In the spring of 2011, Cedar and I went on a wonderful six-week honeymoon trip to Spain, Turkey, and Morocco. People had given us monetary gifts for our wedding, so our travels were all but paid for. In Turkey we had a 17-day small-group tour with the Turkish singer and Sufi Latif Bolat, whom I had gotten to know at his concerts in both Honolulu and Boulder. In Spain we stayed in Orgiba, near Granada, at the Finca, or estate, of an old friend. In Morocco a highlight was three nights in a mansion belonging to my meditation brother Simon Guerrand-Hermès, the co-owner of the renowned couturier Hermès of Paris. There we were waited on hand and foot by a staff of seven and had a brief experience of living like the rich...
My story however begins on our train trip from Casablanca to Fez, Morocco. In our first-class compartment we struck up a conversation with a young Moroccan businessman. After hearing our that we were on our honeymoon, he said he had a friend in Fez who was a professional travel guide and who, if available, would take us around the city for free. We simply had to pay for his meals and give him a tip of any amount at the end of our multi-day visit to that storied city. We agreed, he cell-phoned his friend, and things were arranged. Our guide met us at the Fez train station and drove us to the inn in the old city where we had reserved a room. The next day he picked us up and began showing us among other things a leather-goods atelier, a mosque, and the world’s oldest university. On the second day, after lunch, we visited a government-sponsored oriental-rug emporium. And it was there that things got dicey.
All the rugs shown at this gallery, the owner informed us, had been handmade by widows. So, the proceeds from any carpet sold would go to support them. I had my eye on a small 5’ x 3’ throw rug which I probably could have gotten for a few hundred dollars. But first, we were obliged to see an hour-long show of the various styles of carpets the widows had made. These were brought out one by one and held up by several assistants, whom we were later required to tip at a set rate. The owner was the classic Middle-Eastern carpet merchant, hard sell all the way. Okay, the little rug I wanted would be thrown in for free if only we would help the widows by buying a few, say four, of the larger, bedroom-sized carpets. One particular design, he informed us, was quite modern—the Tree of Life—and could be resold for a lot in America, he believed, because “this design is not yet there.” So, we ended up getting the small rug I had originally wanted for free, along with four larger carpets. Everything, we were informed, would be sent to our Boulder address without charge. In the end, including U.S. Customs duty, our rug purchases that day cost us around $10,000, some of which was probably split between the emporium owner and our tour guide. How much the poor widows actually got remains a matter of speculation. As a result, this turned out to be the world’s most expensive free tour guide—and rug.
The $10,000 little rug—my memento of our being taken for a ride in Fez!