And no, we have not been waiting for one last beer or cup of mint tea. The "bar is closed" means the waves
We left on the 11:25 train, arriving at the very new and spiffy train station in Fes at 2:30. Jane asked an English woman whom we met in Salé train station, who runs a guesthouse here, what we should expect to pay for a taxi to the Dar, and the response was “oh, around 50 dirhams” so when one of the taxi drivers out front said 40 dirham to take us to the Bab Ziat (the Ziat Gate into the medina), we agreed with pleasure. Naturally, as we were preparing to return to Rabat we asked our host at the Dar about taxi prices, and he was horrified at what we had paid – so on the return taxi ride to the train station we took a taxi with the meter engaged and were charged a little over 8 dirhams! Oh well, you learn all the time. Since a dirham is about 12 cents US, we can just average the two prices and still come out with an inexpensive taxi.
Our dinner was wonderful. Fuad, the owner of the restaurant, came to pick us up in his car and also drove us home – otherwise we’d never have found the place and certainly wouldn’t have been able to get home in the dark. Since cars and motorbikes are allowed only on the very fringes of the medina, we were driven around the medina, inside another gate, and then Fuad walked us to the restaurant. Fuad’s wife and mother were the primary cooks, and it was soon obvious that Madame Fuad, a delightful plump young woman who clearly loved what she did, played a major role. The first course was “vegetables” which turned out to be a large number of individual plates of wonderful stuff, including carrots with cumin, an eggplant mix, something with zucchini, olives, lentils, potatoes, spicy cauliflour, rice, three large flat rounds of bread, and several other dishes. The lamb arrived steamed, with cumin and salt for us to add as we liked, and with a side dish of rice with nuts and cinnamon sugar. Once we were happily sated, we got the tour of the house, which is 500 years old, and has been in Fuad’s family for 100 years. It is also a dar, which means “house”, specifically one built with several stories of balcony rooms around a central space which soars to a rooftop skylight. It is not an open courtyard garden. The other kind of residence is called a riad, and those are usually larger and have a garden.
It’s a good thing we had that long and filling dinner on our first night in Fes, because by the end of our medina tour the next day we didn’t have the energy left for such a feast. Our guide Hakim picked us up at 9:30 and we didn’t get back to the Dar until at least 5 pm – what was supposed to be a five-hour tour lasted much longer, with out any extra charage, and was superb. We saw several medersas (Koranic schools), including al-Karouine, which is the oldest university in the world, dating from the 9th century. Among others, Ibn Khaldun and Moses Maimonides studied and taught there. We weren’t allowed far inside these, because they were still functioning, but we could see the beautiful tile, woodwork, fountains, and carved plaster decorations that characterize the architecture here. We visited the tanneries (think Moroccan leather), a souk full of woodworkers and stalls where they were building large ornate wedding furniture which one rents for the occasion – a big palanquin in which the bride is carried, and a huge wedding throne, etc. We visited a carpet cooperative and had a wonderful time learning about Berber carpets. Just as we were getting to the point in the discussions where Jane and I were expecting Harry to take over with the final reiteration of “we love carpets but of course we cannot buy anything as we live on a boat, Harry said of the carpet Jane liked best “is that your best price?” Jane’s face registered total shock when she realized Harry also loved the carpet, which the showing expert called a Berber Picasso because of the way it uses color and design. It’s indescribable – and beautiful.