“ Balak!” a man yelled as he dragged his mule through one of the busy alleys. I remember being hollered at twice in one day. “Balak” means, “get out of the way”.
Sometimes, you can’t help but get caught in the middle of the action on a street in the old medina of Fez. It’s the world’s largest car free urban space with more than 9000 tangled streets and alleyways.
The old medina looked very ordinary when we viewed it from a hill, but the moment we entered one of its gates, we were transported into the Morocco of 1300 years ago with its intricate medieval architecture and rhythm of life.
My senses were awakened by what was taking place. There were traditionally dressed men and women going about their daily routine, selling, buying, praying, building, weaving, little children playing, tourists getting lost, all of this happening in an old setting.
I was glad to be part of a small group of guided travelers, as I would have easily gotten lost in the maze of dark and narrow lanes.
Enthralled with the atmosphere as we wove our way through the different souks that sold nearly everything from meats, snails, fish to carpets, fruits I’m not familiar with, spices, brass ware, wedding furniture, clothes; It’s almost impossible not to be affected by the sights and sounds of old Fez, especially from the horrific smell at the dye souk and the nauseating stench from the leather tannery.
What was an ordinary day for the locals was an unusual, sense stimulating one for me.