Slept well under my mosquito net. I wrote up my diary and a letter before Rachide arrived. Once more, we had breakfast at nearby cafe before walking down to the ‘Royal Palace’. Rachide said he would wait in a cafe while we walked up to the gates. We asked why. “It’s because the police will ask for ‘baksheesh’ (a bribe) from him if he was seen with us.
Dan and I left him to walk up to the intricately decorated gates of the palace and took a few photos. Later, we found Rachide close-by after walking around the palace. He said he had been stopped by the police and had had to pay 20 dirhams baksheesh to them.
He then took us around Fes el Jdid which was not as interesting as Fes el Bali. We sat in the ‘Marche Vert’ gardens for a while before going to the Blue Gate. From there, we went to the biggest and most interesting university in Fes. On its walls were ancient carvings in cedar wood and stone. We poked our heads into an active mosque which also had plenty of cats lounging about in the heat.
We found a local cafe and ordered tea where we sat about chatting for a while before heading back to Rachide’s place for lunch of chips, bread and little salads. After lunch, we watched Rachida make biscuits which she said were for us to take on our journey.
We sat about for a time writing post cards and talking. I stood outside on their rook for a while, admiring the view of the old medina with its mass of rooftops, TV aerials, cats, and washing lines, as well as hearing the noise from the streets below.
Unfortunately, I had to slip out to use their loo and experienced the basic, Moroccan way of having a crap! Ah. No bog paper. I soon realised the reality about never shaking and Arab’s left hand!
Rachide had to go out at one point to go to a political meeting, in which he said he was going to talk about the ‘baksheesh’ to the police earlier. While he was out, Dan and I noticed a difference in the behaviour of the women in the house change (There were lots of them). They more relaxed and chatty with us. One of the women, Idrissa, was studying biology at university. I chatted with her for a while and then Rachida summoned us into the kitchen to watch her cook the couscous for supper. We thought that they must have thought it was rather unusual for a man to be interested in what they were doing in the kitchen. Rachida asked me what I thought of her kitchen via Idrissa. Her kitchen was in a shack on the roof where she cooked on two gas hobs. She seemed somewhat ashamed of her kitchen. I said that the food which came out of her kitchen was delicious nonetheless. She seemed chuffed with the compliment. Rachida is quite a beautiful woman; tall, slim and with big brown eyes.
Rachide returned, apologising for being late. The household returned to a less relaxed state. We had supper, Rachida eating with us for a change. After supper, we talked and swapped gifts. (Before Rachide returned, we gave Rachida 300 dirhams for a new djellaba and she gave us some of her embroidery as well as some decorated candles). They packed up all the food they had made for us including eight loaves of bread, some biscuits and a stack of dates. We said our goodbyes in nervous Arabic. Rachida wanted us to stay on. As we left, she said “Say hello to your mother!”
Sadly, we left and went to Rachide’s uncle’s house at the other end of the medina to see if Dan could mend his TV. We were met by a young man that we had seen earlier and taken up into a modern block of flats and into one of them. Inside the flat was a collection of young men and women we had seen earlier. The youngest was quite outgoing and spoke a little broken French. Dan soon mended the TV and the video player once we had had a drink with them. We left the flat with grateful smiles exuding from Rachide’s uncle and his family. Three of the young men came with Rachide, Dan and I.
We found a taxi which took us back to the hotel. Rachide came in and we gave him a magnetic backgammon set we had brought with us from England but which we had not used. We thanked him for all he had done for us and he left (We had given him the money earlier on at his house).
I did not know how to feel after he left. It had been an intense few days in Fes. We had almost been living with a Moroccan family while looking around the city, buying goods in the souks and trying to take it all in. We had been very well looked after and given them a generous amount of money to help them along in a country where it was difficult to make a living and to progress. I did not know whether I was relieved or sad about moving on. It had been an intense stay. Fes – what a place.
Will Hawkins lives in Lincolnshire with his family, works in a technology company in London and does as many micro-adventures as he can.
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