Ever since I heard about the Fes Festival of Sacred Music, I wanted to go. I love devotional music of all kinds, the less I understand the words, the better. I coincided my trip with the festival so I could experience it for a few days. I knew I couldn't hit up everything I wanted to see but even if I saw a few shows and was just in the atmosphere, I would be satisfied.
I had heard many stories from other travelers about Fes: the hassles, hustles, and fake guides were legend. I arrived by bus from Chefchauen and promptly hopped in a taxi that cost about $2.50 to get to the hostel. That was reasonable and I found nothing at all nefarious about the driver. So far, so good. Arriving at the entrance I needed to get in the medina, I watched out for fake guides but found none. The twisting instructions to the hostel were dead on. Hmmm, this wasn't turning into a gauntlet of scams like I thought.
The hostel was amazing, awesome staff and a guest roster that was practically curated. I shacked up with a guy from Long Beach (of all places! Instant friends) and a guy from Germany. We were in a dorm and as we met more people, our circle grew. That's one of the best things about traveling alone, you seem to have an instant circle of friends wherever you go!
Wandering around the labyrinthine medina was my favorite. I never got hassled (although my Long Beach buddy got hustled) the whole time I was there. The concerts were mostly free and in abundance. You only had to wander a bit, pick up the faint trail of music, and follow it to its origin. I saw some crap (a young painter who threw paint on the canvas, yawnfest) and some great music (some local Fassi band with killer yellow shoes on). I missed Johnny Clegg and Youssou N'Dour as they were sold out. I had to pass on the Sufi Nights part too as the concerts started around 11pm and I had walked myself into a coma each day and was entirely too exhausted by that time to even contemplate leaving my bed.
The thing I miss most about Fes was the people I met. Really good people gather there and live there. The girls from Singapore, the American couple (the girl was from Va Beach!), and everyone that gathered around and shared their stories that I miss most. I thought the festival would be the main draw, that was the thing that I would remember for the next 10 years. But as the Universe constantly teaches me, it's the things that are subtle, the people that smile at me in passing, the exchange of cultures with strangers. Those are the experiences that stay with me. Islam means "surrender". The Sufis abandon themselves to the ecstasy of God. Travel is really about these things too. One has to surrender and abandon oneself to the Universe. If you do, you will see God in everyone and everything. Just open your eyes and surrender.