Do you remember that Argan oil we got from the mesmerising Moroccon town of Fes?
That was one of the best moisturising creams I’ve ever felt. So I’m happy to see that your friends at soapnskin.com have some great home-made Argan oil products on offer, as it’s high-time we replenished our supply!
That trip to Fes really was epic. If I had to pick one experience out of the few magical days we spent there it would be witnessing the Tarawih prayer in the Bu’Inaniyya Mosque. That moonlit scene stood in stark contrast to our visit a few days earlier to the Alhambra of Granada which shared the same Andalucian decor but where the call of the Muezzin faded away many centuries ago…
I can never forget how the taxi sped us away from the airport before rather abruptly coming to a halt in a small cul-de-sac in the midst of some shabby corner of the old city. The locals stared upon us with inquisitive eyes as we unloaded the baggage before a stocky, sweaty and burly man wielding a wheelbarrow presently emerged and started to grasp our bags from our hands. Clearly, he was the concierge, and we duly followed him.
As we were led through the medina and its sprawling labyrinth of narrow alleys and uneven paths, it became clear we were stepping back into Fes’ medieval history amidst timeworn homes jam-packed into every nook and cranny and centuries-old architectural gems hidden around anonymous corners.
The medina overloads the senses with its myriad of sights and sounds; donkeys braying, their carts blocking the way, the clang of artisan’s tools, the ripple of flowing water fountains and the stench of the world-famous Chouara leather tannery. With every step deeper into this enchanting quarter, the modern world was left behind in time and in space.
We came to a halt outside a large wooden doorway that was set in what can only be described as another dull, flaky-walled alley in some long-forgotten corner of this ancient walled city. But as soon as the doors swung open, we found ourselves within gardens of tranquility, an open roof and soothing French melodies; we had arrived at our hotel, the splendid Riad Laaroussa.
As we awaited our dinner in a modern roof-top cafe, the sound of the evening prayer began. The mosque was clearly very near and we could see its minaret just across the lane. We decided to go and offer a prayer before the meal arrived. Once again Fes exceeded our expectations; we had stumbled upon the Bu’Inanniya mosque.
Words cannot describe the beautiful scene. The stucco-faced walls of the mosque shone against the darkness of the open sky above. Rows of worshippers stood in prayer. A pool of water rippled in the middle of the court. Such an extraordinary sight for us to see Islam being lived out in a centuries-old building but so everyday for the residents of this unique dwelling place.
After the prayer and dinner, we ventured once again into the medina on our own. The streets were packed, the people friendly and if you dropped your guard for just a moment, you could easily miss your turn, walk right by some stunning architecture or over-pay for a souvenir you didn’t really want.
It was not long before we were approached by a local. No doubt he wanted to sell us something but through his charming manner and friendliness we found ourselves being seated inside his perfumery.
In his best classical Arabic, and in our best classical understanding of the language, the store owner began to tell us about the greatness of Argan oil and its benefit for skin beauty and health. His lingering words ‘Argaan li tajmeel’ still echo in my mind…and that of course is where we bought our first Argan oil soap and skin cream.
After only a few short days, the doors were closed on this magical city as we returned back to London. With its walled-off access, dark and sometimes dingy streets, any other such place in this world may easily have degenerated into a denizen of drugs, crime and other underworld activities.
Fes however is a testament to its Islamic spirit and its people who no matter how much they claim to be Fassi, are certainly not fussy, except when it comes to hospitality.