April 14th – We wake up at 5:30 a.m. and board our little tour bus. It’s a seven hour drive north to Fes. The trip is a scenic drive through Moroccan fields and mountains. It’s wildflower season and we see varieties everywhere of yellows, reds and blues. Someone yells that they want to lie in a field of poppies. I agree. We are driving in the middle of nowhere and see the first cluster of huts we’ve seen for hours. There is one small shop in this cluster, with two signs outside. One says Coca Cola, one says Tide. No matter how far you go, work will always follow you.
We arrive in Fes after our long trip, and enter the magnificent Riad Tizwa. A redhead comes bounding down the steps, and we drop our luggage and run to hug Joya, who has finally made it to Morocco after her demanding legal job almost prevented her from taking the trip she had been looking forward to for months. She takes me to our room, which has a canopy bed with closeable curtains, a fireplace, and an intricate Moroccan lantern hanging from the ceiling. The bedroom windows look down into the hotel lobby, where the rest of our group is still getting settled and finding their rooms.
We leave the Riad to visit the famed Fes Souks, which are exactly as I imagined – crowded alleyways with shopkeepers trying to sell you everything from fruits, spices, camel meat, jewelry, clothing, shoes, herbs and more. At first I didn’t see anything I wanted to buy in these shops, although I was taking notice of some mirrors with beautifully decorated mosaic patterned frames. Some of them had little doors on them that opened to reveal the mirror, and many of them had a distinct orange color that I adored. I finally came across one that I decided I must have, with an orange and gold border. I’m told the orange is camel bone with henna dye. I bargain the shopkeeper down to half of what he first asked for, so I probably got a reasonable price for a white tourist. We make our way back through the souks to the clock tower café, where we eat couscous, vegetables, cheese, fruits, almond, banana and date shakes, and…camel meat.