I Sidestep a Lunatic and Make a Friend
September 16, 2007
North Africa Page: http://canciondelvagabundo.googlepages.com/northafrica
The Youth Hostel in Fes keeps odd hours during Ramadan. They are closed for most of the day- from 10AM to Noon and then again from 4PM to 8PM and then the doors are closed and locked for the night by 10 PM. The worst part is that everyone that is staying here are kicked out into the streets during the times that they are closed. This is a hassle, as it is not a good place to write and work in, but it is still the cheapest place in town. The nighttime games and conversations with other travellers are also fun.
But there is no beer or alcohol here. It is interesting to know that travellers still hang out, talk, and tell silly jokes to each other without beer. These Moroccan Youth Hostels have been surprisingly fun, despite all of their rules and annoying hours of operation.
A I could not be in the room that I paid good money for (55 Dirham) from 4-8PM I found myself just wandering around the city passing time. Around 5 PM the streets were packed and people were crowded everywhere buying little brown sugary looking Ramadan sweets. By 6 PM the streets were deserted. Absolutely silent. It was surreal. I was the only one walking down the streets of a city that is usually packed full of everything. This was getting near the time of day that Muslims break their Ramadan fast and were, therefore, at home eating a festive meal with their families. Nobody was on the streets except for a stray local who did not have a home and foreigners. It was an odd scene to behold. Nearly the entire local population was taken out of a city and only the tourist and travellers remained.
The people of Fes told me that this was a time of anarchy, as even the police officers are at home eating with there families. Warnings to be careful and to stay out of the streets were followed by a slammed door, as I was kicked out of the Youth Hostel and into the streets. I did not understand the irony. Moroccans do not seem to accept being inconvenienced by the demands of work, or maybe their attitude towards foreigners just lacks the respect that they would normally show to another person. I sometimes think that they think foreigners are things.
So I was out walking the streets of Fes without much direction. All of the shops, tea houses, and restaurants were either closed or were not operating even though technically open. I walked into a teahouse and the waiter refused to even look at me, let alone serve me tea. He just pretended that I was not there. He almost even ran me over as he walk towards the door in an attempt to ignore me further. After trying to go to two more cafes only to have this same behavior repeated, I gave up the idea of drinking a pot of tea and got back to wandering the empty streets. On one side of town I walked past a traveller who had a curly afro-like head of hair and the beginnings of what had potential to be a really great beard. We just looked at each other as we passed ways; maybe we figured that the other one would say something, but neither of us did.
I kept on like this, as did all of the other tourist and travellers in Fes, for a good while. I just took in the pure surrealness of the moment. Eventually I was back walking on the main drag, Hassan II, and saw the curly afro-headed, beard growing traveller sitting cross-legged on a bench in the median between the north and south bound routes of Hassan II. I felt like conversation, and this traveller looked as if he had crossed some horizons in his time. So I sat on a bench across from him and wondered to myself if I was going to initiate a conversation or just sit there looking at him like a creep.
A lunatic then broke my concerted effort to make this decision with yells and screams in an unidentifiable language at an opponent whose presence I also could not identify. He was in a really heated debate, and from the amount of exertion he was putting into his argument, I assume that his imaginary enemy was quite an orator. The lunatic then walked into the median, where myself and the traveller were sitting, from across the deserted road and carried on his tirade. The traveller and I just watched him with a slight amount of amusement. Then, the lunatic began his assault in my direction. Yes, he began yelling and screaming towards me In this situation, I figured that I had better make friends with the curly afro-headed traveller quick. So I jumped up off my bench and greeted him with a slight joke. The traveller accepted my joke and we became fast friends of the road.
His name was Meikal, and was from Switzerland. He spoke English very Germanically and delivered his sentences in the off-beat way of the artist. He was travelling in Morocco to gather impressions of the country to make a comic book. He was an artist and seemed to really dig sitting cross-legged on park benches. We made some jokes and exchanged our Couchsurfing profile information.
He then told me a tale about an American Traveller that he met in his travels who hated the United States, has not been back in five years, loves Japan, and said that he could travel in Europe for five months on 1300 Euro. I said that I wanted to meet this guy.
“You can,” Meikal said, “he is in Meknes.”
So I got on a train and journey an hour west to the old imperial city of Meknes.