I grew up watching Mexican telenovelas.
No, I’m not proud of it. And yes, for some weird reason, Latin American soap operas were extremely popular in Romania back in the 90s and early 2000s. Thalía was my friend, I held back my tears when Marimar ate mud, held my breath when Soraya Montenegro almost killed “la maldita lisiada” and thought people were dumb if they couldn’t tell Paulina Martínez was “la usurpadora“.
My Latino readers will get it…
But what in the world do telenovelas have to do with Morocco?!
If you asked yourself this question is because you are not Latino.
In 2001 The Clone, a Brazilian soap opera, came out and it was a hit all across Latin America… and in Romania as well. The Clone was based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Fez, Morocco and it told the story of a Moroccan girl who fell in love with a Brazilian guy and twenty years later with his clone.
Yes, telenovelas can get that weird!
So when you tell a Latino you’ve been to Morocco the next think s/he’ll ask is “Did you visit Fez? Is it just like in The Clone?”.
Well the answer is yes! The Clone offers a rather realistic representation of Fez, or at least of its medina*. So let me share with you a little bit of my experience there.
I did very little planning before my trip to Morocco. Basically I found a cheap ticket and booked it without thinking too much. I like being spontaneous when I travel and I love getting lost…
I flew into a small city in Northern Morocco and took a bus to Fez. I got dropped off in front of one of the gateways to the medina and as soon as I crossed the old gate, I found myself in a cramped and crowded maze with well preserved ancient architecture, people wearing traditional clothes, a lot of hustle and bustle, vendors trying to sell you everything, camel heads for sell, colorful spices, donkeys…
I felt like I was catapulted 1000 years back into the past.
I was overwhelmed. I was experiencing the strongest culture shock ever!
So I looked for a touristy coffee shop, I tried to calm down, plan for the following days and download a map (yes, I didn’t even have a map!). The first two days I could only eat some chocolate and McDonald’s in Fez’s new town.
Yes, I know what you are thinking and believe me, I’m not that kind of tourist! It was just a lot to take in for an unexperienced traveler.
Leave me alone!
My main source of stress were the vendors, who can be extremely annoying. And the medina is a big marketplace where at every step there are merchants trying to get your attention and push you to purchase stuff you don’t want to buy.
It is part of the culture, I know, and I should have been prepared for that. But I felt harassed.
Thank God I met some really nice locals though, and I managed to overcome the initial shock. They invited me over for tea (Moroccan mint tea is by far the best tea I have ever had) and we ate tajine together.
Tajine is a typical local dish, cooked and served in an earthenware pot and it is one of the most delicious foods I have ever tried.
Looking back, I can say Fez’s old town is one of the most unique places I have ever visited. And it was worth going through all that stress. Once I calmed down I was able to appreciate the kindness of its people and the beauty of the place.
Fez is the only city where I genuinely felt like I was time traveling.
*a medina is an old Arabic town and Fez’s medina is the biggest one in the world. The new town is very similar to any other contemporary Middle Eastern city, with apartment buildings, shops and wide roads.