Once again I’ve forgotten to calculate blog-time into my schedule. Tomorrow (Friday, June 27), several students from ALIF (including myself) are going on an excursion into the desert, and we won’t return to Fes until Sunday night. So, needless to say, I won’t have time to write blog entries and upload all the accompanying photos until sometime next week. Obviously I have some free time right now, but I need to devote a lot of that time to homework and studying. So it’ll be a little while before I can post the substantive blog entries I was planning. To make up for it a bit, I’ve decided to just post this little entry to give you a glimpse of my routine in the city of Fes.
I’m studying MSA (Modern Standard Arabic) 100 (the beginning level) at the American Language Institute of Fes (ALIF). I have four hours of class total per day: two in the morning, two in the afternoon. ALIF is a pretty awesome place to study. The ALIF garden is the place to be. It’s a courtyard outfitted with several tables, chairs, and benches, with trees providing much-needed shade from the sun. Moroccan students come here to study English, foreign students come here to study Arabic.
ALIF is located in the Ville Nouvelle, the new part of Fes. The Ville Nouvelle (or New Medina) is filled to the brim with concrete apartment complexes, gigantic hotels, cafés, a reeeeaaally long park/fountain (I actually have yet to take a picture of that, gotta put it on my to-do list), an assortment of stores and shops, and more speeding cars, taxis and trucks than can be counted. Some newer additions include a MASSIVE up-scale McDonald’s (much nicer than any I’ve seen in the U.S., funnily enough), and a gargantuan shopping mall called Borj Fes. Pretty much anything you want, you can find in Borj Fes, though from what I understand it’s a bit pricey. Everything’s very hip and French there. I opted to live in Fes el-Bali (the old medina) rather than in the Ville Nouvelle, so the place I have become most acquainted with is this fountain roundabout area. This is where all the taxis (and traffic) seems to congregate, which is good to know since I take a taxi both to and from my home in the Old Medina to the New Medina.
While studying abroad, I’m living with a homestay family in Fes el-Bali. To get to the house from the Ville Nouvelle, you ask the taxi driver to take you to Batha (pronounced sort of like bot-taa). Batha also has a fountain and a roundabout, which makes the commute easy to figure out—you take a taxi from one fountain/taxi-hub to another fountain/taxi-hub.
From Batha, I have to walk 15 minutes or so through the winding streets of the medina to get to my house. During the first half of the walk, I’m going through streets that are still large enough for people to drive through.
During the second half of the walk, however, the streets get really narrow. I haven’t had to share the streets with any donkeys since I’m living in a residential neighborhood, but if you go into the souqs (marketplaces) of Fes el-Bali, you will often have to step aside as donkeys carrying goods make their way down the streets. I have seen men on horseback passing through my neighborhood, though.
Of course, since nobody’s ever content to just walk, a lot of mopeds are driven through the narrow streets of the Old Medina. Sometimes you’ll see a moped attached to a cart, with the cart carrying either goods or people. Since I don’t walk around with my camera unless I’m with a group, I haven’t been able to take a picture of those cart-mopeds, but they’re quite an entertaining sight. Anyways, eventually I’ll arrive at the street that my house is on.
See those stairs in the middle of the photo leading down to the left? That’s the little alleyway that goes to my front door. I quite enjoy walking from my house to the Batha fountain, and vice versa, though it does get a little frightening during off hours when you’re going solo down a dark, narrow street, haha.
Also, there are tons of cats wandering around the city, just like in Istanbul. And also lots of kittens. It’s both cute and a bit of a downer. For example, while walking through the Ville Nouvelle, I saw a mass of kittens huddled together taking a nap. Adorable, right? But when I stopped to look at them, I saw that they all had messed-up eyes. It’s about a 50/50 split between cute and sad.
And obviously every cat is going to be scrawny and mangy, since they’re living out on the streets. It doesn’t bother me too much, since I’m a dog person, but if you’re a cat lover you might have some problems. Mostly I just enjoy their presence, I think it’s fun (and funny) to walk down a street and see cats everywhere instead of squirrels.
That’s all I have time for today. I still want to make a post describing my settling in with my host family, the tour of the Old Medina, and the trip to the Roman ruins of Volubilis and the Moroccan imperial city of Meknes (all that from last weekend!). But I can’t make any promises, since I have the trip to the Sahara this weekend and who knows what after that. And then I’ll have to make a blog entry for that! So lots of blogs to come, at some point, in the near future. Until then, massalama!