The Treasure to find a Home away from Home

I spend one night in Chefchaouen, the blue city, set in the Rif Mountans, where fields of cannabis are blossoming. Morocco is the largest producer of cannabis worldwide, even though the consumption of drugs is illeagal and can be punished with prison. The town is beautiful but small, so I find some hours of wandering just enough to move on the next day. On the rooftop of my hostel I find the people who had been staying in Chefchauen for weeks, smoking and smoking am smoking, sitting in the same spot, probably until today.

All the nice buses to Fez have been sold out to so the next day I mount a vehicle that is way past its time. The air is flirring with heat and a guy tries to get me to pay 5 Dirham for pointing me out the free seat, what I did not ask him to do. I look at him very firm and say la (no). Somehow I convinced him that there will be no negotiating about that and he moves on to harass a French couple, the only other foreigners on the bus. The more intimidated they seem, the more he puts on his play in the arena of global tourist scam circus. They pay him and with a smirking grin he leaves the bus. I start to talk with the French girl, Coralie, a journalist from the Normandie. The heat in the crowded bus with no AC is almost unbearable, so having someone to chat, makes the 6 hour busride more bearable. As long as the bus is moving at least there is some air flow but each time we stop it seems like we have arrived in Hell. It becomes completely clear why people in the Middle East, where the monotheisic religion emerged, would percieve Hell as a hot place as opposed to cold a place. As we arrive in Fez my water bottle has shrank from the heat, the label is flattering around it, just like the clothes of these women in the before/ after weight loss pictures.

As we reach Fez, the impressive outer city walls of the Medina bear the promise of secret alleys, ancient merchants and 1001 night fairy tales come true. I had watched so many documentaries about Fez, read so many articles that all destinations before it seemed just stops along the way to the place meant to feed my curiosity at last. Fist it was time to meet up with Btissam, the sister of my couchsurfing host Yassine who had agreed to welcome me, as Yassine was still traveling with his friends and would arrive in the evening only. The concept of couchsurfing is to open one owns home to travellers and let them sleep on your couch, sharing cultures and conversations. I find it one of the most beautiful communities existing on a non capitalist base. I take a small taxi to the part a bit up from the Medina, as I try to find the location and get a bit lost, people approach me and yell “Nothing Here” “Medina this way”, confused about the invasion of a backpacker in their local neighbourhood. Maria, the mom of the family picks me up from the local Mosk. She greets me with a warm smile and we try to communicate in a friendly manner of a little French and some Signs. At the home Btissam and her dad greet me in kind manner, Meria takes off her djellaba and headscarf, as we are now within women and men of the family (Muslim Women wearing the Hidjab only outside of the family home or if a male guest is visiting). Btissam and I chat about life in Fez, life as a Muslim woman, life in Switzerland etc. I feel uttely comforable by the warmth of this home and time passes quickly. Maria calls me to the kitchen to learn how to do Harcha for tea time. Harcha is, as I learn under the gracious supervision of Maria, a flatbread made from corn meal about the same quality as the Swiss use for Polenta, Oil and Water. The mixture is carefully dissolved by hands to a even pulp. Then a heavy Iron plate is heated on the gas stove and the pulp is spread around 2-3 cm thick. . As I will learn soon, Marroccan tea time is Swiss Dinner time (19:00) and Marrocan dinner time is Swiss bed time (23:00). Our system of French mixed with signs and some very few and very poor pronounced Arabic words works out. Tea is served outside the house which is beautiful decorated with traditional tiles and decoration, in the little patio where a olive tree and some hearbs grow. Some hours later Yassine arrives, he is a 23 year old student of Islamic studies and is a far more advanced warrior of couchsurfing than me, he has hosted people for years from all over the world. He is full of energy from his trip with three friends to other towns in Marocco and tells with much exitement and joy tales of his journey to the family.  We take a small evening stroll in the neighbourhood and I am very excited, as so far as a single female traveller I did not go out at night. The neighbourhood is bustling with adults and children, enjoying the slight relief from the 41° in the afternoon. Vendors sell pop corn, a truck filled with melon arrives from one of the surrounding mountain villages. Advertising his goods in the, for me so foreign, melodic Arabic.

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