Caravans and Trade Routes


Earlier travelers to Fes stayed in a two-story inn called a fandouk. The high-ceilinged first floor served as a stable for their animals and a warehouse for their goods, for they were often traders. The rooms were on the second floor. We have the good fortune to be staying, not in a fandouk, but in a riad, or small hotel.

Dina and I share a courtyard with a fountain, an elegant courtyard, and our fountain even has rose petals floating in it.

We came here by caravan, following ancient trade routes, Dina from Almaty, Kazakhstan, which is on the ancient trade route for polyester men’s socks, me from Urbana, Illinois, which is on the ancient trade route of corn syrup and paper cups. Our camels are stabled down the street. Dina’s is old-fashioned and causes trouble for her. My camel is modern and drinks petroleum distillates.

Our courtyard is hidden away, and we climb the stairs to reach it, although it is on the first floor. We go up one floor, passing the room of the Philosophe Lahbabi, who assures us we are on the right path. Then past the gleaming brass pitcher, the large bronze ballerina en pointe gestures us onward, through the petit bar, and back down another flight of stairs into the restaurant. Now we must enter a cushioned nook that appears to have no outlet to find the little passageway to our courtyard. This is a little awkward at dinnertime. A couple is enjoying a romantic dinner on the cushions and I suddenly enter, carrying all my stuff, smile, wave, and then disappear down a hallway behind them they didn’t know existed. In the early morning when the waiters are still asleep on the benches, we try to slip by without waking them. This isn’t too difficult.

In the bathroom of Dina’s room there are stairs leading to a loft, which Dina charmingly calls her lobby. I searched long and hard for the stairs in my bathroom, but they don’t exist. Instead, outside my room there is a drum and a wooden deck chair. When I got down from my camel, exhausted, because my caravan had been stuck in Paris for days, the drum and deck chair welcomed me. And now that it is my last day in Fes and I am just starting to have a glimmer of what questions I want to ask and there isn’t time left to ask them, or to meander all the alleyways I want to walk, ideally all 9,600 of them in the medina, I see that it is necessary to start a Slow Travel Movement. Our symbol will be the deck chair.

Alas, Dina and I climb on our camels today and wend our separate ways back to the hills of Kazakhstan and the cornfields of Illinois. Phrases of Arabic, snatches of music, unasked questions, and memories of our time together in this rose-scented courtyard in the medina of Fes will come with us, packed in our leather saddlebags.


4 Responses to “Caravans and Trade Routes”

  1. James Carver Says:

    Great post, some really good information. Thanks

  2. karenconnelly Says:

    this is lovely. i’ve been rereading or reading for the first time a lot of the posts we all put up and your writing is so fine and direct. good to remember that time, which already seems a lifetime ago.

  3. karenconnelly Says:

    okay. maybe not a lifetime. but another life. another world ago. time and space are so bizarrely elastic. we were in Fes? recently????

  4. carolspindel Says:

    thanks karen…I know what you mean….it already does seem so distant in time, a speck behind us on the horizon, but one I like to remember, so thanks for your kind words and for recalling me back to that lovely time and the comraderie of our company of travelers.

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