I knew I will be fed up with the modernity of the cities in Europe, to sterilise it, I slipped Morocco in the middle of my trip to EU. Frankly, on the days before my departure I was more excited to go to Morocco than to Europe. Well, through all interesting cities that Morocco has, I settled with 3 of them. Fes – Chefchaouen and Marrakech.
Fes was the city I first landed in Morocco. Arabic atmosphere clearly seen and felt in the airport through the face of the officer as well as arabic words in every direction board. We booked a taxi via our Airbnb host to pick us up – which I later realised that it was a wrong decision. It cost MAD 200 from airport to the medina (gate Bab Boljoud), meanwhile I certainly can get less than half of it if we just find it directly in the airport.
Anyway, our Airbnb located just nearby Talaa Saghira which means small market. A good place to access Talaa Kebiraa (big market), one of the main souks and attraction lies. I started too explore the medina on the next day after having my first Moroccan breakfast that I bought just in the mouth of Bab Boljoud. I had a pancake look-a-like with honey coat. Not bad – I still happily have it on the days after.
What I liked from Fes medina is, car-free! Yep, No car nor motorbike allowed. The only possible transportation are donkey and horse. But they mostly used to carry things. I once encountered a couple of donkey – the garbage collector near my Riyad. They looked so poor 🙁
My suggestion for you who want to explore Fes, start it from Bab Boljoud (the main gate of Fes El Bali) then walk through Talaa Kebiraa. Not far from the gate, spare sometime to look inside Medrasa Bou Inania – an educational institute that built in AD 1351-56, reflecting the rich Islamic architecture at that time. After that, continue your walk in the Talaa Kebiraa to enjoy the vibrant souks, a traditional market to buy raw foods, spices, or the colourful Moroccan ceramics designs or beautiful carpets along the way.
You will soon realise that you are in the middle of old-world-somewhere in middle east, rather than Africa. You’ll see some people still wearing traditional clothes.
If you are muslim, you can come to Karaouine Mosque and experience to pray in the biggest and oldest mosque in Africa – like I did! Unfortunately this place is closed for Non-muslim.
Then you can keep walking following the street until the Chaouara Tannery. Fes is famous with it’s leather products, here you are allowed to see how they process the tanning manually. For you who are sensitive with a strong smell, bring mint leaves to distract your nose, it stinks there.
After that, challenge yourself to get lost through the narrow mazy streets inside the Medina. If you had enough walk and still not figure out how to get out from the maze, ask around : ‘Bab Boljoud’. But please, don’t trust people who offer to take you there. Unless you want to pay them, – sometimes they asked you for high amount of money. So be careful. I would suggest to ask kids or woman though.
I enjoyed my days in Fes, as visiting this kind of really old town where the atmosphere also remained old was a new thing for me.
I should’ve stayed here one night, but unfortunately I ran out bus ticket on the day I supposed to go. I didn’t want to skip this place, so I took the last chance which was on the next day, even though it means I will only have few hours to explore the town, since I had to leave to Marrakech with night train on the same day. But I’m happy with my decision.
It took approximately 4 hours by bus from Fes to Chefchaouen. The bus was surprisingly very convenient, I enjoyed the trip with nothing to complain. As arrived at bus terminal, I took petit taxi to go to the it’s medina with only MAD 10, yes it’s not that far but the road was up-hill. That’s why I didn’t go for walk, besides – I couldn’t find luggage storage so I had to bring my backpacks with me. Was so heavy, but I’m happy.
I embraced my time as much as I could, strolling around some part of the town and getting amazed by the blue colour that covering almost all buildings. I really wish I had time to stay here.
To be honest, I didn’t like Marrakech – simply because it’s polluted. Please note that what I meant here is the medina of Marrakech. Unlike Fes, motorbike is allowed inside medina. Can you imagine, a small alley -not much bigger than Fes’ filled with people and motorbike passing through. To make it worse, most of them are old motorbike which smokes is terrible!
Hence, I kinda lost my desire to explore the city. There are some places that need to visit, like Jewish quarter, mosque and madrasa. But I dropped them all. Well, I did go to Majarolle Jardine, the must visit Berber garden in Marrakech, and I’d say it was overrated. Or maybe it’s just me. However, if you want to visit the place, come in the morning! Otherwise you have to drown into the insane crowd of visitor.
So what did I do in Marrakech? Nothing, just walking around, talking to local, eating local food, and enjoying the crowd of Djemaa El Fna from above with a glass of Moroccan Tea, and trying Hammam for the first time. Hammam is a public bath that originally comes from Turkey. As a big fan of massage and public bath, I’m happy I tried this one. Though mine was not the traditional one, looking forward doing the real one in Turkey!
A quick tips of Djemaa El Fna, it’s a quarter where people gather for some public attraction or just passing by to look around. Nothing you can see in the morning, if you want to feel the vibrant atmosphere, come in almost evening time. Please watch your bag and valuable belonging, also, there are some scams happening here. If you took their picture, they will ask you for money. If they ask you to join in the attraction, whether its dancing together or any small involvement, they will definitely ask you for money too.