of gold and silver bracelets. I often had to jostle with Moroccan women for a look at the goods, proving that some things, like love of beautiful jewelry, are indeed universal.

We then dived into the food area in search of sustenance. Gabe procured us two round loaves of bread filled with freshly grilled skewers of chicken, one spicy, one plain. Soon after that, we discovered the produce and fish  stalls — along with half the other people in the medina, it seemed. We pushed through the crush of people, coming to a complete stop whenever a cart or donkey tried to make its way through, and fended off beggars who decided we looked affluent enough to buy them a meal as well. For our pains, we came away with a bag full of colorful olives, a bag of dark red strawberries, a melon, some loquats, and a few huge apples, bought from a man who smiled at me kindly when I turned to him with wide eyes, overwhelmed by the press of people and smells and sights.

Laden down with goodies, we made our way home, back through the gold lined streets. We cobbled together a lunch from what we’d bought, taking it and some plates and silverware we scrounged up to the rooftop terrace — much to the amusement and consternation of the little maid, who watched us fumble through her kitchen, laughing at these crazy Americans wanting to make their own lunch without help. We sat up there and read for quite a while, occasionally taking a break to watch the men in the tannery through the binoculars, and laughing at the girls on the rooftop next door, who were trying out their limited phrases in English and French on us.

After we were somewhat rested, Gabe and I gathered ourselves together again and went back out into the hustle and bustle in search of a taxi. We found one just as he was disgorging three women, along with various bags and children, and jumped in en route to the Mellah, the former Jewish area of town. Along the way, our taxi driver picked up another man waiting for a lift, then let him out just down the street — they are always willing to fit more people in the car.

We didn’t really do justice to the Mellah, as I was still feeling a little run down and unable to deal with the press of people. We did make it to the old synagogue, where the caretaker was thrilled to have people to show around. He took us down to the ritual bath, and made Gabe go back up to the top, where he could take a picture of my hands over the water through the tube in the ceiling, supposedly designed to let the bride’s family witness her cleansing before her marriage. I was convinced the guy was telling me to get in the bath itself, and was relieved when he let us off with just the photo.

I could tell that Gabe was glad to see the synagogue, but also that he was saddened by how deserted it was. Once upon a time, Fes had a vibrant community of Jews, all in this area outside the city walls. You could still see their influence everywhere, especially in the open balconies of the buildings, as they did not have to hide their women from the world as the Muslims did. But as for the Jews themselves, they were nowhere to be found.

We hopped in another cab to go back up to the medina, where we took another turn past my favorite camel head (I hope a different one) to the cafe where we’d eaten a few days before. We were greeted as old friends by the British proprietor, who I’m pretty sure greets everyone as old friends, and settled down on a couch to drink mint tea and watch the people come in.

To my disappointment, by the time the music started, it looked like we were in a bar in Santa Cruz, surrounded by Americans and modern day hippies. Not the Moroccan experience I’d intended to have.

At least the band was Moroccan, wearing matching blue djelabas with neat white collared shirts underneath. They had a grand old time, rocking out on their little drums and singing away, while the girl who was there doing henna and I laughed at the antics of the owner. She and I had about 4 words in common, but we shared some knowing looks and laughs nonetheless.

We left early, detained only momentarily by two very Santa Cruzian individuals who refused to pay 30 dirhams, or 3 euros, for the one tea they’d split and the twenty minutes of music they’d seen. And that was after the owner had cut their entry fee in half.

We’d originally thought to take a cab back to the house, but ended up walking back through the medina, which was a much easier task at night than during the crowded midday rush. We only got slightly lost, and were guided unwillingly by a persistent young boy with a light-up yo yo, who kept up with us for quite a while. When we’d found our way to the gate we needed by asking directions at every turn, he still demanded money, claiming he’d gotten us there by himself. We had to give him something for his persistence, thereby of course reinforcing his behavior. But I did have to admire his entrepreneurial spirt. Gabe tried to teach him a phrase of English to say “Let me guide you,” but all was forgotten as soon as he had dirhams in hand. Alas.

So we returned to our sanctuary once more, ready for another lovely Moroccan dinner and, again, bed. This time I slept through the call to prayer until the birds and light streaming in through the colored glass windows woke me to start our last day in Morocco.

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