With living so close, I have come to be a regular Morocco traveller by now. Hardly any other destination can put one into a whole new setting within not even a 2-hour-flight. It’s this compelling chaos that takes me back again and again.
Fez is often recommended as a first stop in Morocco and yet it took me some Marrakech and Tangier as well as Essaouira trips to come here. Once the country’s capital and with one of the biggest medinas in the world, Fez has a lot to offer. Yet it has kept in my opinion more of its original tradition and pace. It’s less touristy, less entertaining than Marrakech and at the same time less rough than the coastal cities Tangier and Essaouira. The 2017 edition of Lonely Planet Morocco describes its medina as rather rundown and ragged. Arriving in Fez, I experienced quite the contrary: Initiatives to let the medina shine in new splendour have already brought out a visible effect.
I arrived in Fez late in the evening and was directly enchanted – even more so in my riad La Maison Maure, which was in the end a bit of an over-priced accommodation for what it was but no doubt a beautiful place to stay with an excellent location.
Situated right in the medina, in Fes el-Bali, it was time to head out and get lost.
After some serious alley strolling under the boiling 32ºC sun, I marvelled at some impressive architecture in the Medersa Bou Inania.
And the huge mosque and university of Al Karaouin, which is unfortunately not accessible for non-muslims but I carry around my camera to sneek a peek once the doors open for a few seconds, so I managed to get at least a tiny impression of it.
A more accessible – and that with all senses – sight are the Tanneries. This is where all the leather is dyed. Prepare for a strong scent of raw leather and to be offered a handful of leather products when trying to get out. If you’re indeed willing to purchase something, do it here. The closer to the Tanneries you are, the more original the fabrics. Prices are surreal nonetheless, so unpack your haggling skills!
After some rest I headed back out at dawn to have some dinner around Bab Boujloud, the “Blue Gate”. The area has a lot of cafés and restaurants to offer, nothing fancy but all decent and very Tangier-like.
The next morning I mazed my way to Café Clock, a hip yet unexcited coffee, workshop and event hub in the midst of the medina. The breakfast was served in a rather European manner here but that doesn’t mean it was less good. Plus it was incredibly cheap!
The place also offers cooking classes, regular concerts, movie nights and storytelling. After the hearty breakfast I was ready to once again get lost, be amazed and being massaged at the end of the day at the spa of Riad Laaroussa. What a day!
Not to neglect any of the dozens of thé à la menthes here, I need to introduce you to my favourite café/restaurant on this trip: The Ruined Garden, an enchanted, green spot in the medina with excellent food options and decent pricing. I very often find those places on a trip that I know would be my go-to spot should I live in that city. The Ruined Garden was that place for me in Fez.
For some drinks and a pre-massage dinner I should return to the rooftop of Café Clock though.
Relaxed after an argan-oil-drenched massage, I had some last hours in Fez the third day before heading back off to the airport. There was no specific sight on my programme. Simply adapting to the locals’ pace, haggling, peanut butter pastry, mint teas, sharing the narrow alleys with donkeys, kittens, heavily loaded carts, scooters, people and cut-off cow heads hanging in the way. Travelling Morocco is always a blast but can be exhausting at the same time. But I guess that’s what makes it so exciting for me.
Another great spot to relax, enjoy some tea and free wifi is Barcelona Café. It may sound like the biggest tourist trap for me coming from Barcelona to enter that place but indeed it was a very authentic, artsy place with cosy sofas and amazing local art.
At a local patisserie I asked the guy for as many cookies I’d get for 20 dirham (2 Euros) and it was unexpectedly a bit more than what I had got back in Tangier for that money. But who am I to complain about too much candy?
Until next time, Fez!