If you ever want to know if you can blend and pass an a native of a specific country try going to a major tourist site with a group of people who can’t pass as natives and see if you get mistaken as the guide. (Its the “Moroccan” guide.. you can tell by the hijab.. right?)
This wasn’t my intent however – that’s what happened to me. I got mistaken as the “Moroccan” guide. Props to me for lessening the harassment to the group by accident. It was smart that generally speaking on our trip into the Old Medina of Fez that we kept our guidebooks on a super low profile. We found the famous gates of the Palace and took photos in front of them and then wandered down the street and through a small souq area and at the end of it we weren’t quite sure which direction to go and so we gambled and went down a set of stairs and found the gardens. Which were beautiful and unique as I couldn’t place all the plants that were in it and a small lake? or moat? I wasn’t quite sure but it was a nice rest stop on our journey to actually find our way into the Old Medina. Our two biggest challenges of the day were finding the Blue Gate aka entrance to the Old Medina and getting out of the Old Medina! (The view of the Blue Gate walking towards it)
One of our group members was offered a “beautiful Saharan lady,” in an attempt to get him to follow a guy down a random street alone and one of our group was taken in by the same guy who told him he had a shop with “pottery,” to sell before we even found the Blue Gate. Allah knows what trouble that group member would have gotten into if we allowed him to wander away alone! Soon after that we wandered down a maze of a street thinking perhaps it led to the Blue Gate only to be offered a “guide” who then led us to a dead end and told us he would find his brother – which was a bunch of hogwash. Good thing I have a good sense of direction and paid attention to landmarks – so I could back track us out of this small neighborhood we had ventured into that wasn’t part of the Old Medina. We were finally able to find the “Blue Gate” and get into the Old Medina with the help of an a guard that was standing watch at one of the back gates of the University. Yippie! We ate at a restaurant that the guard recommended – which was on the roof of a building that had interestingly carved chairs and it was a welcome relief from the heat, journey and masses of people in the tiny cramped streets of the Old Medina. (A view of the roofs of the Old Medina)
Our one group before entering the Old Medina had split in half and I stuck with the slower moving group as I am sure I will in my two years have plenty of time to explore the old Medina and didn’t feel pressured to see everything in one go. Along the way we figured out the Old Medina has markers for different paths to the different sites in and around the area to help poor tourists or Peace Corps Trainee’s like ourselves keep from getting lost.
(This way to the Palace sign)
Sadly the maps were located in random places and hard to find.. we did finally find one that was defaced.
This thing saved our beef bacon and helped us get out of the Old Medina with the least hassle possible which was great after 5-6 hours walking and at times hiking up hills in 70-80 degree weather. Which Alhumdualillah it wasn’t sunny because I am not sure what I would do at that point.. surely I would have melted. In the end it was a great day and it was a great people watching experience!