Caleb has always wanted to go to Morocco; so for our anniversary (January 23) we took a trip to Fes! Our first day was low-key but still so exciting, as venturing anywhere new always is! We flew Ryanair, which for those of you who don’t know is an extremely discounted airline in Europe. It was great! A fun experience was walking from the airport gate right up onto our plane…no bus, no skyway, just straight to the tarmac then up the steps into our seats!
We landed in Fes around 3:30 and headed straight to our Airbnb…which was an old palace: Palais El Mokri. And it was beautiful! Our room opened up into this beautiful mosaic/tiled courtyard! (Each morning we ate breakfast to this view)
The whole palace is decorated in these colorful mosaic tiles, and doorways are adorned with intricate carving details!
We settled into our gorgeous room, decorated in bright reds/purples and a fun bedding the cover adorned with circular mirror tassels. It looked exactly like the pictures from the Airbnb post! I quickly changed from my comfy airport clothing to a fun outfit for our first Night Out in Fes!
It was starting to get dark, and we knew before anything else we needed to head to an ATM to get Dirham. This may seem like an easy task, but the streets of Fes are very hard to navigate. It’s basically like walking through a maze of buildings…every street twists and turns (not a grid layout), the buildings all cover the skyline (no view to orient yourself), and everything is of similar construction (no significant landmarks to note your path). While this can seem daunting it made for quite the adventure and a great first outing for our trip!
Warning: Be careful if visiting Fes. There are tons of “scammers,” i.e. people who prey on the lost traveler. They’re really friendly and will walk/guide you around the streets, but then they ask for a ridiculous amount of money afterwards. Surprisingly we were caught up in this our first night (as we should have known from experience in India). Trying to make our way to the Blue Gate (where we would find ATMs) we received directions from a small snack shop owner, who pointed us left. We started down the path, and a boy stopped us telling us we were headed in the wrong direction (which we later found we weren’t; he was just trying to get us to go with him) and led us to where we needed to go. We were thinking, oh how nice of him..but no. He then continued to take us to the ATM and request 100 Dirham…we gave him a little something (not 100 Dirham) then headed on our way, more prepared for the next time.
You will need directions (unless you have cell service for maps/gps); so my advice is to only ask shop workers or people who seem to be going somewhere/doing something. There are a lot of city workers that you will encounter, and they can usually advise you without asking for compensation in return. Shop owners may try to get you to make a purchase; so we would ask food/snack stands because we were buying something anyways. If you’re a woman, you can ask other women, and they are usually quite friendly, one older lady helped us out, walking with us since she was headed in the same direction.
It is hard to distinguish who is helping and who just wants money; so our policy (if they seemed to be hustling us) was to let them know we didn’t have any money to give. A lot of young boys/teenagers will approach you to point you this way and that….that is a great sign that they are hustling you for money, often you are headed in the proper direction, but they will take you another way to make you seem lost and that they have helped!
After getting money we decided to walk through the Medina (old city) and grab some food. Fes is definitely a night time city…the hustle and bustle was crazy! It was packed, and the city streets were so vibrant with all the shops open and displaying their colorful wares. (Keep in mind this is a tourist area and as such the products are tailored to the tourist, but it still didn’t take away from the vibe that night)
After eating some street food (a meat medley sandwich) we decided to head to a nice restaurant for drinks and some dinner . We used Trip Advisor to guide our dinner decisions and ended up picking Le Jardins de Sheherazade…it is a beautiful hotel that boasts a small elegant restaurant. This place was pricey: 700 DH for a 3 course meal, plus drinks. We had just eaten (even though we were still hungry earlier) and ended up having a few Casablanca Beers and sharing a plate of couscous with quail.
If the rest of the menu was as delicious as this dish it is well worth the money (it is also a lot of food, considering this one plate we could share). The couscous was so light and fluffy and paired with cooked fruits…a sweet & savory combination that was AMAZING! The Casablanca Beer was also great and became my favorite to drink during our trip.
We ended with an early night, ready to start fresh in the morning and begin our adventure through the twisting/turning old city streets!