Fascinating Fez (in a nutshell!)

Apologies if this post is a bit hickeldy-pickeldy, but I’ve just been meaning to do it for so long and didn’t know where to start, so I’m just going to start now.

After seeing a deal on holidaypirates.com one evening back in August last year whilst browsing, I came across a 3 day trip to Fez in December for under £80. Naturally, I booked it without question there and then. I didn’t know much about Morocco at all at that point, just that it was a primarily Arabic and French country, I thought it’d be best taking a friend with me on this one!

At first, I was very weary about every thing every guy said to us wondering if they were trying to sell us more than just what was on their market stalls (if you know what I mean), but after a day or two I really started to settle in and actually realised that Moroccans aren’t creepy, just very overly accommodating! Every market stall guy we spoke to wanted to know more about us, offered mint tea every 5 seconds and wanted to show us every thing they had to offer. Most of them would lead us to secret stores and warehouses just rammed with pots, plates, candles and fabrics in every size and colour you could possibly imagine. It was like being shown Aladdin’s Cave of Treasures, all hidden away in the back streets of Fez. If Fez is known for one thing, it’s definitely arts and crafts!
It was funny trying to bring back 2 lanterns, a plate, a mug, a tagine pot and 2 bags of Moroccan tea (converted!) in an already bulging cabin luggage size case to say the least! Luckily nothing broke, woohoo!

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Our first day was spent doing a morning walking tour of Fez. It’s quite an overwhelming city and super easy to get lost around – just endless back streets and high walls so that you can’t tell where you are – so thought this was definitely needed to begin with in order to get our bearings (although still ended up completely baffled as to how we ended up back at the hostel we started at!) This is what makes Fez what it is and gives the city real character.

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As part of the tour we got to visit the largest Tannerie in Morocco and we were lucky that as it was off season, one of the owners actually took us to the roof terrace so he could explain the leather making process. I gotta say, I’ve never been a huge leather fan but it was interesting to see the several steps and hard labour it takes to get the finished product, and the smell… wow. You can smell the place from a mile away! The quality of the finished products at the end were superb and we totally ended up buying a new leather jackets whilst we were there (whoops)

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Other parts of the tour included watching how Argan Oil is made from scratch

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Along with all things fabric (tablecloths, scarves, suits, rugs)

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And of course, the ceramics!

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With each trip I take now I like to try and steer off the beaten path and tourists traps and try and do more ‘local’ things – in this case, it was trying out a cookery class.
We were shown around the food market stalls and spent the best part of three hours in this lady’s house helping prepare Moroccan soup, Chicken Tagine with all the trimmings and a HUGE salad – whilst sipping away at countless mint tea of course! One of her friends (or relatives I can’t remember) was also there as an interpreter (the lady’s English was minimal) and it was really nice being so welcomed into their home (which they’ll soon be converting into a B&B type accommodation). By the end we’d made enough food to keep us going for days! We were so stuffed but didn’t want to stop eating either!

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We were debating on what day trips we could do (to escape the crazy markets!) and we settled on day trip to Middle Atlas Mountains where we got to visit Ifrane (a wealthier town with a much more European/ Swiss style to it) Dair Aoua (beautiful scenic lake) and forests where we got to feed some crazy apes!

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At the end of this great day trip we were taken to a view point which overlooked the whole of Fez. It was truly stunning and a perfect end to a great day out.

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On our last (half)!day we spent the afternoon strolling and relaxing in Jardin Jnan Sbil (gardens) reading and soaking up the warm weather (15oC – not high I know but it was a relief after the cold and wet weather we had the first two days) and it was a great place to take some time out from the crazy Medina markets.

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Fez is definitely not your modern-day city break to say the least, but I loved every moment nonetheless and has now left me itching to see what else Morocco has to offer.

Till next time!
Gem x

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