Fes was very different after coming from Marrakesh. We had become accustomed to the comfort of our cheap and cheerful Riad Massin and came to Fes with expectations of accommodation very similar to that of Marrakesh. What we did not know was how different they would be. Fes was far more chaotic, loud and accommodation far more grubby. The surroundings were nothing like the organised feel of Marrakesh, which for some was daunting but for others it felt like Fes had a charm of it’s own. We stayed close to our accommodation when in Fes because it was busier, people tried to sell stuff to you so it got claustrophobic if you stayed out too long. Also the streets were more steep and hilly than the flat landed Marrakesh.
When times got stressful we found a haven, a place of solice in ‘Clock Cafe’ in that it was close, Clean, and had indoor and outdoor seating free from the chaos of the streets. We did have to pass a hectic meat market to get inside though, which in the summer heat was quite disgusting. One did not want to look at the meat for you fear that that’s the meat you were eating. The streets were filled with loud but smiley Moroccans until late evening when we were warned to stay off the streets due to fights. Ramadan is hard for muslims but even more so this year for the Moroccans had to do without food and water in peak August. This meant that anger was at it’s peak and hour or two before dinner, when locals could no longer take the hunger and heat.
We stayed in the cool, light and modern establishment of Cafe Clock, feasting on our fresh juice and Camel Burgers. Yes, a Camel Burger. In texture abit heavier than the average beef burger but also packed with flavour. We enjoyed many a days and nights here.
In the evening they had musicians, the had workshops, classes, and even cookbooks. It was a lovely place to eat, drink, and socialise.
It is hard to find as it is through a dark alley. So the first time you go, you may need someone to show you the way.
One of the main attractions I wanted to visit when in Fes were the tanneries. I heard that they were far nicer than the ones in Marrakesh. To find them I was told to walk down hill until someone approached me. The Tanneries are quite hidden amongst other building, accessed via a balcony to watch men at work. We were spotted and asked whether we would like to visit the tanneries. We went up to the balcony where a man explained the process to us.
We were given mint to hold on our nose as some find the leather smells quite strong. After this we were taken to the shop where we were pushed to buy something. Fortunately, I explained I would pay for the talk but not be buying the products, so they kindly accepted this and let us go on our way. I found the smells to not be strong at all whilst my brother said he felt sick. The tannery we visited was the oldest in the city. The tannery was composed of numerous stone vessels filled with a vast range of dyes and various odorous liquids. The man explained the way in which the hides (skins) of sheep and goats, turning them into high quality leather products such as bags, coats, shoes, slippers and other similar products. This is all achieved manually, without the need for modern machinery and with the use of natural dyes such as saffron and indigo.
After visiting the Tannery we spent a couple of hours walking the market place, filled with different items made in the area. Some of the time was also spent getting lost in Souks, walking down alleys to see where it took us..
It was an a really beautiful city, in some ways far more interesting than Marrakesh, and yet I found myself begging to be taken back to the more relaxed Marrakesh in my third day there. If there is one thing I did enjoy after a good day of sightseeing and exploring, it was having a nice hot Morrocan Meal with some Mint Tea. Mmm..
Admittedly if I went to Morroco again I would go in search of good local food. Being placed in the Medina meant that I only found touristy restaurants that lacked quality. I had wished I had the opportunity to find some good authentic places where the locals dined (though I was told most locals cooked and ate at home). This was my favourite dish whilst there. Funny enough, it was a starter not a main but the chickpeas tasted delicious as did the salad. The heat had me craving fresh food and this was just what I needed.
The Sahara Desert Tour
I booked this when I arrived in Marrakesh and it was the BEST decision we ever made. The price of the tour me and my brother booked was the cheapest in town, and we changed our booking from its original because Sahara Expeditions completely cocked up our booking. We had been in contact via email for 2 to 3 months before coming to Morocco and arranged and confirmed on many ocassions our journey to the Sahara Desert. We were limited on time and didn’t have time for it to mess up. The morning of the trek, we were not collected from our hostel. They then said that we were booked for the next day which was not the case. (do not book with http://www.saharaexpe.ma/) So we went in search for a different company. They was a little shop on the way to the Medina that did tours and we ended up booking for a day later with them. They picked us up first in light of knowing how we didnt get collected from the last company and it worked out cheaper at £56 for 3days 2 Nights Marrakesh-Merzouga Tour (770 DRM)
Itinerary was as follows:
First day: Departure from Marrakech at 7:00 am by Minibus /View of the Atlas Mountains / visit the Kasbah of Aït Benhaddou/ Moroccan dinner and evening in the Dades Gorge..
Second day: Breakfast at the hotel / Departure for Merzouga, with the highest dunes in Morocco/ stop in Moroccan berber village/ arrival at desert, one and a half hour camel ride at sunset /Berber dinner and sleep under the stars or in tents at a desert camp.
Third day : Views of sunrise in the desert / Return to Merzouga by camel .Ouarzazate/ Valley of the Roses / Arrival at 7h30 or 8h00 pm..
It was the most amazing experience. Day 1 was great because we got to see the diverse landscape of Morocco. We got to see the Atlas Mountains, Gorges and Rivers. It was so beautiful stopping at these sights and also getting to visit an old berber village structure thats seen in so many films.
The Ait Benhaddou is a setting films like The Kingdom of Heaven, The Mummy, Gladiator, and The Prince of Persia. The fortified old city had many occupants still home to 10 families and the fortress citadel hosted royalty when city was under attack. High walls for self defence and close to a harbour, it was a vision of wealth (the water nearby now dried up by the excessive heat). We got to see the rich past of Morocco and the beauty it has left behind.
After all of these sights we headed towards the Dades Valley Gorge where we were staying for the night. Unfortunately, we ran into some problems as the rainfall was so heavy during a 2 hour period that the streets flooded. The high mountainous landscape and claylike sandy environment meant heavy rainfall caused massive issues to roads. We were waiting for a while before we manned up and decided to drive over what looked like a river.
Road Turns to River
After we passed the flooded road we managed settle into our Hotel. It was lovely and far better quality than I anticipated. When you pay for a package for 3 days, with everything involved you expect the hotel to be very budget. It was nestled in the Dades Valley Gorge so so the view was beautiful from the balcony. We ate a buffet meal followed by musicians for us, it was a lovely evening. We slept early for the next day ahead.
The Second day, we were driven to a lovely Berber Village in the Toudra Valley. The Berber people whilst Moroccan, live a very different lifestyle to the city dwellers of Marrakesh. The Indigenous people of the country vary in culture to other Moroccans in that they do not practice Polygamy and they have a huge attachment to farming, sharing crops with their family. They grow corn, purple flowers for dye, cabbage, Anise, Mint and many other herbs.
A Picture of Me and My Tour Guide, A Berber Local and Farmland
Pictures of the Village: (Starting From the Left) A Village Door with a Symbol of the Family, A berber in the farm, A berber pharmacy
We also saw many different types of landscape on our way to the Desert.
And so we arrived at the beginning of our camel ride into the desert.. Which is unfortunately where my camera died. Some of these images are therefore taken by someone else on our trek. Nonetheless, the view was breathtaking, the pictures just do not do the place justice. We had an amazing evening meal followed by sleeping under the stars. We were going to sleep in the tents but they were VERY hot because of everyone inside that it was cooler and more pleasant outside. We were given a bedsheet and mattress to sleep on and slept looking at the stars.. It was amazing.
This trip was one of my favourite backpacking trip’s because I got to experience it with my brother. He was turning 16 and begged my mum to go travelling because he envied my journey through South East Asia. We needed something that was okay on a budget of£600-700 for three weeks that including seeing at least two countries, various cities and did not cost a bomb to fly to (this budget included flight costs). I immediately started my search and came up with A trip that followed the following route:
Marrakesh (Morocco) – Sahara Desert- Marrakesh- Fes- Tangir- Tarifa (Spain)- Seville- Malaga
This satisfied his hunger for backpacking, stayed in and near to europe, included adventure and experience on a budget. It was the perfect plan. I had never envisioned choosing Morocco as travel destination because of my turkish upbringing I had a vision of it being similar in culture and was not in any rush to see it. I made a very incorrect assumption. The atmosphere was different, the landscape unbelievably varied, and the desert sandy environment something so different to any experience I could take from Turkey. I recommend this route as it was easy, affordable and an amazing experience.
Destination 1: Marrakesh
We were in Marrakesh for a duration of 3 days in mid August. We booked into a hostel-like Riad in the Centre of Marrakesh called ‘Riad Massin’. Finding our hotel took at least an hour due to the maze like structure of the Souk’s. Unlike hotels we are used to with large signs and open doors, the hotels in the souks are merely one door with the beauty of your accommodation very much hidden until opened. We knocked, and were greeted by a lovely Moroccan family who greeted us with Mint Tea and then showed us to our room.
Marrakesh has much to offer for the adventurous child who wishes to get lost in the maze of the city (with the parents watching), the sunseekers, and the backpackers. I found myself enchanted by the city. Architecturally there were some beautiful buildings near the centre and we were lucky to be visiting during Ramadan. This meant that we saw the hundreds of locals gathering at the central Mosque for prayer. So many that many prayed on the street outside the doors in a flood of white.
More Photos of the Attraction we visited:
Marrakesh has so much to offer as you can see the images above are of me visitng the Saadien Tombs and various other attractions in the City. The image on the left is of the ‘La Koutoubia’ Mosque which attracts hundreds of muslims for prayer everyday.
I also have many images of the Jemaa Al Fena Center of Marrakesh displayed below:
The City is beautiful and I found 3 days was not enough to take it all in. If I came here again I would not miss the gardens, The Bahia Palace, Spa and Hammam and maybe a nice little resort sunbathing. The weather was gorgeous and tanning is needed!