Monday, November 2, 2009

Burning Garbage Smell Like Home...but Seattle Will Always Taste A Whole Lot Better

I'm listening to Belle and Sebastian’s “If You Find Yourself Caught in Love (feel free to ignore the weird montage) and I can’t help thinking what a wonderful Sunday morning song it is. Sunday morning is my favorite time of the week -- mostly at home, but sometimes at Penn too. When I make pancakes or French toast (hopefully with cinnamon and not havdalah spice {cloves})…Having - at in the summer - just come back from waterskiing, still wet from the shower, but starving, I pop in a Sunday Morning Mix and just flip those pancakes with sweet sweet syrup and a whole lot of love.

Sunday morning. Ahh. (Azoses, if you're reading, you probably understand....) Maybe its because my mother and grandparents have been in town since Thursday night! I still sort of can’t believe they’re in Morocco. We went to Fez for the weekend, and if I thought the Toledano’s was a resort vacation, well, let me tell you, the Palais Jamai hotel in Fez (situated on the edge of the ancient 9th century medina, actually in the Melah (what was the Jewish quarter) was so far beyond luxury I cannot express in words the beauty, detail, and attention I received as a guest in this hotel. Not to mention the breakfast. Reminded me of Sunday mornings at home.

I want to write about Fez, but the Palais Jamai looms literally and figuratively in my mind and I am finding it difficult to put down words that don't overflow with
praises for the place. Which is why I chose my title -- its weird that burning garbage has become such a normal smell to me - its like home, but at the same time its a) not Seattle and b) compared the Palais Jamai, which is, I suppose, (in fairness, a bit above, but closer to) my personal "quote" standard of living "end quote", its this weekend was very very weird. But here goes my howla (attempt):

FEZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (sometimes with a Z sometimes with an Arabic its a "Sin")
Fez is an assault on the senses. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a welcome assault, but it can be sort of, err...violent at times. The tanneries, for example, exude the ungodly smell of camel, sheep, and goat hides transported on donkeys, the primary mode of transportation in the medina itself, one of which literally tried to stomple my poor grandmother. But just a moment -- I’m rushing ahead of myself...

Back Up:
On Shabbat my mom and I walked the centuries…and the city. We walked from the time when Islam came to Morocco with Moulay Ismail in the 9th century and Fez was established directly to the Fes Al-Jedid, which means “The New Fes”. Now, “The New Fez” is actually in no way new. It was built after the mass emigration of Muslims and Jews in the 13th and 14th centuries from Spain during the Inquisition. We walked down the road that used to separate the Muslim area (25 Mosques) from the Jewish area (36 synagogues!) and saw all of the Andalusian architecture and balconies that remain. Gorgeous, but surreal. It felt like we were back in Cordoba, Grenada, or Ronda, for my Aunt Lauren’s wedding! We walked all the way past the King’s Fes palace - apparently the largest one in Morocco - with Marrakesh a close second. On our way past we took a look at the doors that were put up by a Fessi artisan in 1968. I recognized them. They were the doors that adorn the cover of my (and every other tourist in Morocco’s) Lonely Planet Guide! We got to meet this auspicious character that very day on our tour of the medina on our way back from shul! Anyway, just past the palace the French take over, and the bread becomes suspiciously white, the boulevards auspiciously wide, and the fountains conspicuously lavish.

The Shul is Green!
Going to shul in Fes was great. I still am not sure why it was Green...maybe the evil eye or maybe because the color of the city is blue and the Jews always have be contrary in some way. In any case, I reconnected with the Israelis from Agadir and the Hillulah of Rabbi David U-Moshe who seem to be following me everywhere, while my mother marveled at the similarities between “our” SBH and EB Sephardim back home and the Moroccan Jew’s tunes and customs (which involve much rolling of their throats (there's a word for that but I forget and you know what I mean) and yelling corrections at the ba’al koreh [Torah reader]). We had Kiddush with the old Fessi group (between 15-20 regulars) of which I knew-ish one through another friend-ish that I made on the way to the Hillulah from Casablanca. Incredibly friendly people. Post-kiddush lunch with the masses of Israelis - schina, of course - was delectable.

I got over my over-eating at lunch by walking all the way to and through the old medina, seeing the Rambam’s house (!), or actually just a tile in the wall that says “Maimonides House”, where a Muslim family now lives, an antiquities shop with ancient Berber-Jewish jewelry, menorahs (I bought an imitation later in Chefchouen this weekend...but that's for later), and even an ancient Torah scroll. I saw kids with no shoes running up and down the steps of this ancient (9th century, don't forget!) valley, bleary-eyed donkeys who's drivers yell "Balak!" before they try and trample you, and the Kairowan University mosque -- and although we couldn’t go in, its intricately detailed doors stand as a testament to the allegedly first university in the world, founded by a woman, and still located in Fes.

The Rest -- Briefly:
I BOUGHT A LEATHER JACKET AT THE TANNERIES. So much for the vegitarian lifestyle- but its definitely local (though I didn’t see this animal killed….allhumdulilah) I saw the hide being transported, the skin being dyed, dried and shaped -- before my very eyes. So at least its local. We saw carpets galore in a riyad with the tallest ceiling you’d never know was there if you didn’t open the door, and a view from the top that was just breathtaking. We saw potters and weavers and the man who made the Lonely Planet doors - I think I mentioned that. And then I went back to Rabat on the train. And I had midterms. And that’s why this blog is late. My mother left yesterday which was sad...sigh. Sunday mornings.

I think this post, and all of my 3-4-5 hour trips with nothing but me and my ipod warrant two songs for this post. So here's a song I had stuck in my head all through Ceuta, which I will discuss, inchallah, very soon. Its by Ben Folds, and its called Hiroshima. Listen to the lyrics. I chuckle every time.


  1. "This tastes like havdalah" :)

  2. the Azoses are avid readers of HaKol shel Shev. can't wait to visit on a Sunday morning. You bring the music We'll take care of the rest...