Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Islam or Shopping- which is more fun? (Fez, Morocco)

Islam or Shopping- which is more fun?
The ancient city of Fez. On the cusp of the maze below, the Sultan's long ago built palace rises towards the sky. The symmetry and beauty of Moorish design put the rest of the world to shame back in medieval times, and in my opinion, is still at minimum on par with anything I have seen to date. The import of Moorish knowledge and culture, sometimes forced by conquest, was certainly a factor in breaking Europe from the grip of the Dark Ages.

Most Moroccan homes and places of business may appear non-descript on the outside, but inside are more tastefully decorated than the Louvre. Moroccans take great pride in their interiors.
The first few restaurants we went to, I remarked to the staff just how lovely the settings and the ambiance were. They seemed almost surprised that I would comment on it. Only after frequenting several more establishments did I realize that such elegantly decorative d├ęcor is the norm. (one can only imagine what lies behind this ornate door of the palace)

One of the many splendid doorways in Morocco
Fez's maze of narrow, winding streets are almost unchanged over the last one-thousand years. In the center I am told still lives a Minotaur. Slay him to extricate yourself from the labyrinth.

The narrow streets of Fez

I stay up all night, and thus, by default, become part of the 5 AM sunrise journey. We drive to a hill overlooking the city, awaiting the luxurious golden-red rays of sun’s first light. The deep peace is broken by only the roosters’ crowing. They quickly become part of the ambiance.
After two hours sleep, we head out into the old city. We stop by an Islamic school where I learn more about Islam, and that the real religion is not quite as “evil” as most Westerners believe. (watch video below)

A lesson in the "coolness" of Islam

In sadder news, today has been reserved as shopping time for the women of the tour.
For me, shopping, in terms of enjoyable activities, ranks just below inhaling unfiltered diesel exhaust from a 1970 bus. My poor Mother, when I was a kid, used to take me kicking and screaming to the mall to buy me clothes for school, and while cheap halogen lighting and chemical cleaners often made me feel quite ill (really), knowing the time and patience my Mom was investing in my well being, I often felt compelled to show my gratitude to her by throwing up all over the dressing room floor, and while the grumbling minimum wage staff of teenagers threw her nasty looks, I would express my discontenment for how my now beet-red mother was making me spend my time by way of, “Are we done? Can we please go? Like NOW?!”
It continues to boggle my mind why anyone would willingly go shopping. If I ever marry, my wife should never let me shop for a house alone, because I would sign papers for the first thing I see just to get out there.
Agent: “We may not be in the best neighborhood Mr. Birecki, but the compacted mud walls will keep you warm in the winter … assuming it doesn’t rain.”
Me: “Where do I sign?”
It seems like A LOT of this trip is based around shopping. Obviously, I am a big proponent of this use of time, assuming it isn’t my time, which it is, cause tour planner Jo Keita would probably go into conniptions if I decided to go base jumping off a few hundred foot tall building. “Richard,” Jo would yell up as I am set to leap to my potential death (which would at least get me out of shopping) “As much as I would love to hear an end to your petulant grumbling, our insurance does NOT cover you in the event of death.”
And then my Mom would press the police to file murder charges against Jo. “Dammit Jo, you can’t take the boy shopping 16 days in a row! Why not just lace his food with arsenic, it would have been a lot less painful for him.”
Well, as I knew that I was flying to Amsterdan in a matter of hours, leaving the tour a day early, and there are no building in Fez tall enough to make a good base jumping platform, Jo earned a reprieve, and I went, along with everyone else, on the “shopping experience of a lifetime.” I threw up at the tannery. I miss you Mom.

The Tannery- see what workers go through to make your products!


  1. hmmm, strange, either you are telling a lie or you must have changed quite a lot lately. I met you at the shopping mall myself and you looked neither unwilling to be where you were nor sick... well, somebody once told me that man´s character changes every seven years. I think that it´s stretched too far, it must be more often, at least acoording to my limited experiences...

  2. Hey, Kate, if you get this email me (I think you have it). I tried to call you but I guess you are back in Slovakia. Get the book The Power Of Now. Very deep. Everyone, including you benefits from reading.

  3. Kate? Who are you talking about? I think you might have mistaken me for somebody else. Too many girlfriends in Prague who were not too fluid... maybe. No, I´m just kidding. Of course it´s me. And I appreciate your concern about my well-being (speaking about your recommendation of that book), but maybe you could read something useful yourself. Something about humbleness and self reflection, for example.


Follow us + like us on Facebook as well --