Fes, a city I have wanted to see and experience for a long time. Long before Rory, from Gilmore Girls, mentioned the famous Moroccan city, I had an itch to experience Morocco. Now, living in Spain it is a quick jaunt to get there, so when my friend asked if I would be interested in traveling to Morocco for our February vacation it was an easy YES!
We decided to spend 5 days of our school vacation visiting three different cities, the first being Fes. In order to do each place justice I have decided to write a post for each place: Fes, Chefchaouen and Tangier. Let’s be real for a second though. Did we both want to go to Morocco, yes. Had we heard amazing stories from friends at school who had already visited, yes. But did a direct 2 hour 35 Euro flight help solidify our decision to make Morocco one of our first trips, you bet ya!
I fell in love with Fes from the moment we arrived to the old city. Our driver handed us off to one of the riad employees who helped us navigate the labyrinth leading to where we would stay. Surprisingly over our quick two day stay, we started to get the hang of the surrounding streets and could navigate our way back to the riad, as long as we didn’t wander too far.
I could go on for days about all the small details that I absolutely loved about living inside the walled city of Fes. Instead of writing a narrative though I’ll get right to it and share my favorite highlights.
Bargaining for an authentic rug. I don’t know about you but I don’t like to pay full price for anything. I love a bargain, a sale, a clearance, and so I am all for going to countries where bargaining in the norm. As part of a tour of the city we made a stop at a giant carpet consortium. We met some of the weavers and then were presented with carpet after carpet to buy. This was one of the top things on my list that I knew I wanted so I jumped at the chance to purchase one. After some back and forth and promising I wasn’t going to resell the rug, I scored a deal on a beautiful blue rug that now resides at my entry. It still makes me think of Fes every time I see it.
Seeing the tannery. If you are going to Fes you can’t skip a visit the tannery. This stop was also on our tour of the old city and was another place I couldn’t wait to see. We were warned the smell would be intense and were given some mint leaves to help mask it, but thankfully it wasn’t that bad. Now if we had been there in the dead of summer with the sun beating down on the vats upon vats of pigeon poop filled dye, then yes the mint would have been a necessity. Instead we got the views without the smell.
The food. And I mean all of it. The delicious meats, the spices, the rice, the breads, I mean what was there not to like? Our first night we ventured out from our riad for dinner with clear instructions on how to find it again since Google Maps was all but useless with over 10,000 unmarked streets that all looked the same. We had heard that alcohol is not sold even at restaurants if it is within a certain distance to a mosque and guess what, there are mosques everywhere! We were approached by a somewhat shady character promising beers despite none being available on the menu of one restaurant. Up for some adventure we took him up on his offer. It turned out to be the most expensive move we would make on the trip. After the guy disappeared and then seemingly magically reappering with two beers which we had to pay for in cash, to him, right then as we sat waiting for our meal which we would then discover cost less than one beer, we quickly discovered that secret beers were not worth the price. We did get a pro tip from a friend to buy a bottle or two of wine from duty free at the airport before we left Spain. So the next night we enjoyed some Spanish wine on our Moroccan riad rooftop with some local street food. Some may call us daring for eating the 1 Euro, unidentified meat and veggie sandwich, cooked in the street using questionable cleaning methods between orders, but hey we lived to tell the delicious tale.
Taking a traditional hammam bath. This was on both of our lists and the concierge at our riad recommended a place and helped up book an appointment. It was a local spot that had us stripped down to just a disposable thong and lying on a warm rock slab in no time at all. With our modesty thrown out the window, it was time to get down to the business of relaxing, as much as one can as they are being aggressively scrubbed lying almost naked next to their friend. It really was an amazing experience and left my friend and I with lots of stories and giggles long after we left the hammam.
Taking in daily life. You really feel like you are stepping back in time, or into a scene from Aladin when you wander the streets of old town Fes. There are men outside shops selling leather goods, tourist nicknacks, and tasty foods. Donkeys carry both people and goods from one point of old town to the other. And children go to school backpacks affixed to their backs as they chatter with friends. When you stop and slow down, or sit and have a mint tea, you can take in the daily hustle and bustle of the city.
We had such a short amount of time in Fes, it really only gave me a taste of what the city has to offer. During our time there we stuck to inside the walled old town section as well. There is so much to explore outside the city walls that we just didn’t have time to see. With limited time, we tried to prioritize our must see list to get the most out of our time there. I would love to go back again one day and explore other sections of town, spend more time in the old city and maybe even travel outside Fes to the desert for a totally different experience.