Sophisticated Living Indianapolis

JUL-AUG 2012

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Fes Artisan Chefchaouen Te leather souq in Fes. Cooked salad course at Riad Didi Meknes Te leather souq is home to the oldest leather tannery in the world, dating back at least nine centuries. Tose who can stomach the stench can watch from a balcony as men standing knee-deep in a honeycomb arrangement of stone "bowls" containing various colored vegetable dyes do the manual, back- breaking work of processing the sheep and goat skins. After dying, the hides are laid on the surrounding rooftops to dry. Te resulting high quality leather handiwork is plentiful and varied, and the shopkeepers are persistent in their sales tactics, but there are certainly bargains to be had as one particularly adept and stalwart negotiator in our group found out. As a rule, Saida pointed out that most Moroccans prefer to eat and entertain at home, and as such, the diversity of dining options and menu choices is somewhat limited. For a true taste of Moroccan cuisine, it is advisable, as we did, to have your guide arrange a meal in a private riad, which is a traditional Moroccan multi-story house where rooms open to an interior garden courtyard with a water feature or fountain. Te experience of leaving the mayhem of the medina, stepping through a nondescript doorway in a sea of similarly sand- colored facades and into an explosion of opulent color and texture is an almost indescribable experience and was by far the best meal of the entire trip. Te multi-course feast our hostess prepared out of her tiny, and by American standards, primitive kitchen was almost unfathomable to me. Following an afternoon of shopping and exploring, we set out for Chefchaouen, positioned against the Rif Mountains in the northwest part of the country. En route, following a discussion of the region's olive oils, Saida made an impromptu stop at an olive oil press that uses a hybrid of centuries-old and modern techniques. As soon as we exited the van we could smell the intoxicating aroma wafting from huge piles of picholine and Spanish olives. After observing the production process, we were invited to dip chucks of crusty bread into plates of the freshly pressed oil – what an intense palate pleaser! Chefchaouen is most noted for its whitewashed homes with powder-blue accents and alleyways. Saida explained the blue hue was a superstitious hedge against evil eye. A popular tourist destination due to its proximity to Tangier, I found the city to be among the friendliest and one I'd be comfortable exploring without the assistance of a guide. As we traversed up and down the hilly, narrow alleyways, moving aside to let "kamikaze 41

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