Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. SO. You know how the guidebooks and people who live here give advice? That tourists should follow? Well, we did what they said NOT to do.
We took advantage of our hostess' offer of her cousin as a guide. Guidebooks say to only use official guides. Why? Well, apparently one can get taken advantage of by faux guides, and Moroccan police are cracking down. We should have worried when K told us that if anyone asks, we were looking for houses and Mohamed (the guide/cousin) was our realtor. Riiiiight.
So, we set out into the medina with the faux tour guide we couldn't understand. He showed us (we think) a mosque or two, and a couple of herb shops ("Berber pharmacies") in which we had identical presentations on the spices, perfumes, and herbs used for medicine. About the time a suave English-speaking man had us inhale anise (used to cure snoring!) through our nostrils, I wondered if we were about to be drugged and kidnapped. Nah--it was just an incredible sinus clearer. Whoo-ey. I am not kidding. They had jars of curry, saffron, "45 spice mix for lazy cooks", musk (I smell like Man now), and...viagara? Huh. Beth and I were guilt tripped into buying curry, but at least we LIKE curry.
We saw hole-in-the-wall (literally) shops for knife-sharpening, silver plates, scarves, thread, clothes, food, and leather products. The medina is a MAZE of stone alley ways and walls and was mostly shaded by patios and wooden, slatted roofs. We passed many donkeys and mules laden with many wares, and were almost killed by several of them rushing through the narrow passage ways. We were called to in French, Spanish, and English by men in shop doors: "I looooove yoooou!" "Hellooooo!" "You liiiike?" (Vowels come in sets of many.)
See the rooster?
Mo's ear as we blaze through the medina:
Besides the herbs, we were given presentations on weaving carpets and tanning leather at the tannery. I am officially a pushover and can't say no. Sigh. After a long discussion (30 min?) at the carpet place, I came away with not one, but TWO, silk blankets/tablecloths. Thankfully, I love them. But, I wondered: whyyy did I buy two? [Bethany ended up buying one from me later.] I talked them down a couple hundred Dh, but probably could have gotten a better price, were I not so *nice*.
The tannery was AWESOME. We saw the huge outdoor tanning floor for conditioning (in limestone), washing, and finally dying vats. The color vats were beautiful reds, yellows, and greens. The guidebooks says that pigeon waste and cow/sheep urine are used to tan--they certainly smelled it. We were given mint leaves to sniff. :) Our tannery guide was also our salesman (natch). After much browsing and hemming and hawing, Beth and I both bought two leather footstools. I bought mine (both camel skin) for 1100 Dh--down from 1650 Dh--and Beth got hers for 900Dh down from 1600Dh. Not bad...
Yellow skins drying:
View from the tannery:
After the tannery, the fun started. Suddenly, Mo pushed us behind a counter of a hole in the wall cafe and ran off. We got cafe au lait and sat on plastic shairs with three men (who were smoking), watching Arabic music videos, contemplating the dinginess of the perhaps 10' x 5' shop and Mel's advice to avoid coffee shops because they contain only men.
Awkward picture in awkward cafe:
Mo returned in a few and whispered, "Remember, you are looking for houses!!" (Well, it was more "frenchfrenchfrench HOUSES!!") He grabbed our shopping bags (WHY did I buy TWO stools??), threw them into a corner, and led us off, following two men in street clothes carrying walkie talkies. After a brisk ten minute walk, we arrived at a police station. Awesome. Back to the po-po. I mean, the Mo-po. Suddenly, Greg's advice to stay out of Moroccan jail was not seeming so absurd, and thoughts of "Oh, Joey hasn't seen a Moroccan prison--haha WE might!" ran through our heads. Yep. Second detention by Mo-Po.
They chatted with Mo for a while, while we admired the ornate woodwork of the station and contemplated our fate. "Surely WE couldn't be in trouble? We are Americans gosh darn it! Tourists! The King LOVES tourists!!!"
An officer spoke very little English with us, during which we think we agreed that we were house hunting. I vaguely worried about lying to foreign law enforcement, but also didn't want to get our nice (free) guide in trouble (even though it's totally his fault). We filled out a handwritten form for another officer (I never saw a badge though...), with our names, parents' names, place of birth, with passports. But, Beth didn't have hers..."eh, it's ok." Suuure, MoPo, suuure. More waiting. If their records were as thorough as they seemed on the surface (forms at airport, in Hoceima, for hotels, with F & K) surely the official records that we were both "tourists" in Tanger and "searching for house in new city" would be suspicious. Not here apparently. After at least a half an hour of wondering whether we'd see a jail cell and how our pricey souvenirs were doing in the coffee shop somewhere in the medina, we were let go. Huh. Ok.
Our dude led us off down windy streets that may have been familiar. Maybe. Imken. Beth held her cool through a several minute stop at a ceramic stop and more minutes of wandering through shops before finally asking him (forcefully) to "take us to the cafe where we WERE. We need our STUFF." He finally got it, said "OOOOOH you nervous? Oh yes we go!" We think he was laughing at us. Whatever, n00b. He got us there. Our stuff was there!! He ordered more cafe au lait for us, paid for it (gosh darn right he'll buy us coffee) and the ones we left in our haste to meet the MoPo. He said "we go home". Yes. We go home. He first took us to HIS house, which was...weird. Thanks, Mo. Then finally, we were back home. WHEW. Al hemdu Allah!! Rubbish party=OVER.
F served us tasty lunch, then we chilled and debriefed each other. We met Hilary, an American grad student in Public Affairs from Denver, who was alone in Fes and mildly freaking out because her friend couldn't come up from Rabat at the last minute. We saw her off on a guided (HAHAHA) tour and felt like total pros. (Her guide spoke English. We were slightly bitter.)
Another delightful trip to the internet cafe left us convinced we should take a 2am train to Tanger tomorrow, instead of a 1am bus to Tanger. Pray we don't die.
[By now, seriously, malish. It's Morocco. Just don't think about it. MoPo? Cockroaches? Squatty potties? Whatever, let's move on.]
We met F and K's two American students here for the language school, and are going to walk to New Fes with them tomorrow morning. So, g'night, y'all!
We are trying to pack up our souvenirs and process our day. It involved lots of giggling: