Return of the Moors: Fez I


Return of the Moors: Fez I

Life is about people, places, and times. The weight of any experience is measured by which people you were with, what places you were in, and how you spent the time. Fes and our incredible tour experience was a reminder of that. We wandered through the streets of Fes led by our tour guide Kamal.

Fes is a city with deep history. To this day artifacts of centuries old history live and breathe here. Qarawiiyin--the first university in the world and a place of Islamic knowledge--was founded by Fatima el-Fihri in the 9th century and it sits solemnly among the impossible-to-navigate alleyways and streets of Fes. It turns out the design was an intentional defensive tactic for the city. I barely believe that. We visited the leather tanneries, where Moroccans have been producing leather for centuries with the an unchanged process that involves pigeon poop for softening, lye for hair removal(?), and indigo, henna, and poppyseed as dye. From a birds eye view, we looked upon the same 50 or so reservoirs that have been the heart of Moroccan leather-making for hundreds of years. We visited a public bakery, a berber herbshop, the Jewish quarter, an old Madrasa, and a few other places that speak of Fes's rich past and living present.

In our group there was a set of friends from San Francisco who traveled the world together, there was a French woman who does humanitarian work, and there was a retired Canadian couple who journeys around the world half the year from their motorhome. Sathiya, Justin, Ajay, Elsa, René and Elaine. Sathiya reminded me of the connection between the UK and the Carribean--the reason I might already have connection to that part of the world through Jamaican family relatives who traveled back to the UK in the post WWII windrush. He had a mischevious smile that betrayed the youthful spirit of the likely 40something year old man. Justin had a calm demeanour, and his presence taught me that a man from Maine could keep close friends with two men from India and be comfortable in the heart of Morocco. Ajay was a walking encyclopedia: He held niche facts in his mind about the history and culture of the world's civilizations--informed by his world travels of over 67 countries. Ajay spoke to me of his deep curiousity of the world and its people. Since, I have wondered what my own curiosity could be. Elsa impressed me with her honest acknowledgement of the world's power imbalance, how such an imbalance affects those who are victims of it, and of her personal benefit from such imbalance. Her past work with refugees in Iraq, her present work with unemployed youth in Morocco, her previous travels to Subsaharran Africa, and her matter-of-fact demeanour regarding it all offer an example of sincerity in using ones privilege to bring benefit, without needing to self-congratulate or apologize. Rene and Elaine ran the oldest shirt factory in North America for time, and now they drive around the world waking up to new adventure each day. They've traveled the southern regions of America, then sold their motorhome and bought a new one in Europe. They teach me that it is possible to be flexible, to water one's marriage, and smile throughout one's life. We also connected on the idea of crossfit (because their son is into crossfit) and they invited the three of us(Akrem, Taj, and I) to visit them in Quebec.

The people and the places fit into the moments. Time is the canvas that holds these colorful expriences, and as with any painting the color and texture of the canvas offers its own contribution to the artwork. The time that I am in my life, I am searching for assured self-worth. Traveling has been a large tool in that pursuit. I am trying to define my self, my interests, and my values. Placing myself in new contexts and encountering individuals with contrasting world views is all part of this process of discover and inventions.
Next Post Return of the Moors: Fez II Previous Post Return of the Moors: Madrid