A medieval maze

“Impressive thick bronze doors surrounded by the traditional Moroccan Mosaic – in many colours of blue…”

Fes, Morocco

The day started off with heading to a local cafe for some breakfast. Not speaking French or Arabic was a disadvantage but having mastered the word for Pancakes with honey ‘Crepes aux Miel’ I was guaranteed a delicious breakfast! We waited a fair while for our food to arrive and only realised why as soon as some other diners had finished their breakfast as they were waiting to wash the utensils – classic!

Back at the hotel we met up with a local guide who was to spend the day with us showing us the sights of Fes. Our guide’s name was Hakima which means wise or insightful and was most fitting as she told us many interesting facts.

Our first stop was at the Royal Palace where you are met with impressive thick bronze doors surrounded by the traditional Moroccan Mosaic – zillij in many colours of blue which is the colour of Fes. The palace is guarded but you are allowed to walk right up to these doors and have a good look at the brilliant workmanship. Once I had my picture in true tourist style with the guards we headed off in time to the medieval parts of Fes.

The Medina of Fes was an intense experience – you were overloaded with sounds, smells and sights from the moment you enter through the impressive blue gate. Once inside the Medina walls it is hard to capture the initial impression as already you are starting to dodge the local trade. Wooden slats act as the roof in some parts adorned with lanterns that must make an impressive picture at night. I was thankful that I had someone to follow as the constant turns and small doorways we entered could not have been placed on any map. So if you do ever go to Fes I would recommend that you take a local guide to give you some direction – or at least find your way out once you have finished getting lost.

Throughout the Medina you walk marvelling at the beautiful handicraft of the Moroccan slippers and colourful Jilaba. Though the food markets everything is beautifully put on display from towering olives to hanging bananas. You did have to be aware of the cries of Balak! (Look out!) in the tiny alleyways as this normally meant a heavily laden donkey was approaching and that you had to get out of the way very quickly – in some cases it saw us sprawled against the wall wondering if there was enough space or you would have a load crash right into you.

This medieval Medina highlights the traditional crafts still in place and allowed us to see fabric being weaved, carpets being made and of course leather being dyed at the famous Fes Tannery. Walking into a leather shop which takes you to a view of the Tannery, you are greeted along with a piece of mint. When reaching the top to the balcony you see colourful sight of reds, blues and yellows…along with whiff of raw hide. Amidst taking photos I was quite happy to bury my nose in the mint leaves provided.

Housed inside the old city are a number of Mosques and the Medersa (College) Bou Inania, which recently restored shows the elaborate Zellij, carved plaster, cedar screens and massive bronze doors.

For lunch we were taken to our guide, Hakima’s friends restaurant (Familla Berada) for lunch. I was a bit skeptical at first as you always think there is some pay off but it turned out to a be a very festive occasion for as little as MAD70 you received cooked salads, choice of main and a drink, plus welcoming gestures and entertainment from the owner. Who said you had to understand each other when this man’s personality overtook with his happy smiles, showing his strength by picking you up and twirling you around. It was a lovely lunch but I must say my choice of lamb tagine and vegetables was a bit disappointing. Not because it was not cooked well but for some reason all I could taste was the smell from the Tannery that we just visited.

The afternoon we did more exploration though the alleyways and after a sweet mint tea and for some a Nss Nss (Half coffee, half milk), making a wish in the wall (which to be honest I was laughing so much I forgot to wish!), I was quite happy to take my few purchases and head back to the hotel and put my feet up.

Accommodation: Hotel Olympic

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