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Scenic Route

An Unchartered Direction

MOROCCO | Tuesday, 26 May 2015 | Views [157] | Scholarship Entry

With 9,400 streets, getting lost in the medina in Fes isn't so much an accident, but a requirement.

Our tour leader had not yet finished his historical notes on the town before I wandered down a path of my own. The cobble-stoned alleys narrowed as I reached the centre of the medina. The sounds of babbling negotiations and donkey hooves clapping against the brick slipped away. I stepped from the tapered street into a small Mosque where all noise was reduced to a gentle hum that vibrated against the mosaic walls. Men went about their business, peacefully unaware of the chaos beyond the walls. Knowing that my presence could cause offence, I returned to the street I had come from.?

There was nothing at the end of the street, only the choice to turn left or right. My basic French told me I would find myself at some sort of school if I headed right. I kept right secretly enjoying being lost. The Medersa, religious school, was empty but inviting. I made my way up each flight of stairs until a wooden barricade forbade me from going further. I climbed over it and wound up a few more flights until I reached the rooftop. The entire medina was laid out like a map before me. With no chance of remembering which lane led where, I descended to the ground floor, hoping to find my group before it got too dark.

Going against my initial idea of meeting my companions in main square where the bus had dropped us earlier that afternoon, I searched for the leather tanneries. I knew that was the last stop on today’s itinerary and felt confident I wasn't too late to miss Fes’ speciality. The stench of pigeon droppings, used to bleach the animal hide, was growing stronger along with my regret of not accepting some mint-soaked tissues from a passerby a few streets back. I weaved in and out of leather stores, politely declining enthusiastic sales pitches as I went. Ready to break the golden rule of travel and pull out a street map, the area around me was whipped into motion. Pedestrians hastily formed a single file line along the left hand side of the road. An old man made his way down the tight space calling “Ballack!” as loud as his lungs would allow. A donkey carrying a dozen red and gold rugs followed the man. Taking advantage of the space that had been created, I tucked in behind the animal, praying it was headed for the main square.

Being lost in another country isn't always the best way to end a story, but it certainly is the best way to start one.

Tags: 2015 Writing Scholarship

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