It turned out that the bus we got on to go to Fes was a local one, and our 3.5 hour journey extended to 6 hours. I started reading Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, which turned out to be quite depressing. Although, it did make me feel guilty about my discontent regarding the bus ride. Life could be much worse.
We passed by many rural villages, where based on the fleeting glimpse life seemed simple and tranquil, and then we got to the outskirts of the city, which immediately reminded us that we are still in a developing country:
We were welcomed into the city by peddlers who tried to guide us to our hotel, starting with a child who kept telling us “no money” even though he would surely not leave if we accepted his “kind” gesture without reward. It made me feel quite mean to have to be stern to such a seemingly cute child, but we’ve been warned of such acts from locals and kept firm on our stance. Armed with an offline map, we braved the convoluted path through the narrow streets and bustling medina to get to our hostel, and breathed a sigh of relief.
After an expensive and disappointing dinner at a recommended restaurant, we went to explore the medina. It was already night time, and by now we were already weary of the locals, who seemed to be just out to cheat us. Even though there seemed to be a lot to explore, we didn’t stay out too long.
The next morning, we signed up for a guided walking tour with a large group from the hostel. There were a few highlights, like the view point from a playground on top of the hills, but also quite a few annoyances, like being taken to one tourist stop after another to shop, and being blocked by kids who want their pictures taken then chasing us for money.
I did like the random graffiti that we found in random street corners, with varying degrees of artistic ability and themes.
After some argument with the guide over how much to pay, we finally were able to be on our way. Since Fes is known for its tanneries, we found our way to the most famous Chouara Tannery because the picture looked great. It was one of those experiences that made me rethink my values, being a step closer to the awful things that we do to animals in order to get something we want. Humans can be such cruel and selfish creatures, I thought. As we walked through the tannery store with its nice leather jackets and bright purses, I found it disturbing that people would buy these right after seeing the layers of dead animal skins they are made out of piled up outside. But then again, I wasn’t planning on throwing away the leather jacket I was currently wearing, so what right do I have to judge?
Fes was probably my least favorite stop on the trip, mostly because of all the energy we spent trying to not get cheated all day. In hindsight, it was still better than being a tourist in China, where store owners would yell at you if you look at their stuff and end up not buying it. Here, most people returned our “no thank you” with a smile and went on to the next group of tourists walking by. Still, compared to the relaxing atmosphere of Chefchoaen, Fes was just a bit too much of a battlefield for me.