A 3-hour flight from Paris brought us to what many refer to as the soul of Morocco, a 1200 year-old city that appears to have thrown caution to the wind, ignored the waves of modernisation and retained its heritage, culture and way of life.
Walking through the gate of Bab Bou Jeloud, we were transported to the medieval city of Fez. The five senses were piqued by the unusual (at least to modern city dwellers) ongoings taking place within the walls of the medina and its 9000 streets, tunnels and alleyways, either leading you to streets filled with throngs of traditionally dressed and shrouded men and women and donkey carts or to nowhere as you get lost in the maze of narrow streets or find yourself suddenly at a dead-end (By the way, there are some basic landmarks which can help you orientate yourself around the medina but we found it way easier to hire a guide to bring us around.)
Walls flowing with Arabic script line the streets. Sounds emanating from behind these walls and doors, an oven churning away, kids laughing, left me wondering what was it like behind these doors. Thankfully plain ‘ole common sense held me back from pushing open the ajar doors and indulging in my ‘voyeuristic impulses’ 😉
Apart from the charm of these secretive doors, we soaked in the atmosphere in each of the different souks in the medina which sold almost everything that you could think of – shoes, meat, carpets, leather products fruits, herbs, watches, lamps, clothes etc etc. The leather souk left a distinct impression on us as we were visually stunned at the manual leather manufacturing process that was still being employed in the tannery (which dates back to the 11th century!) while trying to stop breathing through our noses as the smells coming from the treating and dying vats were simply pungent and unbearable. One word of advice, remember to bargain before making any purchase in the souks. Bolly was a natural talent at this and he never hesitated to use the ‘walk away’ strategy to get the shopkeepers to lower their asking prices. For instance, Bolly managed to bargain down the price of a Berbere silver bangle from the original asking price of 800 Moroccan dirhams (about 72 euros) to 150 dirhams (about 13.50 euros)!
I had the chance to celebrate my birthday Moroccan style at an authentic family run Moroccan restaurant, Restaurant Dar Hatim where portions were huge and service was warm and attentive. We left the restaurant stuffed, once again 🙂
What made our stay in Fez all the more memorable was the warm and friendly reception we received at the Riad where we stayed, Riad Laaroussa. I almost did not want to leave our suite as it felt like a home away from home. Not only were we pampered with an upgrade to the largest suite in the Riad, we were also constantly served and fed Moroccan mint tea and snacks. By the end of our stay, I’d lost count of the number of glasses of mint tea I had consumed. Definitely a great address in Fez: Riad Laaroussa – http://www.riad-laaroussa.com.