Morocco

Fes – The Real Maze

Woke up by roosters in Fes in a room colored by the stained glasses windows, good morning Fes. We had a good Moroccan breakfast in the beautiful riad and after breakfast, our guide arrived for the half day walking tour 9:30-12:00 pm for 250 dirhams (fixed rate and inexpensive). I like to navigate places by ourselves and not a “tour” person but not in Fes, no way I can navigate this ancient maze! The streets are so narrow and tight together that even Google got lost. Also, I just don’t want the hassle of getting harassed by those annoying kids so I decided to hire a tour guide. I contacted the riad on booking a registered tour guide and the riad replied that since it’s a Friday that the Medine will be closed down….what???? URGGGG!!! I explained to the riad that I just want to see the leather tannery and they checked that the tannery is open in the morning, what a relief! Since that is my only must-see, I asked for a half-day guide. However, when the guide came, he recommended the full day tour (fixed price of 400 dirhams) and after we chatted about it that we didn’t have anything else planned for the afternoon so we said sure!

I apologized for not remembering the guide’s name, he wasn’t as great as Siad in Marrakesh so I totally forgot his name. First, he walked us around the Medina and told us facts about this ancient city. The city’s trash is collected by those city-owned donkeys, poor fella has to work in the early morning!

It was Friday; their worship day, just like Sunday in Europe where many shops are closed. The Medina felt empty which could be a good thing; I really don’t like crowded streets.

The guide walked us through a market and some shops were opened like this butcher’s shop :O

Need to make tagine quick? Buy the premade in those containers 😛

The market was almost empty too!

A fruit stand where Jason found the apricot-like fruit that he ate in China so it brought back so much memory! He brought a kilo and it only cost like 10 dirhams!

Jason looked so fulfilled haha!

I guess those are souvenir shops? All closed! But it was nice to see the wooden block like store under a shade that is also made out of wood.

This must be a yarn store?

Then, the guide brought us out to see the river that runs through the Medina, it was hard to believe a running river in the clustered Medina!

We had a little peek into a mosque:

More donkey but this one is privately owned as a mode of transportation.

To give a perspective of how huge those doorways are!

One of Moroccan’s favorite food – dates!!!

Look at the mosaic tiles o this gate wowwww!!!

And this wall woahhhh!!!

The guide said inside the wall is a mosque and they have a hole on the wall for prayers who don’t have time to go to the mosque but want to donate money hahaha how brilliantly designed!

This whole wall was impressive, the architecture, the colors, unbelievable!

A quick peek into the mosque again, the architecture inside this mosque looked like a palace!

And a golden gate!!!

Then around the corner, another doorway to peek into the same mosque we passed earlier.

Or is it just a one big huge mosque? HUM…..

This doorway is not for tall people haha!

A shop next to the mosque sellig colorful candles. Do people buy those candles to pray in the mosque, I wondered?

Front door into the mosque?

I would’ve never imagined such a grand mosque tucked inside the old Medina! More shopping street that looked alike!

Next stop was the Medersa Bou Inania, Fes’ theological college. I love photographing the medersa (colleges), the architecture is just incredible.

This college is yellow and jade color toned.

 

After the college, the guide brought us to a carpet shop although he was put it as the rooftop of the shop offers great views of the city and the college instead of “selling us carpet”. Too good to be true right and like I said no free stuff in Morocco….

The carpet shop looked very cool inside!

He left us with a worker in the shop who showed us around the shop on how carpet is made….

Then to the rooftop where the views were indeed the nicest in the Medina, better than the views from our riad. The jade roof buildings are the college, wow, it occupied a large section of the Medina.

Can you count how many satellite dishes LOL! From the guide, it was inexpensive to purchase a satellite dish, equivalent of $50 USD, and then you’ll have the channels for free…yes free for life…no monthly fee! I wish the US is like that instead of the crazy cable bills!

After the nice view, we were brought down to the shop where they offered us mint tea and use the restrooms…….it came with a cost!!! Carpet time!

They started to unroll carpets after carpets in front of us……….urg…..

Then they unrolled this blue one which is really nice!

Sokunna was really interested in it so the bargaining start…..the guy there started the price of around $1500 USD included shipping to the States. We gave a signal to Sokunna, say no! Then, he countered offer $1200, at that point, we know they’ll sell for less so we kept saying too much! The guy started to get impatient and asked Sokunna to give him the price. Jason estimated they’ll probably sell for $600 so we whispered to Sokunna to offer $500. Of course the guy looked shock, haha and then he said “no way no way”! He went to talk to the boss and then brought the boss out….it reminded me of going to the car dealership! The boss said $700 final price, okay deal! But we were too happy too early that we didn’t bargain to include shipping. Ended up Sokunna has to hand carry the carpet home…they packaged it so it was like a size of a cushion. When Sokunna went into the room to swipe her credit card, the boss said she needs to tip the guy who packaging it. He sounded like he was threatening Sokunna that she MUST tip the guy, what the!!! Sokunna being really nice was about to tip 50 dirhams and the boss rudely said 50 dirhams can buy nothing and forced her to tip 100 dirhams OMG! It was a robbery!!!

We thanked Sokunna being the customer to bail us out of the carpet shop LOL! Next, we headed to my must see – leather tannery. The guide brought us to a leather shop, the shop worker handed us fresh mints…ahh the moment has come….the smelly tannery! I was mentally prepared for the distinguishing smell…there we go to the terrace. I was surprised to find that it wasn’t smelling that bad, see I without mints on my nose!

Perhaps it wasn’t as hot and windy that day so the smell was bearable! It was amazing to see the ancient tannery still in use today! This is where they dye the animal skin to make leather! It goes through a washing, dying, and drying cycle!

Back to the shop where they sell all sorts of leather goods…handbags, jackets, and even cushion covers.

We tried on some leather jackets but the styles weren’t as nice. it was hard to believe that we made it out of the shop without purchasing anything and no one was upset wow…we were making fun that we actually made a profit – got free fresh mints hahaha!

Next, the guy brought us to a shop to see how they weave……how come the tour looked like a shopping tour instead? Well we were told the scarves shop will be closing soon but they can show us a quick demo of the old style weaving machine:

The scarves they are selling are nice colors and fabrics and we got down to a decent price so we bought one each. Lunch time, the guide brought us to a very nice restaurant, it looked like for tourists since it is really fancy but the food was good!

The traditional Fes cuisine started with a full table of small plates of vegetables, beans, etc. that we totally did not expected; it was similar to Korean cuisine that started with small plate appetizers. Look at how many plates were there…some were decent some were just so-so. One of the pear-like dish reminded hubby of a similar dish that he had when he was little but we couldn’t recall exactly what was the ingredient!

For main, Jason ordered the tagine with dates and almonds. The meat wasn’t overcooked nor dried like the other touristy restaurant we went to in Marrakesh.

I ordered kababs and it was surprisingly good, yummy!

Our dessert plate of fruits:

After our food, the waiter poured rose water on our hands to wash, my hands smelled so good and smooth afterward! We had excellent service and the price was 180 dirhams per person, we really recommend this restaurant!

After lunch, our guide came to pick us up again….

Continued on to the afternoon tour where he booked a driver to take us out the Medina up to a hill to see the city from higher grounds:

The clouds rolled in and started to rain right after I took the photo of this:

We went back into the car and the driver drove us past the famous “blue gate” – Bab Boujloud.

Next we went to the Bab Makhze, the “golden gate”, the royal palace of Fes:

It was still raining but very light so we ran out to take few photos! Being the royal palace, it was guarded!

Closer look to the golden door….the details of the craftsmanship.

So beautiful!

Next off to the craftsmanship school where people learn how to master the art of mosaic!

From making the porcelain:

To the oven…..didn’t expect the oven looks like this:

The drawing of the patterns, it looked purple color but once it heated up, the color turned to blue!

Now the interesting part, I would’ve never ever imagined how they made those mosaic patterns. I always thought it was drawn and colored on it. I was totally shocked when I see those two guys chipping tile pieces, I can not comprehen how much time it takes to manually chipping those tiles into perfect shapes!!!

How many days of work to create a fountain like this?

Then, they put each piece into the pattern just like a puzzle but turned up side down urgggg! Looking at their postures made me think wouldn’t they have backpain sitting every day like this?

The end result – those mosaic table tops!

The tour ended at its shop of course, there were beautiful cups but so expensive…more than $20+ for a small cup incorporated with copper? design.

This table is sold!

Look at this beautiful tajine pot so pretty!

This vase OMG OMG OMG!

Piece of art!

The shop is huge, it’s like a factory!

That concluded our tour, although it was more like a rip off for the afternoon portion of the tour, which was a drive up the hill, then to the palace, and then this school/factory. It wasn’t as much as the morning session but I do appreciate the school tour which made me realized how much work they put into each piece. Our guide and driver dropped us off at another gate in the Medina but it has the sign to the riad. We paid and tipped the guide…..400 dirhams + 100 dirhams tips and the driver was 300 dirhams (a rip off since he didn’t really drove us to that many places). We followed the sign and made it back without getting lost yay!

For dinner, we asked the hotel for recommendations and the manager recommended us a very expensive restaurant yikes. We headed back to our room and they dropped off our laundry; cleaned and dried yay! We searched TripAdvisor but there wasn’t really much good rated restaurants nearby…others are like a mile away. When we went down to the “lobby”, the manager changed his mind and recommended a very cheap restaurant nearby, just outside the gate. We walked out following his directions and found the place……I wouldn’t call it a restaurant…it was more like a snack place with some seats on the street urg! We didn’t want to roam around to search for another restaurant and we just want to eat and go back to the riad so we sat down.

I ordered a kabab plate….it was nothing like the kabab I had earlier at lunch 🙁 can tell those were cheap meats 🙁

Jason ordered meat ball tajine with eggs….urg…it was very small plate and where are the “tajine” veggy???

We quickly ate, the cheap meal was 80 dirhams per person. As we were walking back, it started to rain so we started to run. When it rains in Fes, the rain washed out the dirtiness of the narrow alleys in the Medine, the ground was so dirty OMG! When we got back to the riad, the hotel manager asked how was our dinner? Urg……he looked shocked that it wasn’t good LOL! I immediately head straight back to the room to shower, my feet was soo dirty ewwww! After shower, I went down to the lobby to pay for the rip-off dinner we had in the hotel the night before. Somehow, the credit card machine did not work so I ended up using almost all my dirhams to pay for the bill! We also tipped the guys who did our laundry 100 dirhams. I asked the manager if they could arrange the transportation to the bus station tomorrow morning to catch our 8:00 bus to Chefchaouen. He said the hotel will pay for the transfer, I was shocked to hear free from the hotel! And also I asked for the breakfast if they can make something quick for us, he said sure. It sounded too good to be true!

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