The first night in Fes was so great I couldn’t wait to get up and out the next day! We woke up bright and early and enjoyed a traditional, home cooked, Moroccan-style breakfast (prepared by our host)! It was sooooo delicious, not to mention we’ve been on the paleo diet so BREAD! The best part of breakfast had to be the delicious Moroccan Tea…it is a must when visiting!
We were only in Fes for the weekend and thus, had a jam packed schedule of sight seeing for both days. Our first stop: Bab Boujloud (The Blue Gate). This is the main gate that leads to the Medina…the old city (Fes el Bali)! It is a beautiful sight to see…even more interesting, on the opposite side (from inside the city) the tiles are a greenish-teal vs. blue. The sight became our home base while exploring throughout the day…it was easiest to navigate too and had a HUGE map of the city and its sites to use for navigation.
Opposite this beautiful gate we came across a grand door! Fes is known for its beautiful tiled doorways that stand out amongst the plain walls of the city. We had no clue what this magnificent door led to. Later, when we came back to the gate, we saw that this grand door was an entrance to a mosque. Only fitting that it is so grand!
After viewing the gate we decided to sit at a nearby cafe and try some Moroccan coffee…another must have while visiting. Beware: it is strong! I am not a regular coffee drinker; so this little baby gave me a bit of an upset tummy. But I wouldn’t take it back, it was oh so delicious. If you’re really not a coffee person just stick with the tea. It’s AMAZING and can replace coffee any day!
After this slow morning we kicked into gear and headed into the Medina to see the sights. Our next stop: Bou Inania Medersa, a historic school of Islam in Morocco. While being a school for the religion the building also doubles as a Mosque, and one of the few that allow in tourists (non-Muslims). As you can see below the structure is quite grand with delicate intricacies. It has carved wooden doors, tiled mosaic walls, and more carvings up above. The wall carvings are interesting…they are a pattern/design created out of Arabic calligraphy!
After that beautiful sight nothing was gonna slow us down from moving on to the next: The University Al Quaraoulyine. The oldest University in the world! It’s hard to believe this is a school, so intricate and beautiful! This is one place I wish we could’ve ventured into (it looked so beautiful, especially against he grey/overcast sky), but only Muslims allowed.
After seeing the school we wanted to head to the tanneries, but this task proved hard to do. As stated in my Day 1 Travel Diary the streets were very hard to navigate with little signage to direct you. Wandering through the Medina was lovely though (and great exercise, walking almost 10 miles that day)! We happened upon so much beauty within this city, a city many would describe as not attractive (our dog-sitter from Morocco couldn’t believe we chose to see Fes). Here are some of the beautiful sights we encountered while getting lost within the city:
We also came across the most gorgeous library. We couldn’t go in because it was closed on Friday (holy day). You can’t see in this photo, but there was a continuous blue tiled staircase running all along the inside! I wanted to go soooo bad! Because we couldn’t get inside to see, we were persuaded by a young man to follow him to a rooftop terrace that would give us views into the area (from above). While the terrace he took us to did have great views of the old city, we were lured into a TRAP!
He brought us to, what I like to call, the rug palace! Dar Behayoune Carpets…beware it is a trap to get you to purchase a rug. Before this trip Caleb had been dying to buy a rug while we were here; so it only made sense that we stumbled upon this place. The selection of traditional Berber and Arabic carpets here was amazing. We found several that we really liked, but finally decided on one of their more interesting display pieces. We probably wayyyyy overpaid for this rug, but we go by the rule of half. In India when haggling, if you pay about half of their asking price you come out about right (usually). So we applied this rule to Morocco too…but we realized that we probably paid wayyyy too much. At least now Caleb can say he has a rug from Morocco!
Tip: Do research before hand on what the price of a rug should cost (if you’re in the market to buy). If you’re looking for a deal try and buy from the small shop vendors within the Medina (soooo much cheaper, we checked). They don’t have the wide selection (or the showmanship) that these touristy shops have, but their prices will be much lower!
It was all worth it to see the exuberant personality of the over-the-top salesman along with this “rug palace” overloaded with vibrant colors! This place was almost too much to handle and overloaded the senses (one of my favorite experiences of the trip)!
Finally after wandering around we were able to find someone who led us to the Leather Tanneries – (great info on the process)! It may not look all that awesome, but it was cool. Being able to see all the hides drying and the pools of various dyes and colors to stain the skin! (For animal lovers…sorry, but leather is part of this culture) If you do go visit this place, beware it does smell (not as terribly as people write about it online though). Yes…it’s drying skin: it will tend to smell like a dead animal.
This is another place where people tried to scam us. Upon being directed down a small alley to the tannery, a man began “guiding” us. We told him “no thank you,” but he insisted on guiding us (speaking in a language we could not understand). We basically tried to ignore him and continually rebuffing his efforts to guide us along the pools of dye. Then at the end he tried to get us to head to the leather shops above the tannery.
These shops will give you a more in-depth tour with an explanation of the processes, but inevitably they’re trying to get you to buy some of their leather goods.
Tip: Don’t buy at these shops! Much like the carpet palace they are overpriced compared to other similar shops in the old city! You can find great leather goods from the smaller vendors all throughout the Medina.
When we were done this “tour guide” tried to ask us for money (which we refuse because we continually declined his help), telling us there was a fee owed to him for allowing us to enter into the tannery. This is FALSE. It is not a museum but a public area where anyone can freely enter and observe! I am assuming he normally receives a commission from people who he persuades to go up to the shops and make purchases (which we did not do).
After this looonnnggg day (aka 10 mile walk) we headed back to the hotel to rest. And after that we decided to go out for another nice dinner at Riad Rcif. The place was amazing!!! Not only was the food delicious but the courtyard where we ate was beautiful, and the service was impeccable. The building is decorated beautifully with mosaic walls, carved doors, and plush purple embroidered couches!
We relaxed with some pre-dinner drinks (I had a Moroccan Rosé – tart for a rose, which I loved). Then we started with a 3 course meal! They had an assortment of vegetable dishes for starters (which were all so different in flavor but SO good). We had our main meals, two different lamb dishes. I recommend Tajine, a traditional Moroccan dish (couscous with meat and vegetables). The dinner ended with a delicious desert of fresh fruit with something that was similar to a chocolate brownie (more dense and moist than our regular brownies but a great chocolatey flavor).
Day 2 was a wonderful adventure! I had so much fun taking in the culture and sights of the old city.
Which of these sights would you want to visit? Let me know in the comments!