We are on the road towards the city Fez. Before arriving in Taza town we got caught in rain shower. Upon arriving in big cities without fail we initially freshen up and then enter the city.
How come ride a bike under rain? So far, this never bothered me. Even, the longest video I recorded during my travel was in rainy weather (I haven’t shared it yet). Enes does not like to pedal in wet weather. He says that rain wears out the equipments and he grumbles with long face “Abi (elderly brother in Turkish) it is foolish riding in this weather.” Nevertheless, it was him who accompanied me when I set out for my Japan tour and we rode the whole day under rain in the Black Sea region of Anatolia. At that time he was laughing a lot. I guess, riding uninterruptedly for days made him feel exhausted. He yells during video shooting “Buddy, stay in your beautiful home, stay in your tent, don’t go out in rainy days for a tour.” If it had left to Funda, she would take the bus. Why, because she had changed her wet clothes at our first break, afterwards she got wet again. While Funda was grumbling about the equipments, Enes said: “Dude, what had you been expecting traveling with this guy? Would he choose an easy road or go for a summer resort tour?”
Funda, for the first time in her whole cycling life rode straight for 20 days a bike making her longest distance. (The very first… some get stuck to his point. Buddy you are on the wrong side to the topic!) Her highest climb was the Venta Luisa pass in Spain, 1970 m altitude. She is the first Turkish woman traversing Tabernas Desert on her bike, the only desert in Europe! She ascended a total of 10 000 m in 20 days riding on her bike. Even she got soaked to the skin and murmured “I can’t continue Gurkan, I’m going to take a bus”, she rode the last day 65 km till Fez. She lost 2.5 body size in 20 days (Our sports and healthy diet club has opened. We have only restricted registry. Get in contact with us). In one of my previous writings I had mentioned about the last power of human soul. A spark is needed to set off this power.
– Funda, you’ll do it. The last 10 km (there is still 18 km to go)
– Funda, we have almost arrived, only 5 km (still 10 km to go)
– Funda after this climb, the hotel is just at the outskirts, we have almost arrived (still 5 km to go)
Meanwhile, Funda was really exhausted. Hahaha.. I’m laughing my dear friend, don’t be angry at me. I’m sure reading this now, you are saying “Dude, I did it” not giving up pedaling, pushing your bike, not bothering with the wind, mud and cold during this travel.
(Funda I remember your look and you saying “it speeded up” phew phew : )
We arrive in Fez traversing a hill. You have to traverse a hill to arrive in any town or village in eastern Morocco with no exception. I had found a hostel from “Hi Hostels” in Fez for 7€. While I stopped to look at the GPS to position the hostel, I guy came next to me.
– Do you need a hotel? I can arrange for you.
– We have room reservation, but if you find a cheaper one, why not.
(But I know that there is no one. And I mention a lower price on purpose)
He wanted us to follow his motorbike. After cycling in the middle of nowhere, this traffic is no good. He took us to a flimsy hotel passing through narrow streets of the old town. I check the room with an eye to my group. Especially Enes needs WI-FI which became inevitable after he broke his mobile phone. Furthermore, we need a large space for our bicycles and bags. This first hotel didn’t fit our requirements but cost only 6€.
The second hotel that guy took us was one of the oldest buildings of this town dating back to 14th century. The owner had it renovated and fancied up. While taking us around, he kept saying that it is like a small palace. The owner was living in Belgium. It costs 20€ per night per person which I negotiated down to 15€ breakfast inclusive. On the other hand, the hostel I had found in city center cost only 7€. Funda liked this place and wanted us to stay in this mini palace, Riad Khouloud. Enes wanted to go to the hostel since it cost twice the hostel. During a journey you encounter such moments at which it is meaningless to pinch pennies. I was faced with such situations many times as my road companions happened to witness. Funda draw her last breath of this day while climbing up that hill on the way to the first hotel. The tour was over in her mind for this day. I can feel this. At the end we stayed at that hotel even though Enes grumbled about its price.
(During long distance tours, if there is a woman in the team, the last word for the tent or hotel accommodation would be hers. Dude, I’m not that crazy to suffer for the next days, months or even years not listening to her. : ) ).
The first thing I did was to take a shower. My body riding the whole day in wet weather was exhausted. Not only my body also my gear. Whoa, how come? All the gear I’m using is long term technical gear but has a shelf life. For example, my green The North Face 3 climate jacket started to permeate rain through its seams. Also, my red Gore-tex raincoat became water permeable. But, all these don’t mean that they are of poor quality. One has to take in to account the frequency of usage. An ordinary person would use these products for 5 or 6 years. : ). I have been wearing 4 underpants, 4 pairs of socks, 3 t-shirts, 2 jackets, 2 shorts, 2 buffs, 1 pair of thermal underwear, 1 pair of shoes and 1 pair of sandals for 19 months. Out of my gear my both jackets reached their life span after rain, cold, hot and hand washing. I changed my pair of shoes in Germany with a new pair after wearing for a year.
I took a shower and washed my cloths. The first evening we didn’t undertake anything. Meanwhile, the guy kept telling that he’ll bring a guide for the next day which I put off. Dude, there is no need for a guide.
Funda is giving information about Fez while we are surfing in internet dog-tired as we are in our room. Meanwhile, I started to think that this city is worth for sightseeing surfing in the internet, why not hire a guide for a city tour. I fell asleep. We were really dog-tired.
In the morning the owner of the hotel prepared a nice breakfast for us. Tut, I forgot to tell I want my tea without sugar. No way buddy, better drink coffee in this country. I’m sure hypertension is the most widespread disease in this country. Meanwhile, the receptionist told us that the guy from yesterday was waiting for us with a guide. Ahaaa, that’s good. We better go for sightseeing with a guide. Let’s move.
– I don’t want to come with you
– Dude, why Enes?
– No, abi. Just go without me, I’ll surf in the internet.
– You can surf when we come back.
– No, no.
– Up to you buddy.
Anyway, I hope he will go out during day (In the upcoming days I realize that Enes didn’t take almost a single photo or video between Nador-Fez. I ask
– Why there isn’t any display in your camera?
As he replied as:
– Dude, I’m tired and bored of pedaling, why should I be bored about shooting.
I got it why he didn’t want to stroll around in this beautiful city. Well, sometimes dreams don’t come true. Look at me, I changed my route, do I bother myself for that?
Together with Funda we follow our guide. His name is Abdullah, 63 years old. He is a graduate of Economics Department and is one armed. I didn’t ask why. He had married three times and got divorced from all of his four wives (with one he had only imam wedding : ). He is living with his dogs. His English is like mine, a shit. No problem, we get along quite well.
We walk towards the main entrance of the castle in Medina (the old town) and lose ourselves in the narrow side streets of Fez. After a point I lose my sense of orientation. This is one of the situations I hate at most during travel. The streets become narrower and due to 2-3 stories buildings it is impossible to see anything, after a while the sky also disappears. Due to sun and probably rain the top of the streets are covered. While strolling in streets he takes us first to the bazaar where dates are sold.
For as long as I have known myself, I didn’t like the taste of dates. But, in this bazaar there were so many different varieties of dates with varying prices. Funda goes from one stand to the other each time tasting a different date. Anyway, we stopped in front of a stand. Gee, look at the color of these dates.
– May I taste one?
– Okay. Then give me 250 g, I’ll buy.
– No, I can’t
I returned to Abdullah amca (uncle in Turkish) and said: “Help me out, why isn’t that buster selling me those dates?” Unless you buy 1 kg of dates packed in box, he is not selling. These were special dates, bla, bla. In short he is saying first swear at me.Dude, who is going to eat 1 kg of dates? You itched for it: “Okay, but first I taste one.” Wow, it is really delicious. Dude, for years I had thought they were dates which I had eaten. Funda as a date expert said: “Wow Gurkan, this is it” As he mentioned the price for 1 kg dates I automatically swore. : ) They may really be extraordinary and bla bla but the price he mentioned was really high (Meanwhile 1 TL makes 4 MAD or 1 USD makes 8.14 MAD, actually they were still cheap but too expensive compared to this country’s income).
After bazaar we walked through the streets while Abdullah amca was giving information about the history of the city. Who founded, who invaded, who screw with whom, why Fez is different and special compared to the other Moroccan cities. If you are curious about this city just google. I must say that Fez is the most beautiful medieval city adapted to the present which is among the top three of my “Cities I have seen” list.
You should definitely hire a guide. Don’t say “forget the guide I’ll tour this city by myself.” You pay at most 200 Dirhem (25 USD) for a good guide. But the thing is not just telling about the history, the guide will take you every single spot in this city labyrinth which you wouldn’t find even searching in pain. Hand-woven fabric ateliers, coppersmiths, leather tanneries, cosmetics produced from argan oil, etc. Let me tell about argan oil and leather tanneries as I’m on the topic.
I heard that argan oil is very popular in Turkey nowadays. Much of the argan oil is produced by women co-operatives supported by the government which are mostly found in southern Morocco. After Eshaura (Essaouria) town heading south towards Agadir you encounter many of these co-operatives. Well, so what is the difference between these oils from the ones sold in the north? The price of argan is very high since it has been used in the cosmetic sector. Shopkeepers in towns as Casablanca, Rabat, Meknes, Marrakesh and Fes, double the price of argan oil claiming the certified ones are better. However, Seyma whom I met in Morocco (she is from Rabat and working as a doctor in Layun) told me: “Gurkan, we buy argan oil sold on the streets.” No packaging, no certification.
So, how is argan oil produced and for what is it used? The fruit looks like olive, but it is bigger with a thick peel. Argan tree also is quite the same as olive tree but bigger. People harvest the fruits either collecting the ones already fallen down or whip the branches with sticks and knock the fruits down. The fruit nuts in goats’ dung are also collected. Then, they are processed for cosmetic sector. You know apricot kernel, hah it is like that.. The kernels are also pressed to produce culinary oil. As a one who used both products, let me mention this. My first response was: “Dude, it stinks like shit”. Also the cooking oil produced bears similar characteristics. I didn’t say it for no reason that they are collecting the dung of the goats eating the fleshy part of the fruit. That is the reason for its smell. 🙂 It is said that women applying this oil on to their skin will have no wrinkles like a baby. Therefore, they have bushy hair. (Additional information: I applied it on part my hairless skin with no results). Furthermore, it is used for tanning purposes. But there are main differences between the argan oil used by the Moroccan women and that sent to the other countries or sold in cosmetic stores. Well, how to know which one to buy? You should go for a journey towards southern Morocco. : ) and stop at the co-operatives along your route.
Fez is the only city of this country where production continuous in a vast variety of fields for at least thousand years. It is famous for leather wears. The guy in the shop to which Abdullah amca took us said: “We do not kill the animals for leather production. We only use the skins of animals slaughtered for food in Morocco” Cow, camel, sheep, goat. I’m not sure whether he is telling the truth or not. Throughout my whole life, I had only one leather jacket. I have no idea about their quality and also prices. Well, Abdullah amca showed us this place and left us among this dog-eat-dog society. The shopkeeper:
– Salam my friend. First of all feel relaxed, you do not have to buy anything (Aha, he is going to f… us). Come with me. Let me show you how these leathers are produced.
He explained and explained. Dude, I started to feel myself like a leather expert. My responses while listening to him: “Haaaaaa, woowwwwww, ooooooo, good.” Anyway, the conversation was over, time to take a look to the products. Aha, you didn’t tell all these for nothing, now you are saying time to f…
He wants us to price the products. Dude, how would I know how much? He just explained how hard a job it is. Those guys were hard working, there was sweat of their brows, it was health threatening. Europeans always paid their worth. Well, as I mentioned that we are Turks, I can swear his smile changed. A Turkish group had come before us and they were so good and so. Don’t wash with me. : ). You had no good business with them I can read it from your face, hahaha
– Come on; give a price for this product.
– No idea how much it costs.
– Just price it. It will be yours
– Dude, how come I know how much?
– Give a price.
Well, I know that leather wear are expensive but my budget is limited. Let’s buy a leather scarf for my mother. Dude, how much would it cost? Let’s offer a price.
– Whaaaattttt? Impossible
His face went down. “f… you” that I can read from his face.
– Well, how much does it cost?
– At least 200€. Not lower than this.
– Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. Alright.
This time he read from my face… “f.. you, dude”. After this adventure Abdullah amca took us to a weaving atelier. After this point I told Abdullah amca: Do not take us to shops, we are not wealthy tourists. Let us lunch together and tell us about the history of this city. Tell me about Moroccans and fuck off the shops. I’m sure he is paid by the shopkeepers he takes us. Look, I bought a scarf for my mother in the shop you took us. Let’s go for lunch to eat couscous together. From this moment on, he didn’t take us to any other shop. He showed us around and he only talked and talked.
The most expensive meal (which I ate in Casablanca) will cost at most 60€ for two people, wine, fish, side dishes, fruit, desert all inclusive. When you have a breakfast in Moroccan cafes outside touristic areas it costs about 2 USD with fresh orange juice, Moroccan tea, olive oil, peanut butter, honey, butter, olives. Including omelet it will cost 3 USD. Chocking full your stomach costs only 3 USD.
Dude, something stuck in my mind, let me ask Abdullah amca
– Everybody in Morocco thinks that we are Arabs. Why? We are Turks and have no blood ties with them.
(Thanks to the e-books I’m carrying since beginning of my travel, I’m about to finish my 16th book. Meanwhile I’m reading the road memories of our Turkish ambassador who crossed Sahara desert with camels in 1850. I also will answer this question I asked him in detail in my next writings.)
– You are Ottomans. It is not enough when you just say that you are Turk. You ruled the Arabic world for centuries. Thousands of ethnical groups were under the protection of Ottomans. For this reason, do not bother and get upset when people take you as Arabs and speak Arabic with you. If somebody says Turk the first thing that will come into our minds will be Ottomans and Ataturk.
– Funda did you hear what he said?
– Yes Gurkan, I heard.
– Do you know Kemal Ataturk?
Upon this question he looked at me as if saying “are you fucking about me”… then he had the last word of this conversation
– He was a magnificent leader.
From Japan to Africa, to Morocco
(The ones who read my road memories would know what I’m talking about.)
I better stop here and do not bore you further. The road is long and times plenty.
The city Fez was the last spot where the trio pedaled together in Africa. It is time to leave for Funda. By the way, I received plenty of messages about why I changed my route. “Why didn’t you go to Portugal? Why didn’t you pass through Gibraltar? Why didn’t you stay longer in Spain? Dude, you wanted to meet Elena and Terry (my friends with whom I pedaled together in Japan).” I was always the one who traveled solo without any time restrictions. Therefore, I had never planned my road route and accommodation. When my team mates came to meet me all the plans changed. Funda had one month time, Ayse had 20 days time to accompany me after Casablanca and Enes 3 months time. So we set manageable goals to be able to move together. For this reason I skipped Portugal, pedaled for a shorter time in Spain and couldn’t meet my friends and so on.
But I didn’t let my friends down and didn’t say: “Hey, okay, just continueby your own from here” The outmost point was Fez and we cycled together till there. And we shared the good moments we lived and realized once more that we are good friends, comrades. Let’s see what will be the next point Funda will join me. She was saying Cuba the last time. : ) …. My dear Funda I kiss you. : )
This is a bicycle question for Turkiye. “In which spot and country I couldn’t warm myself up although wearing layers of clothes?” I only accept answers sent on April 18th, 2014 between 4:00-9:00 p.m. and won’t look at messages sent afterwards. email@example.com (10 people sent messages. The right answer was given by Berkay Cakan, Servan Kurt, Serhat Uzel and Kadir Korkmaz. Tomorrow, I’ll make a draw and share the name of the winner.)