Destination: Fez, Morocco

Hello!

This is my final post of my trip to Morocco from earlier this month. After my five-night stay in Marrakesh (where I also took an overnight tour to the Sahara desert), my friend and I took the train to Fez, another notable city in Morocco where we would spend three days visiting what the place had to offer.

The journey from Marrakesh to Fez took seven-and-a-half hours, which is the longest train ride I’ve ever taken so far in my experiences traveling around the world. Believe or not, Morocco is actually bigger than you might think, since much of the country is landscape and nature- don’t let its size on the map fool you!

Having done our research beforehand, my friend and I found it better to purchase first-class tickets for the train, since we would be stuck in there for the whole day and we wanted to be as comfortable as possible. That said, we bought them at the station, being only 311 dirhams (31 euros) which was a good deal- normally, one would have to pay double, even triple, for the same tickets in France! Soon enough, we boarded our train at 10h30, settling into the seats as the train took off, northbound for Fez. In fact, first-class turned out to be a good choice, for the seats are spacious and comfortable and that there was air conditioning (much-needed, especially when outside was boiling!). The long train ride turned out to be better than I thought, and we eventually arrived in Fez around 18h30.

Upon arriving at the Fez train station, we caught a petit taxi (small, red taxi for three people max; it’s cheaper than the standard taxis) to our hostel, where we checked in and settled into our rooms which I would say was better than those we had in Marrakesh. Not to say that the ones in Marrakesh was bad, but it could’ve been cleaner and more well-maintained; the ones in Fez were cleaner, for sure, and we had a bathroom inside our room, which was more convenient. Plus, there was air conditioning, which was heaven for us!

Being that it was around dinnertime when we arrived, we decided to go out to find a place to eat. Our hostel was located not too far from the Blue Gate, a major touristy monument; there were lots of cafes and shops in that area, so we just picked a random restaurant and had dinner. Having eaten nothing but vegetarian items since arriving in Morocco, I decided to be bold and order the lamb tagine. Also shared a pastilla, aka “pigeon pie” (no actual pigeon, but rather beef) with my friend, which turned out to be very filling along with our main dishes. That is to say, I was super full afterwards, but nevertheless happy to have had the meal. We returned to our hostel after dinner, since it was dark and we wanted to rest after a long day of traveling.

Lamb tagine for dinner.
Pastilla.

After breakfast the following morning in our hostel, my friend and I headed out to explore Fez for the day. Armed with my friend’s guidebook (with maps and suggestions on things to do/see), we first set out for the Blue Gate once more, before turning into the narrow streets of the souks. What I’d noticed right away in Fez was that it was not only less hot than Marrakesh (being more north and 5 degrees cooler), but also the merchants were less aggressive at getting us to buy things from their shops, which was much-appreciated. I would have to say, though, the souks in Fez are more complicated to navigate, as my friend and I made a couple of wrong turns, but managed to correct ourselves in the end.

The Blue Gate.

Our first stop was the Bou Inania madrasa, another old Islamic school and probably one of the most famous in Morocco, next to the Ben Youssef madrasa in Marrakesh. It was 20 dirham (2 euros) to enter, and while it was lovely inside, we couldn’t actually access the top levels of the school to make our money’s worth.

Arches of the Bou Inania.
Courtyard of the Bou Inania.

We exited the Bou Inania madrasa, heading back onto the bustling souks as it was just about peak tourist time: people were everywhere–tourists and locals–so it was a bit difficult weaving through the crush of bodies as we made our way through the place. Came across this beautiful, carpet souk alleyway off to the side, which was a feast for my eyes (and anyone else’s).

Colorful carpet souk.

We visited another madrasa, the al-Attarine, paying another 20 dirhams for the visit. While it was nice inside, by then we found the madrasas to look about the same, so the novelty kind of worn off- admittedly, we were done with madrasas after that.

Our next (and final) stop for the morning were the tanneries: apparently, Fez is famous for a quarter that specializes in tanning animal hide, and the views of the colorful buckets of treated chemicals (how pleasant…) are supposedly worth checking out while in the city. That said, my friend and I found the tanneries, after accessing a terrace from a leather shop to view them; a guy tried to extort money from us for his “service” (e.g. pointing us to the viewing terrace, which was nothing), but we left quickly before he could get to us.

Views of the tanneries.

It was around 13h00 when we finished up our visit of the old Arab quarter; we decided to head back to our hostel to rest and get away from the heat before heading out again around 15h00 to the “new quarter,” or Fes el Jdid. We visited the Jardins Jnan Sbil, a lush garden filled with just about every eye-popping flower and tree you could imagine. Probably one of the most beautiful gems that we visited in Fez!

Inside the Jardin Jnan Sbil.

Next, we passed through the Mellah, or old Jewish quarter which was filled with more souks. However, it proved to be a pleasant walk, as not once were we harassed by the merchants or people: it was a rarity, not to forget refreshing!

We eventually arrived at the Royal Palace where the famous Golden Gates are located: I’d read that the gates are cleaned using lemon juice, to keep its luster for people to admire…and be blinded by! Definitely worth the long trek over, as we took photos of the wonderful entrance.

Royal Palace with the Golden Gates.

We returned to the Jnan Sbil gardens where we sat down to rest and enjoy the late afternoon weather before returning to our hostel in the early evening. In our room, we met a hostel-goer, a woman from Mexico who had just gotten in that afternoon; we struck up conversation and she ended up joining us for dinner that night at a contemporary cafe where I got an amazing date milkshake and camel burger! Now, I know that I’d just ridden a camel several days before, but I was curious in trying it out…in food form! Turned out to be quite tasty, and I was full, but satisfied in the end.

Camel burger and date milkshake for dinner.

The three of us returned to the hostel to turn in for the night: the Mexican hostel-goer would actually be joining us for Chefchaouen the following day, since she’d planned to go anyway, so it helped to split the cost!

After Chefchaouen, my friend and I had a half-day in Fez before we needed to catch our flight back to Paris. We just spent the time wandering the souks one more time, buying last-minute souvenirs (I opted to splurge a bit on a pair of beautifully-embroidered slippers for 2,50 euros(!) and a small box of dates for my friend in Paris with whom I was staying after I got back) and taking in the lively atmosphere of the city. Around noon, we took a private taxi to the airport where we boarded our plane at 14h30 and took off soon enough. We arrived in Beauvais in the early evening where we caught the shuttle back to Paris center and parted ways on the metro, with me going back to my friend’s flat and her to the hostel she would be staying at for the night. I arrived at my friend’s flat past 21h00, tired but happy to have a place to crash for the next two nights before I headed home to the States.

…and there you have it! As you can see, my week in Morocco was brief and intense, but at the same time just what I needed to feel reinvigorated to travel again. If anything, it has fueled my wanderlust even more! While I would say that I didn’t like how, as a woman, it made me more of a target for men cat-calling and taking advantage of us in shops and on the street (and subsequently prevented me from fully enjoying my experience), Morocco is such a beautiful country and it should be on anyone’s bucket list of places to visit in the future.

Stay tuned for one more travel post from earlier this month, as I’d spent it in Paris, France! Until then. 🙂

— The Finicky Cynic

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