Monday, July 23, 2012

Fez Day 2 - A Series of Impossible Tasks

We were both dragging by the end of the day yesterday and we have three days of intense travel ahead, so we decided to try for an easier day for our last full one in Morocco. We slept in until 7:45, had breakfast at the riad with the turtles, dropped off our laundry, then headed out with carpets in tow to find a FedEx.

The first issue was finding a taxi. Every other time we've walked by the fountain near our riad there have been several of the red petit taxis waiting. This morning when we slepped our packages to the top of the hill, there were few to be found. One man approached and offered us a ride, but when we accepted he wanted us to follow him back down the hill to where his cab supposedly waited. Uh, no. The first real petit taxi we tried refused to take us. The third cabbie was game, though, so the carpets and I went into the back seat while Jason took the front to navigate.

We headed into the "new city" and tried to find the FedEx address as listed on their official website. No luck. After circling the block a few times the cabbie stopped and asked a man for directions. After a lively conversation in Arabic, we were off again, this time with confidence. The cabbie pulled over, pointed across the large and very busy street, and declared that the FedEx office would be inside the bank of offices on the other side.

We paid him, hauled out the packages, and crossed the Nile (Jason's term). Happily, we made it over alive. Unhappily, once we were there some helpful locals who were hanging out on the steps of the building informed us that the FedEx had moved to a new location.

Back across the Nile we went to catch another taxi. We hunted down the new area suggested by the locals and fortunately spotted the small FedEx sign.

There were three employees inside, two women and a guard, all of whom were quite helpful. Jason repackaged his carpets and bade them farewell until Monday. I had mine weighed, discovered they wanted $260 for shipping (more than half the cost of the carpets!), then decided I would rather schlep them with me for the rest of the trip and pay for the extra checked bag on the way home. We'll see if I regret that decision after hauling my lovelies around a few more cities.

Jason hailed cab #3 and we went back to the riad to drop off my rug, then we headed into the old city for lunch. We were both a little tired of Moroccan food, so we went back to the British-owned Cafe Clock we ate at yesterday. I had a chocolate milkshake (ah! Cold!) and a grilled chicken sandwich with preserved lemon mayonnaise. Then, once we were nourished and hydrated, we dove into the souks for shopping.

I had a few purchasing goals in mind for today. I accomplished two of them, but alas I did not get the lamps I've been craving. We actually found a store that had ones I liked as well as several ceramic pieces Jason was interested in, but the negotiations were more sour than fun. The shopkeeper's initial asking price for my lamps was over 17,000 dirhams, which is more than $1000. For two table lamps made of bronze and parchment paper, it was absolutely ridiculous. I countered with similarly ridiculously low offer of about $30 for both, but the shopkeeper just wouldn't play the game with me. He negotiated with Jason for a good 15 minutes, starting off again at a ridiculously high price, but eventually caving all the way down to Jason's far lower offer. When that deal was complete and he turned back to me, I tried bartering, but even when I went up to 900 dirham for the lamps, he would have nothing of it and only seemed marginally interested in dealing with me at all. I don't know if it was because he'd already made a sale, if it was Ramadan afternoon grumpiness, or if it was because I was a woman; but I sadly had to walk away.

Like the carpet salesman in Marrakech, this guy roped us into a lecture/demonstration at the shop of a friend. There we saw a beautiful old house, watched two women weaving a carpet in a room on the roof that had two fans which the guide only turned on when we entered the room and which were promptly turned off when we left (poor women!), admired the view of the city, then sat down to talk carpets with the shopkeeper. The carpets were beautiful, and they had quite a variety. We just weren't interested in buying, though, despite the extremely smooth talk of the shopkeeper. Really, it was almost worth it just to watch him move so smoothly from telling us the history of rug making to picking out a carpet exactly the right dimensions and colors for my living room.

Once we extracted ourselves we headed up the very steep hill through the souks towards the riad. It was hot, we hadn't been drinking any water (it feels inappropriate to guzzle water when everyone around you is abstaining until after sunset), and Jason's arms were full of ceramics while I was a bit peeved still over the lamp negotiations. I did stop to negotiated quickly for some giant consolatory green tassels, noticing as I bartered with that shopkeeper that my arms and I'm sure the rest of me was shiny with sweat.

We deposited our purchases and chugged water back at the riad, did some planning, then I took a quick shower before we went in search of dinner.

This proved to be yet another one of Hercules' labors. We tried five different restaurants and found them each to be either closed for Ramadan or impossible to locate in the alleyways of the medina. We ran into the new city via cab again to try for a Japanese/Thai place (closed for Ramadan) and upon defeat went to a "hypermarket" to get groceries for tomorrow's journeys (we will have neither time nor any likely access to food until late tomorrow night). The store was crowded (mostly with men, which surprised me again despite that being the consistent case in this town) and had slim pickings as far as grocery stores like that go. I am excited to eat a banana tomorrow, though.

Starving, we settled on going back to Cafe Thani again. It's touristy enough that we figured it would be open, and we were greeted by the same enthusiastic waiter and given two seats at a table on the street. I had the Moroccan salad again since it did not make me sick the last time I took the risk. It's made up of chopped tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and bell peppers and tastes so fresh and delicious. We also both got couscous with chicken and vegetables, which was just fine.

The streets were far less crowded than when we ate there Saturday night, but the same canon fired at 7:30 to signal the end of the day's fast, and jubilant cheers from the hungry locals were the same. The other excitement of the meal came when we heard loud, pitiful cat cries. One of the kittens had slipped while crossing the frame of the awning overhead and was now clutching thee railing with its forepaws, crying for help. Everyone, tourists and waiters alike, very concerned about saving the kitten. One man held out his hat, the waiter and a man passing on the street both ran over reaching out with their hands to try to catch the kitty, calling in Arabic for it to let go while one of the other cats paced anxiously on the nearby ledge, trying to figure out to help. Finally one of the other waiters reappeared with a long stick and used it to push the kitten's hindlegs back onto the railing. The kitten was safe, the crowd broke into applause, and we resumed our dinner.

Back at the riad we tackled the ever-growing packing puzzle. It's bedtime now, since we have to be up at 4:45 to catch our train to Tangier. In fact, I'm yawning as I type, and so goodnight!

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