|"The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are
ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the
Don Williams, Jr. (American Novelist and Poet, b.1968)
Abdoulaye and I walk into the foyer of the Hotel Merinides and we immediately feel transported. Richly embroidered couches line the perimeter of the lobby and hand-woven tapestries blanket the floor. Shiny silver and gold tea sets are displayed on wrought-iron coffee tables and royal portraits of Mohammed VI, the king of Morocco, sit quietly in gilded frames by the front desk and on open table spaces. Porters float by wearing fez caps and gypsy suits as waiters expertly weave between the furniture while balancing trays of pulpy, fresh-squeezed orange juice destined for hotel guests on the terrace. We exit the lobby to soak up the panoramic view of Fez at sunset and sigh into white patio furniture as we order two orange juices.
Our flight left Mali this morning at 2 a.m. and we arrive in Casablanca around 5:30 a.m. Customs is a breeze since we are maybe 2 of 4 people not taking a connecting flight to Mecca – our entire flight was filled with Malians making their pilgrimage.
We catch the first train out of the station (conveniently located inside the airport) at 6 a.m. and settle into our first-class seats (definitely worth the couple dollars more in price for air-conditioning and an almost-private car). We try to nap but are too excited to sleep as the Moroccan countryside and city scapes blur past us beyond the windows. Abdoulaye strikes up a conversation with a Moroccan man headed to his home in Fez and asks what are the must-sees in the city. “You have to visit the Hotel Merinides at sunset,” he says. I nod and tell him I will not forget the name and Abdoulaye agrees. Our plans for our first night in Fez are made!
We drop off our bags at our hotel in Fez and freshen up before heading into the city to find lunch. After following the flow of mid-day traffic we find a street side café prime for people watching and settle in. I tell Abdoulaye how much I would like to find a hat and a pair of sunglasses. A few minutes later a man walks by with straw hats and bags; I buy one of each. Satisfied with my purchases, we order our lunch and begin to people watch. A few minutes later a man walks by selling sunglasses. I think to myself 'I could ask for a lot of other things!' but I decide to keep my mouth shut – this game of ask-and-you-shall-receive is getting to be too much!
After filling our bellies we decide to catch a few z's before heading out for dinner. For our first night out on the town I decide to get dolled up and wear an exceedingly cute and equally uncomfortable pair of espadrilles. I still have the blisters to show for them and their cuteness.... We decide to walk to the hotel recommended to us by our new train-friend and find ourselves on a street-corner that looks promising and with another tourist couple looking lost. But tired of walking and with the sun quickly setting in the west, we flag down a taxi and explain the hotel we are looking for. “It's on the hill!” I say excitedly while miming a hill with a panoramic view of the city for our driver since we forgot the name, “and you can see all of Fez!” The taxi driver looks unimpressed with my body language and begins to drive in the direction of what he understands we are talking about. We pull into the hotel driveway and I twist my ankle in excitement as I leap out of the taxi to get change from the concierge. We are here!
We walk through the lobby of the hotel and then sip our orange juices on the patio while the sun sets on Fez. The moon rises in the east and our first day traveling together outside of Mali has come to a close. As I sit on the outdoor sofa next to Abdoulaye I think that life could not get any better than fresh-squeezed juice on a hotel terrace overlooking the former Imperial capital city of Morocco. And then Abdoulaye asks me to marry him so I can enjoy moments like this with him by my side for the rest of my life. Life just got better.
|A carriage ride through Fez our second night in the city|
See more pictures from our trip to Morocco here and here!