While with Gutsy Women Travel earlier this month, I was fortunate enough to experience Morocco and to enjoy traveling with thirteen other inspiring women. We came from all ages and backgrounds, but somehow formed a community within a matter of days that I am looking forward to staying in contact with for years to come. Over the next few posts, I am planning on writing about my experience and how other women who might want to try visiting Morocco can find a safe way to do it.
Starting in Fes.
We hit several major cities while we were there, but for me, the adventure really started in Fes, where we were taken through the old medina (or city in Arabic). Fes is known for being one of the old political capitals of the country of Morocco, and even though it is not as modern as Rabat or Casablanca, the ancient charms make it truly an unforgettable city. Weaving our way through winding alleyways, Fes was an explosion of sights, smells, and sounds. Some were colorful, delicious, and musical, while others not as much. Freshly cooked tajine (a Moroccan dish cooked in the oven for up to two hours) could be sniffed as we walked, as well as the tanneries where Fes’s famous leather products are made.
Each city in Morocco has a speciality product and Fes tends to hold a monopoly on leather goods. While there, we visited a tannery and were able to get a great view of the large dying vats. A mixture of pigeon feces, natural ingredients like saffron or jasmine, and water made each color unique—it is also made the product’s color lasting.
Unable to resist a gorgeous leather jacket, I splurged on a motorcycle-style beauty that I managed to bargain down to an incredibly low 300 USD. It was wonderful being surrounded by women on that occasion as they oohed and awed and encouraged me to try it on. What I love about traveling with other women is the fast sense of community that takes place. After only a few days, I felt like these ladies were my friends and that we already shared an understanding.
Fes is not only famous for its leather. Its university is one of the oldest in the world. Men, the blind, and most surprisingly, women, were able to study here for free. Everyone who entered was a scholar according to our local guide of Fes, Michael.
We also visited a ceramics factory where we were able to see the process of how their dishes, pottery, and tajine cookers were made. It is such a developed process watching each detail and knowing how much time, work, and care that goes into making one item. The sounds of workmen and women chiseling away at the ceramics school (each student is given the opportunity to learn the trade to start a business of their own) along with the colors of the natural dye again reminded me how sensational Fes is.
While wandering through the city, it became more and more apparent to me that Morocco really is a city that women should be feeling comfortable in. It would be easy to dismiss it because of recent news in the United States media, but Morocco is an incredibly forward-thinking country—a combination of striving to move into the future while struggling to keep a hold on its past. Our tour guide, Noury, offered a great saying. “Love your mother, love your mother, then love your father.”
For me, Fes was a wonderful introductory to a journey that would span over the rest of Morocco and that would challenge my cultural perceptions. I was lucky to have been a part of this group of Gutsy Women and to have had the opportunity to visit such a fascinating location.
Up next on the Moroccan expedition? The desert.
Have you ever been to Fes? How do feel women were perceived in the Moroccan culture?