Monday, June 27, 2011

Political "Parades" in Fez

       This weekend seemed extremely long. On Saturday, we went on a tour of the Medina where we saw many places including the tannery, which I will write about in a later post. Then on Sunday we went to Volubilis, which is a site where there are well-preserved Roman ruins. After this, we bused to Moulay Idriss, which is a picturesque Moroccan town on a hill. The view was spectacular, but the heat was getting to everyone (It was over 110 Fahrenheit) and we just trudged through the town. We had an amazing lunch and then headed to Meknes which is a smaller city than Fez, and has a ton of gorgeous architecture. There were a few old mosques that we were able to go in to get a taste of what mosques look like inside. The art is incredible. There are geometric patterns and carved plaster covering every inch of space. It is so beautiful! I was amazed at the architecture. Fez, and many other cities in the area are called "invisible cities" because you cannot see the beauty from the outside. All the riads in the medina have high stone walls that are very plain on the outside. But once you go inside, the houses are filled with mosaics, carvings, fountains, and plants. We were all exhausted and fell asleep on the bus on our way back to Fez. 

          Everyone awoke when the bus jolted to a stop because of a political..... parade. This "parade" was to rally support for voting yes in an upcoming referendum on July 1st. This referendum would limit the power of the King. Although this "parade" was in support of limiting power, they made it clear that they loved their king. They all had pictures that they would kiss and wave in the air. All the little boys saw that we had cameras and waved to us, wanting us to take pictures of them. They were fascinated that Americans were at this "parade" and we got many stares. Amazingly, this was one of the only times I have felt completely safe here. 

          Many people were wearing shirts that said "naam" which means yes in Arabic. We really wanted some so we went up to a group of guys and asked where we could buy one. They immediately took their own shirts off their backs and gave them to us. Of course, this was followed by marriage proposals, but we didn't care- we got shirts! We proudly wore them around and EVERYONE wanted to take pictures with us. Nicely dressed middle-aged men and older women in hijabs would pose with us as their friends took pictures with their cameras. 

           Everyone at the "parade" was very happy and even happier that Americans were there. People asked where we were from and when we would say America, they would break out in cheers. Moroccan flags and pictures of the king were thrust into our hands and at one point, an older woman grabbed my hand and brought me into the street to march with them. We happily clapped and marched as everyone cheered us on. 
          At one point, we came across the French Embassy who had their own sign and were marching complete with a camera crew. We took pictures from the side and they saw us and started posing and talking to us. We told them we were Americans and they were beaming and shaking our hands. They gave us business cards and we realized they thought we were journalists. 
          This was an event that some students were told to stay away from. When we first got off the bus, we were not sure what to do. We were planning on taking a few pictures and then leaving. Then we realized that it wasn't violent or dangerous whatsoever, so we stayed and supported the Moroccans. People would see us and yell out "Welcome to Fez!" and give us huge smiles and thumbs up. The atmosphere at the "parade" was one filled with hope and love for their country. So many people came up to us and kissed the picture of King Mohammad so we knew their stance. I have fallen in love with the people of Morocco. The compassion and welcoming that we have received has been an incredible experience. I am lucky to be studying here and even luckier to be able to support these amazing people. 

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