Visitors arriving for the first time in the Fez Medina have a variety of reactions from bemusement to straight out culture shock. Not only is the labyrinthine nature of the city challenging, but many visitors fine themselves confronted by their own prejudices. For others, the experience is an exhilarating step into the unknown
Recently, The View From Fez met up with Lydia Lakic, a first-time visitor, and asked her to share her experience of discovering Fez.
"The sensations were overwhelming at first," Lydia says, "and it was as if my being was on high alert. I experienced a sense of vulnerability. I suppose that is not uncommon as a woman travelling alone."
On her first day a young guide showed her around and, as she relaxed, Lydia began to appreciate her surroundings. "Not only did the guide talk to me about the way Islam is woven into the tapestry of people's lives but I could sense there was a "sacred geometry" in the tiles and wood carvings. Watching the artisans working i appreciated the patience needed to create something beautiful from a sheet of copper, or beautiful fabric woven from cactus silk. It was life at a different pace."
Later on the first day, a friendly local showed Lydia around the old Jewish area, the Mellah, and then, to her surprise invited her home to eat with his family.
"After we had eaten their daughter took me to a hammam [a public bathhouse]. I ended up spending four hours frolicking naked with three other girls who soaped me at least ten times....never knew I was so dirty.' Lydia say it is a memory she will cherish. "I slept in the family house for the night and in the morning returned to my accommodation. It was an amazing introduction to Fez."
Lydia Lakic is an Australian who worked for seven years as a dentist. Since then she has been a traveller rather than a tourist. Having spent time in Santorini Mykonos, Croatia, Peru, Ecuador, the Galapagos and Ibiza, she arrived in Fez. Along the way Lydia says, she has been switching from "left brain" to "right brain", undertaking things she had never previously contemplated.
"I've taught my self guitar, taken up photography and writing as well as exploring the world of dance." She has booked a bellydance workshop in Rabat and is also keen to explore the music of the hadra, the ecstatic trance dance.
Watching her relaxing with a glass of mint tea in the Henna Souq, one suspects that though this is her first visit to Fez, it will not be her last.