Grand Taxis and Clocking Lots of Miles

Medersa Bou Inania

Medersa Bou Inania

I spent the morning in Fes with a quick detour to the Medersa Bou Inania, built between 1350 and 1357. No longer used as a theological school, the decoration is spectacular. Opposite is the strange and mind-boggling 14th century water clock. Of course, I had to go back to Café Clock and liked it as much this time as I did the last. The food and wi-fi are both winners!

And then had my first taxi negotiation! Within cities and towns you can use both grand and petit taxis with the latter being these banged up red bits on wheels that do surprisingly charge by the metre. For non-local travel you need a grand taxi and these have a fixed price that the ‘Controller’ will tell you. The discount when you ask for one is always the same, 100 dirhams no matter what the total cost is – percentage discounts unheard of!

I took several of these over the next four days as I went from Fes to Midelt to Azrou to Casablanca. (Which meant stunning views of the High and then Middle Atlas but an insane amount of driving.) All were completely dilapidated Mercedes that are being put down as ‘junk’ in some other country and ending up here. All had seat belts that led to the boot rather than the back seat and all without exception had one window handle that you had to borrow from the driver to wind your window up and down! I noticed that my driver en route to Casablanca actually removed the key and put it in his mouth as if to warm it while we were doing 80km/h on the highway. I have no idea how these things work but it looked dodgy to me; none however broke down so mechanics here must be very good!

When I got to Midelt I told the receptionist who was helping me that one of the bags was fragile. I couldn’t find it later and eventually did in the freezer! I really do have to learn some basic French! Villa Midelt was great: certainly the best room and service I have seen in Morocco. I would gladly use it as a hub when exploring this area.

Embroiderers at Kasbah Myriem

Embroiderers at Kasbah Myriem

The centre attached to the monastery is truly Midelt’s only tourist attraction! It was started in 1922 by a diplomat’s wife who handed it over to the Franciscan Nuns in 1926 and is known as Kasbah Myriem. They have a training facility where professional ladies teach younger women (25 at the moment). There are 5 looms where carpets are woven. They produce beautiful Fes style embroidered table and bed linen. There are only 5 nuns left and they are too old to manage the centre which is done by Nicole Debono who came, fell in love with it and stayed. It’s worth buying from here if you are passing since the quality is fantastic; unfortunately they retail at a similar price to that which I could retail at in India, so I wasn’t able to get any for Arastan.

I also visited a co-operative in Ain Leuh. You can see some of the carpets from here and other Moroccan co-operatives at Kantara Crafts, who are doing some great work for the people and the craft.

Sunset over Midelt and the Middle Atlas

Sunset over Midelt

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