With the amount of sightseeing we did on Saturday and Sunday, we are taking it easy today. We have just been to see the Musee Batha, in a 19th century palace just outside Bab Boujloud that has been an ethnographic museum for the past hundred years. The building itself, with mosaics and intricate woodwork on the ceilings, windows and doors, is in the shape of two U’s, separated by a long covered walkway, both buildings encircling a lovely garden with many mature trees. The collection includes beautiful ceramics, wedding and other costumes, metalwork and jewelry, all aiming to give us a sense of how people lived a few hundred years ago.
We then stopped back at our favorite, Cafe Clock, for a rest and an iced mint tea.
We intend to visit another museum, this one inside the medina, but we are largely finished with our sightseeing in Fes – it is actually a bit smaller, with a few less accessible sights, than we imagined before we arrived, since non-Muslims are not allowed into any of the Mosques or burial monuments.
On our way to our next museum stop, Tali went into a small shop looking to buy some shampoo, as we’re running out, and we’re leaving Morocco’s urban areas for the next couple of weeks. When she asked the price of the shampoos, the shopkeeper at first told her that each was 25 dirhams, but then, out of nowhere, a young “unofficial guide” materialized next to us, and told the shopkeeper that we should be charged 35 dirhams each. Not wanting to support such a blatant exploitation, we promptly walked away.
This is actually the second time this has happened to us in Fez…the first time was when Tali bought some apples from a fruit vendor. Just as she was about to be charged the regular price (remember, Tali is able to speak and understand some Arabic), a local “faux” guide materialized, leaned over and told the seller to charge her more!
It doesn’t always happen this way, though – sometimes, the Koran’s ban on thievery is NOT amended to say “No thievery, except if it is directed toward Western tourists.”. Tali went into a tiny local bakery later on in the afternoon, to get some freshly baked small whole wheat breads for our lunch on the road tomorrow. She asked for five breads, and the old baker was about to charge her 3 dirhams, when, once again, a local materialized, and told him to charge her five dirhams, not three. The kindly old baker just laughed him off, and charged her the lower amount. Thanks to God for the honest among us!
After our little bit of shopping (actually, more than enough for us!), we went to the “Musee Nejjarine des Arts et Metiers du Bois”, a museum deep in the heart of the medina devoted to the arts and crafts related to wood. From throughout Morocco, everything from beautifully painted wooden doors to wooden hope chests, to woodcarving and carpentry tools, were all on display. The Musee building itself was a gorgeous renovation of a stone and wood former storage building, and the exhibits, between one and three hundred years old, were a revelation to us of the beautiful tradition of woodworking, largely using native cedar, that is still alive today throughout Morocco.
We stopped off on the way back to Riad Ahlam for dinner at Cafe Clock – tomorrow, we head south!
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