The smells, the sounds, the surroundings…. When you’re in Morocco or at least when you’re in the cities, you are brought back into a different era. Definitely into another worlds; the world of Aladdin and his lamp. We took a trip along the royal cities, Fes, Meknes and Marrakech. (Years ago I might add)
Our trip started in Fes and I was very impressed. The roamed the medina for the entire day – with a guide. Which is highly recommended if you go to Fes as it is a maze and one you will get lost in if you don’t know where to go. And while getting lost can be fun, I am pretty sure we would never have been able to find our way back if not for our guide. We went into the Jewish quarter, we saw a ceramic factory, have lunch in a palais restaurant. And of course we saw the tanneries and walk around endlessly. And what a horrible job those tanneries! Skins are being painted here for all sort of leather works and the men that work here are knee deep into the paint. For the entire day. It seems they don’t get old as it is not a job that is easy to maintain.
Can’t be very healthy!
You know what I really hated? The fact that every one wants money from you. If you smile to an old lady, she immediately holds up her hand for money. Children pull on your arm and well, it continuous the entire day. Making pictures is hard because people either don’t want to have their picture taken or they want money for it. And although I don’t mind paying a little something for a good picture, you do lose anything spontaneous when people start posing. And that is not what I want.
To do in Fes
- The tanneries. Make sure you are below the wind as the smell can be horrible. A little menthol under your nose does miracles. I did think the smell in the chicken part of the medina way worst though. So you’ve been warned.
- The Medina. Despite the sometimes terrible merchants it is wonderful to roam around here for hours.
- The Jewish quarters.
- Take a guide. The streets of the medina in Fes are small, chaotic (you could find a donkey running past you fully loaded) and hard to grasp. A guide is a must.
- Be careful with what you eat and especially with the tea. That might not be foremost in your mind but you do receive the mint tea every where and in a lot of cases it is not heated properly. So if you want to avoid a day on a toilet, be careful. I speak from experience!
- Go inside at a carpet salesman. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, it is just fun to go with the flow and watch the show.
From Fes we went to Marrakech which is quite a ride, so prepare to spend the day on the road. For us it wasn’t the best of trips. I had a really upset stomach (told you it was the tea!) and while the medicine worked (thank god!) I didn’t feel all that well and with all the bendy roads across the Atlas Mountains, it was not the best day!
During our visit to Marrakech we stayed in Hotel Islane and I found it dark, noisy and very small, but if I look at the photos on the internet now it could be that the hotel has a major renovation. It was very central so in that sense it was definitely a good choice. And remember we were there in 2003, so a lot can change in that time.
The most famous part of Marrakech is of course the Djemma el Fna square and while it is a must see, prepare for a lot of pushing and shoving and begging.
And that’s where I get to the issue I have with the cities of Morocco. I say ‘cities’ as I feel it is a different story if you’re out in the country. In the city – and Marrakech was a lot worse than Fes and it seems it hasn’t gotten any better with time – the people are really, really annoying. Tom used to be in school with nothing but Moroccons so he understands a few words. Mostly the dirty words. So he understood all the obscenities the men – while smiling friendly – threw at us. That is one of the reasons he will not go back to Morocco, no matter how hard you try. I haven’t understood any of it, but I still thought it was annoying. Despite all that it is till a nice place to go to. But if you can choose, don’t go to Marrakech but pick Fes. It’s more authentic, nicer and a lot less irritating.
Or – probably even better – avoid the cities all together and get into the country side. We didn’t do that as we had just a short trip. And the odds of us every going back to Morocco are slim!
Have you been to Morocco? and if so what were your experiences?
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