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Sunset at the mosque. Morocco Summer Program.

Fez on the Beaten Path

It has been a bit since we returned from Fez, but it was a much-anticipated city for me after the hoardes of people at home asked if I would visit there on this trip. Fez is wholly romanticized as the religious, historical heart of Morocco, but it proved difficult  “get lost” as our instructors had assigned us to do. We were caught in a forest of tourism — from the rugs and kaftans to open wallets — and that was the true headspinning maze of Fez. The majority of individuals on the most crowded streets looked for a sale, and we encountered difficulties trying to get a fair price for drinks in a cafe. However, when our group tried the side streets, we felt as if we had interrupted a breathing community with our brimmed hats and daypacks. Fez had a very high tourist to Moroccan ratio and starkly contrasted the warm hospitality of Moulay-Idriss. It proved difficult to escape the metaphorical (and literal) beaten path.

A hope of more unique exploration glimmered when we entered a spice shop on the main road, coerced inside by the shopkeeper. Most of us expected a brief purchase, but the owner took his time to educate the group of Morocco’s diverse flavors. This included black anise, which we all took a breath of to clear our sinuses. It burned a little, but proved to be a hilarious and useful spice to bring back to the entire group. Although the beaten path strangled us, we made a connection to the shopkeeper and participated in some very fun hands on education.

I thought about Robert Frost’s famous poem “The Road Not Taken”, which people crown as the most famous work to illustrate the idea of leaving the “beaten path”; however, some have argued that the poem actually represents how difficult it is to appreciating the path one takes instead of lamenting what could have been. Although I intitally felt sorry about our inability to forge our own adventure, I have left Fez without regrets.