V and I have travelled to Fes quite a few times since our arrival in Morocco. We’ve walked the narrow streets, navigated dark alleys and crowded into the Fassi souks with the best of them. We now have favorite restaurants and shops and know where the better deals are. According to one of my co-workers, I’ve been to Fes more times than most Moroccans!
During our first visit to Fes I met Mohammed – a merchant whose family weaves cactus silk textiles and has occupied the same location in the medina for over 100 years – standing outside of his shop. Mohammed’s sister Coca, a student hoping to be a tour guide (I am sure that she would be a fantastic one should she pursue it) offered help finding the large tannery. I was far too proud to accept her assistance and now regret missing out on her insider information on the short walk from their shop to the tannery door.
After checking out the tannery I walked by Mohammed and Coca’s shop where I ran into Coca once again. She asked whether I had made it to the tannery and whether I had a good time or not. Coca and Mohammed invited me inside their shop and told me their family’s history and how the medina has changed over the years. Mint tea magically appeared and we shared stories that Coca translated from English to Darija and back. Young relatives brought additional tea and sat down to listen to our conversation, laughing at Mohammed’s jokes and my caveman Darija. Mohammed and Coca asked for me to return for breakfast and said that they wanted to meet V.
- Note – when offered the customary mint tea, stop counting calories and drink it. This is part of Moroccan culture and your interaction with your host is far more important than your waistline. Some Moroccans take one’s refusal of the tea as an insult. Don’t be silly – just drink it!
I returned the next morning with V and met the family before being ushered upstairs for a fantastic traditional Berber breakfast including bisara, a broad-bean soup believed to cure major ills and revive dying horses. We shared more stories and even more mint tea before purchasing a few beautiful gifts for friends and family back home.
We have visited numerous times since and are fond of introducing our guests to Mohammed and Coca and their family. Mohammed and Coca’s hospitality and warmth are a real treat to experience (and their blankets, scarves and pillow cases are fantastic gifts).
We recently brought good friends of ours to the grand tannery and – of course – to Mohammed and Coca’s shop. A visit to the shop isn’t complete without a whole lot of tea and someone being dressed up for a Berber marriage. Luckily, this time I was just a guest at the wedding.
- Note – Google maps is particularly unhelpful when trying to locate Mohammed’s shop. Instead, locate the hotel Palais Amani and step about fifteen feet past the hotel front door (towards the medina / grand tannery). Mohammed’s shop is just a few seconds walk past the Palais Amani front door.
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