Not Getting Lost in Fez
I love getting lost while traveling. When I say that, I don’t mean genuinely lost. I’m talking about immersing myself fully in the place I’m visiting. Getting lost is not thinking about the next site or the next meal. Getting lost is paying more attention to the people and sites around me rather than looking at my phone or my guide. We all carry Google Maps in our pockets, so it’s usually hard to get thoroughly lost. That isn’t the case in Morocco’s medinas (old cities).
I first visited Morocco in the spring of 2006. I remember approaching the gates to Fez and being awed by the medina. I had already traveled extensively in the Middle East. I had wandered the maze of streets in Cairo, Damascus, and Jerusalem, but none of those cities rivaled Fez’s medina. Fez feels like a maze, inviting you to get lost – truly lost. When I first visited Fez, it was when all we could do was pull out our Lonely Planets and try to figure out where we were on the map! I spent three days exploring the city, and somehow I never got lost.
After the first day, I realized how I was finding my way. I stayed present and paid attention to the sun and the mosques. The sun helps orient us. We can tell which direction is east or west. More importantly, every mosque has a minaret. We can catch glimpses of the minarets in between the buildings. If I kept paying attention to where the minarets were and where the sun was, I knew I could always find my way around. I might make the occasional wrong turn (I still make many of them, even with Google Maps), but I knew I could find my way back to the riad.
Traveling becomes a pilgrimage when we tune out the distractions in our day and become more present. And when we do that in Morocco, we get to also look at some beautiful architecture!