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Week 485 – Fes

We got an AirBNB in Fes – whether an AirBNB or a hotel, everything is called a “Riad”. Our AirBNB was great – we had the whole place to ourselves. Like everywhere in Fes – small footprint (less than 400 SF) with no indication on the outside what is inside and near vertical stairs over 3 floors and a roof terrace. Our Riad was called “Dar Rafti” and was run by a young Moroccan/Spanish couple – extremely helpful as they arranged airport pickup (and return). The airport pickup was great – easy pickup (and no arguing over fare) and took us to the best gate where people with wheelbarrows are waiting to take you into the Medina through the streets to find your Riad…again they arranged, and you didn’t have to bargain. They also have a larger Riad for multiple guests called “Dar Arasama”. Both are available on AirBNB or VRBO.

Many people think of Medina as a religious site and it is in Saudi Arabia but in Morocco, Medina simply means “old city”. The Medina in Fes is 1,200 years old and is the largest car-free city in the world with over 9,000 “streets” over a square mile. Our Riad was in relatively easy place to find and a tip we got was using the elevation for direction – uphill is away from the center.

Our hosts also arranged a day tour – basically walked us through about 20,000 steps for the day into the various areas of the Medina – religious, shopping, metal smiths, leather curing, and all sorts of food. Everywhere on the outside looks like is it falling apart but inside is pristine Islamic architecture. Highlights of the tour –

• Mint Tea tasting – quite elaborate process. About 5-6 different kinds of mints and other herbs.

• Random food items, like camel heads and tongues

• Leather tannery

• Royal Medina Hammam – (spa)

• Lunch in a beautiful place that you could never have found

• Just the chaos of walking around – and not having to worry about getting lost if you have a guide

Our guide was a recent college graduate who grew up in the Medina – and surprisingly he knew someone at every place that we went. But no pressure to buy. At some point it does become a shopping trip and I was starting to lose interest. He did give us a hot tip that Morocco was going to do well in the World Cup.

During our walking tour we had a tour of the Hammam and signed up to come back – it was a full body scrub. The scrub was similar to Korea where they have gloves with sandpaper and remove a couple of layers of skin – painful but worth it. A little more awkward for Sharon as her clothing option was made of paper…. I got a regular bathing suit.

We had three diverse dinner experiences – all good. Our first night, we were wondering around and found a place with a roof terrace that was quiet and had a traditional Chicken Tagine and Couscous. The second night we found a busy place with a roast chicken which was excellent – and had a roof terrace near the main gate of the old city. Because alcohol is prohibited in the Medina, we had water with both dinners. But as we were leaving from and walking through restaurants, a guy came up and asked, “do you want wine?” At this point, we had more offers for hashish than wine, so we went with the wine which was slyly brought to our table in Coke bottles. Our last night for dinner was in a place called “The Ruined Garden” – another great meal in a very interesting place. Like eating in Tomb Raider.

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