I arrived in Casablanca on March 25th, late afternoon, and the next morning we headed out to Fes, with some stops along the way which I will cover in another post.
This is the tour map from Insight Vacations – we stopped at all the noted towns and sites. The numbers in the red stars are the overnight stays, and the white circles are photo stops or lunch stops. We had a few extra stops included.
This map shows the whole country – we covered a lot, but not nearly all of it.
On the road! Taken through the bus window from about halfway back! I tried to take photos of signs along the way but it proved difficult – managed two the whole trip.
Something I learned is that Fes with an ‘s’ is the name of the city and the word means pick-axe. Fez with a ‘z’ is a hat – they make them in Morocco but they were made for the Turks.
The evening we arrived in Fes we had a traditional dinner and folklore show at a restaurant in the Medina… we were dropped off and had to walk through narrow alleys to get to the restaurant which was the home of the family who turned it into a restaurant – it is a spectacular building.
These are the musicians who played during the evening. They are sitting in an alcove off the main room – just look at that mosaic work!
This is the ceiling. The detail involved in every single fixture is stunning.
Everywhere I looked was a feast for the eyes. From the outside you see nothing… just dark dirty alleys… then you walk in.
The entertainment including drummers and a belly dancer (which isn’t a Moroccan tradition, but left by the Turks.)
The next morning we had a local guide to take us to the Royal Palace and the Medina.
The Royal Palace “Dar el Makhzen” is where the King stays when he is in Fes. I think we were told it covers 80 acres. Absolutely spectacular. The decoration is mind-blowing.
After the palace we were taken to the Medina – the old town. We stopped at a look-out to get the whole picture before diving into the tour.
The walls of the old city and gates are still used.
We arrived fairly early to start our walking tour of the Medina… the garbage crews were still at work. As the “streets” of the Medina are narrow alleys donkeys are used. And they are completely focussed on their jobs! I got knocked out-of-the-way by one little guy intent on getting back on his route after unloading at the truck in the main square! They work in crews of three donkeys and one handler.
Using donkeys is pretty green… although avoiding stepping in donkey poop was a major activity!
The first part of the Medina we toured was residences so no shops. Very narrow and dark.
Then we came out on the main square and went in the opposite side where the shops were. The Medina is home for a lot of people – our guide said “middle class” and they live, work and shop in the Medina. There are schools, mosques, libraries, the world’s oldest university, butchers, bakers, grocers, candy shops, tailors, convenience stores, shoemakers, tanneries, carpet shops, coppersmiths, weavers, etc. Everything and anything all in these small alleys.
Below is the world’s oldest degree granting university, the University of Al-Karaouine – the guidebooks and the website said it was open to non-Muslims but our guide insisted it wasn’t so we could take photos from the doorway only.
The University of Al-Karaouine originally was founded in 859 by Fatima al-Fihri, a woman, as a mosque. It developed into one of the leading universities for natural sciences. In 1957 they added mathematics, physics, chemistry and foreign languages.
This is a photo of the inside of a home in the Medina – it is an example of the traditional architecture – it is a bookstore with apartments upstairs now.
And these photos are of different mosques that were in the Medina – such gorgeous tile and metal work!
The architecture in some areas was amazing, and there were restored parts as well – UNESCO is funding restoration.
The photo below is of a section restored by UNESCO.
There are cats everywhere. It is the national animal of Morocco we were told. They aren’t pets – just everywhere you go, there they are! Particularly around the butchers and fishmongers and the sewer grates (must have been rats down there.)
We toured two other Medinas on this tour, in Marrakesh and Essaouira, which had significant differences to Fes.
After the walking tour, which was several hours (I really got a lot of exercise on this trip!) we went back to the hotel to do our own thing for lunch. After lunch we had our optional tour which I will cover in another post!
Took this photo of our bus from my room window – I was on the fifth floor.