On Friday, we met up at the language center at 9:30 and took a van to Fes. The two Moroccan students, Kanza and Maroua, joined us on our trip. The ride to Fes from Rabat took about 3 hours, but we took a pit stop halfway to grab a bite to eat. When we finally arrived at Fes, we had some free time at the hotel before we explored the city with a guide. I took advantage of the opportunity and took a fat nap. Our room was gorgeous, with the walls and floors covered in tile. We were placed in rooms of three, and there was (weak) wifi in the lobby area. There was also a pool in the hotel, but none of us had brought our bathing suits. After we got situated, we took a small tour of the city on our bus. We saw the outside of the Medina, visited a synagogue, and saw a panoramic view of the city on a hilltop. The view was, of course, breathtaking. We went right around sunset and was able to see the sky change from a brilliant blue to streaks of pink and purple. We could also see all the boundaries of the old city and the new, both cradled by strings of mountain ranges.
Maroua is actually from Fes, and was nice enough to open her home to us, so our lunch on Saturday was spent with her family. We started out with a huge avocado, tomato, lobster, lettuce salad, accompanied by various other starters. Then we tried some brochettes kefta, which apparently is a Fes specialty. I thought that was the main course, but after the brochettes, we were presented with a plate of 5 full chickens. We finished the meal with a platter of fruit, and I felt like I had just eaten a Thanksgiving meal. It was a great experience, and we did not find out until later that Kanza’s uncle was the former governor of Casablanca.
My favorite part of Fes was the Medina, which is the largest in the world. Thankfully our tour guide showed us around the many alleyways, or else I would have never been able to find my way out. Part of our tour involved a visit to a private Hamman. It was the first time I had ever seen a private Hamman, and it definitely made me want to spend an afternoon focusing on “self-care”. We also had the chance to see a ceramics workshop, a metal workshop, a fabric workshop, and a leather workshop. Afterall, Fes is the artisan capital of Morocco. We were slightly pressured into buying overpriced souvenirs, but we did so willingly because we had just seen all the work that was put into making these products, and it was still cheaper than back home. I bought a coaster and a scarf– the mere beginnings of my Christmas shopping.
On our way back to Rabat, we stopped by Volubilis and Meknes. Volubilis was part of the Roman Empire, which was evident through the layout of the city with a Decumanus Maximus, a triumphal arch, and a basilica. The city was destroyed by an earthquake, but thanks to restoration projects, we were able to see the remnants of many large houses and the mosaics that decorated their floors. Volubilis was a major center for oil production, so we also saw many oil mills from antiquity. I really enjoyed our visit because it helped me visualize history. When I learned about world history in high school, I saw many maps that portrayed the sweeping reach of the Roman Empire, but I was never able to conceptualize how life was like on the fringes of the Empire. I have been to Rome, but seeing replicas of Roman cities on the African continent was a very different experience. The rich in Volubilis seemed to live a very Roman life, despite the considerable distance between the two lands. We stopped in Meknes for just a few hours, long enough to eat lunch and have a quick tour of the Medina.
When I got back from our weekend trip I was exhausted. Monday was especially rough, because I did not have much time over the weekend to catch up on work. The workload in Rabat is significantly greater than that of Paris. While the work in Rabat is similar to the workload back at school, the longer class hours, constant traveling and sightseeing, time allocated to spending time with our host families, combined with the sheer fact that all the material is in French is finally catching up to me. I’ve tried to take a short nap everyday after class, making this feel like my routine back home. There is still much more to do, and it is hard to believe that we are halfway done with the semester.
Until next time!