Return of the Moors: Fez II


Return of the Moors: Fez II

If you live without expectations, you will never be disappointed. This has been my mantra since 2017: my first time leaving the U.S. (a story for another time). I wonder now, though, if there is more to this truth.

The day starts off with Fajr, a quick nap, shower, and breakfast. Already I've met a new face today, alhamdulilah. I pause for the first time, sitting in the courtyard of the Riad, bathing in the sky's diffuse light streaming in through the open air roof. This is a pleasant moment. I did not expect to be here. Maybe that's why it's great, because a life without expectation is a prelude to surprises. Our first order of business for today is the Hammam(Bathhouse) because Akrem has had his heart set on a Moroccan spa and massage for the last 2 weeks. We jump through all the hoops needed to setup an appointment, namely, asking the host Yaseen to call the Hammam and negotiate a spot and a price for us. In the hour or so between breakfast and our appointment Akrem and I follow another one of our hosts, Saeed, around town. We bounce from ATM to ATM in search of a machine with enough cash to get us through the rest of our stay. This alone is an adventure, one made all the more pleasant by our meeting Max (our new friend from Germany...more on him later i hope). We hurry back to the hammam in time to miss our appointment, and suddenly today becomes our day for shopping. I couldn't be upset by our frustrated plans because lowering my expectations has become reflexive: nonchalance bolsters my mood in such moments.

We wander in and out of shops: pricing garments here, trying on jackets there. In our first encounter with a Fez shop yesterday, I rediscovered the sour taste of defeat in price bargaining. Today , my palette is whet and I refuse to be taken. I'm not saying I was a boss at this or anything. But I repeatedly found myself locked in a spar with vendors--each of us throwing jabs with prices quoted in Arabic-- and flexed my emotional fortitude by being fully prepared to walk way. It was a matter of pride. Some things we bought for a steal and others we walked away paying only slightly less than other tourists might. I call that a win, and had we not set out with the appropriate expectation of getting especially good prices I doubt I would have had the conviction necessary to drive a fair bargain.

Some time in the midst of our wander, hours after our ATM adventure, we run into Max again. He embraces the serendipity of travel and decides to accompany us for the rest of today's shopping. Soon after, Khaled's friend Yousef joins us. All together, we hit a leather store, some more thobe shops, a Moroccan slipper outlet, and we eventually make it to dinner. The food at the Foundouk Bazar is delicious, and still it only half as enjoyable as the conversation bouncing between us five. Our conversation touches on the difference between American and European culture, world travel, racism, urban design, marriage, tinder, health, and more. Max has solidified his place amongst the people who have made this trip one to be cherished. We enjoyed his company and reveled in the conversation; and there was no way we could have expected to me such a person.

A German stranger who becomes a bona fide friend. Tourist trap that becomes a fair shake. Relaxing hammam that becomes an exhausting day of walking and haggling. Life has ups and downs. If we embrace a life without expecation, the downs will not hurt as bad. Though, it is true that expectation can make the ups even more sweet. I don't know where the balance is but I've decided: the possibility of being barred from genuine rejoice is too high a cost for the purchase ofsafety from disappointment.
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