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Fes, Act 1

June 27, 2016

I left Cambridge for Fes on a Sunday night. After driving into town in a taxi cab I found myself greeted by Abdul Kareem, the proprietor of the gorgeous Dar Hafsa riad hotel. “Like Kareem Abdul Jabbar,” he laughed, grinning a wide mouthed grin. He had salt and pepper grey hair and large dark rings under his eyes, but his grin and animated, often smiling eyes gave him a younger look.

He had on a black Yankees cap. It was unclear if that meant anything to him. When I asked him if he was a baseball fan, he stared at me with his mouth open for about a second and a half, then smiled and said “Yes, yes,” which turned out to be his response every time he didn’t hear or didn’t understand what I was saying.

Standing about a full head below me, he would grab my arm or tap me with the back of his hand when he wanted to accentuate a point or get my attention, which turned out to be a Moroccan thing generally.  Sometimes he would stop completely, in the middle of the endless medina foot traffic: “You’re only spending two days in Fes? No, no, not enough time! Fes is a big, big city! I’ll tell you what, my friend. You need a tour guide. I will set it up for you tomorrow.” The Moroccan merchant class has a skillful way of presenting choices as already decided realities.

I’ve never been much of a fan of tour guides, but at his insistence I opted for the guide. In a few hours, I would be touring Fes’s millennia-old medina. I indulged in a midnight meal of lamb tagine with prunes and a half an hour of Moroccan channel-surfing before sleep.

The highlight of Moroccan TV: a music video mostly consisting of a camel bobbing along the desert in rhythm with the music.


Dar Hafsa, my Fes palace riad


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