Thursday, March 3, 2016

A Tour of Fes, Morocco

We arrived in Fes, Morocco around 8:00pm  to a small airport that didn't have an ATM.  This presented a little bit of a problem since we didn't have dirham and had to take a taxi to our hotel.   Add in the fact that the taxi driver only spoke French and we were in for quite the introduction to Morocco.  I scrambled together some words (apparently ATM isn't a word in the French vocabulary) and by the grace of God, we were able to explain that we needed to stop at an ATM before going to our hotel.  

There are two parts to the city of Fes, the old and new medina.  The old medina is the original part of the city and is surrounded by walls.  You can only access it by foot (or donkey), so our cab driver had to drop us off outside of the walls and we had to walk with all of our luggage to our hotel. Oh, and did I mention that the old medina is like a maze?  Because it is. 

When we walked into the old medina, I looked around and felt a little overwhelmed.  It was a completely different world.  There were men and women dressed in djellabas and full burkas.  There were donkeys pulling carts.  The roads were narrow and there were no signs or ways to figure out where we were.  I remember thinking that if I hadn't lived in Turkey (which feels extremely modern compared to this!) for eight months, I might be curled up in a ball on the ground.  It was so different and felt like a completely different world. Mike and I also stood out like sore thumbs with our luggage and pale skin. 

Luckily (or unluckily), a guy saw us and offered to escort us to our hotel.  We knew he'd probably want money, but we were struggling to find our way and he wouldn't leave, so we followed him.  He got kind of mad at Mike when he only had 10 dirham (1USD) to offer, but whatever.  We made it to our hotel!

We made reservations at Dar Seffarine under the recommendation of our friends Melissa and Ryan who live in Rabat, Morocco.   Upon arrival, we were greeted by the owners who knew we were friends of Melissa and Ryan's and were glad to see us.  The whole dar was incredibly beautiful and the three years of restoration that the owners put in were well worth it.  Our room was  upgraded to the suite, which was beautiful and extremely large!  We had no problem sleeping that night!

The next morning, our friend Melissa had arranged for a tour guide she knew, Fetta, to come meet us at the dar and show us around the old medina.  They had used him before and were impressed with his knowledge and ability to navigate the old medina.  We were definitely in agreement.  I think Mike and I told him at least 1,000 times how impressed we were that he knew where things were. 


We saw these lookouts all over the old medina and wondered what they were for.  Women used to look out them and see who was knocking at their door while still being covered from men.

Blurry, but at least you can see how narrow some of the roads and alleys are.  We couldn't even fit two people side by side down some of them.
 Part of the old medina is the souk, where people in the old medina do all of their food shopping.  They sell everything from fruits and vegetables to meat and nuts.  Women even bring their homemade bread to be baked there every day before lunch.

Camel for lunch anyone?  Melissa told us later that when the camel is out, there is a drug dealer on the roof where people can buy their hashish.  Glad we didn't know that then!

Fettah also took us to these old schools where students would live and study.  They were beautiful!

This was a look into the mosque in the old medina.  We couldn't go in, but it looked beautiful from outside.

We stopped at another school, which was equally as beautiful.

Fettah told us that a lot of the patterns and designs in mosques involve the number eight or twelve because 8 and 12 are important numbers in Islam. 

The stars have eight points!
 Our next stop was lunch where we had delicious street food chosen by Fettah.  I had some sort of lamb and chicken in a pita, while Mike went for straight lamb.  Both of them were delicious.  After lunch we went to the different shops throughout the medina.

It's truly like going back in time.  Donkeys and carts are the only way to transport goods throughout the old medina since cars aren't allowed.  

We stopped at a silk shop where we tried on different scarves.  We look good, don't you think?

We went to the leather tanneries 

We went a little crazy at the leather store.  I've been wanting a leather jacket for a few months, but they're expensive in Turkey.  We were shocked that we were able to get them for like half price here, so we jumped on that band wagon quickly!  We also bought some bean bag things for our living room and Mike got a much needed new wallet.

After the tanneries and the leather store, all three of us grabbed a taxi and headed out of the old medina to a lookout where you could see all of Fes.

You can see the walls of the old medina

After snapping a few pictures at the overlook and taking in the view, we checked out the new medina for a little bit.  The main strip where most of the stores are is called the Champs D'Elysees de Fes! Ha! That French influence is everywhere.

Our last stop for the day was at a pottery school.  The students learn how to make all sorts of pottery, including the tajines that so many Moroccan dishes are served in. It was so cool to watch the guy mold and shape the tajine so quickly and perfectly.  Absolutely mesmerizing!

Painting the baked pottery

Camel anyone?

After we finished up at the pottery shop, we headed back to the dar for a few hours of rest and relaxation before dinner. We chose to have dinner at the dar that evening, which was tons of fun.  The dining room is up on the roof and there is one table for everyone staying at the dar.  We got to meet an Argentinian family and heard all about their travels in the desert before coming to Fes.  They also asked the question we inevitably get asked everywhere....Is Donald Trump really going to be your president?  

It was a great way to end the night and we went to bed with full stomachs and happy hearts.  Our day in Fes provided me with a not so overwhelming outlook on the old medina and a definite appreciation for Moroccan culture.  I felt like I was 100 years back in history when  I was in the old medina, but the new medina felt very modern and up to date.  It was such a cool experience!

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