March 16 – 17
Driving Tour: Arfoud, Errachidia, Ziz Valley, Meditlt, Cedar Forests of Azrou, Ifrane and arrive in Fez.
Our Hotel :
Riad Al Makan
8 Derb El Guebbas, Batha Medina, Fes El Bali, 30000 Fez, Morocco
700 yr old riad!
“food here was amazing – we had the breakfast here that was included, but we also ended up eating both of our dinners here too! (Partly also out of convenience, but they were great!) Make sure you check out the rooftop patio”
We got to the riad late the same day we came off the desert. We were beat and after sleeping in the desert and the long car ride, we were ready for a shower and a warm bed. (Oh yea…and the internet!) The awesome guy, Ali, at the front desk, ordered pizzas for us and we had them delivered to the common area outside our room. We decided to be adventurous and get a seafood pizza, which to no surprise, had mini shrimp on it. I think I was alone in this, but it really wasn’t bad! (Or maybe it was the red wine we ordered too…)
The next morning we woke and had an awesome breakfast in the hotel before meeting up with our tour guide for the day, Mohammed….
“We hired the guide here through Rachid and Mohamed (from Active Treks), and our friend at Riad al Makan (Alae Moustaine) also knew of him. They arranged it for us and we just met him. We did a half day, like 9am-3pm, and it came out to $40 + tip.”
Fez is known worldwide for their pottery
Mohamed kicked off our tour with our first stop being a pottery place in Fez. Art Naji not only makes pottery but is a school for others to learn the craft.
In spinning the pottery they don’t use an electric pottery wheel. They control the speed with their feel on a wheel below. It take a lot more coordination than you’d think.
I simply fell in love with this pattern. It caught my eye and I knew I needed to come home with something from the collection. My dear Aunt Jenny bought us our first wedding present (pictured on the right). I can’t wait to serve from it!
I also bought myself a traditional tagine in this pattern and have loved to serve fruit to keep fresh in the fridge. (Maybe it’s not what the Moroccans do, but hey…it does the job)
I bought several pieces of pottery here and they were so kind to ship it to my home in Atlanta. They wanted to make sure that the large serving piece was perfect so they ended up making me a completely new one, and not the one pictured. They were wonderful in emailing me to confirm my order by showing me a picture and then sending me the tracking information.
Everything came so safely wrapped with out a single thing breaking! I highly recommend them and hope I can order more of the pottery I feel in love with in the future!
Our second stop to kick off our was a visit to the King Palace. It’s an iconic setting that you’ll see a lot of pictures of when doing research on Fez.
We wondered around the medina in the small alley ways and ended up having a wonderful lunch at a little touristy place.
Our new guide for the day, Mohamed guided us through the world’s largest urban car-free zone. You absolutely need a guide there as the streets are so tiny and windey that you’d never find your way on your own. Mohammed grew up in Fez and knew those streets like the back of his hand.
Pro tip: The souks (shops) are closed on Fridays. So if you want to shop, try another day. We did not know this and were very bummed that we missed this shopping experience.
Shop in the Souks
What I do recommend buying in Fes are leather goods and rugs (both vintage Beni Ourain and new Kilim rugs). You’ll get better deals here than in Marrakesh
Some of these ally ways are only hip distance apart!
We then popped over to the famous tannery to buy some leather goods
The leather and processing of the leather really does smell overwhelmingly terrible. They give you a bundle of mint leaves to help combat the smell. And they really are a nice break from holding your breath. But like all things, you get used to the smell and the leaves lose their mask.
By far my favorite purchase was Arielle’s needlepoint leather mules
I bought a camel leather poof and some embroidered mules as well. Arielle got those rockin shoes and a classic tan leather jacket.
In sticking with the embroidered theme, we stopped by a friend of Mohammad’s and i purchased some embroidered tea towels for my home.
(Pro tip: You do have to be conscious that all of these guides make deals with the shop owners to bring their tourists through. They get a commission off your sale so they’re always pushing you to “visit their friends shop”. Sometimes you just have to put your foot down and redirect them to what you want to do.)
After all that shopping, our appetite was growing.
Mohammad introduced us to a touristy lunch (I’d skip this part next time). I really wanted to eat some local street food and maybe be as adventurous as trying the famous sheeps head.
But the place was exquisite with it’s mosaics and gold.
And of course more mint tea! (You really can’t ever get enough)
In all of our research, we’d read about the Berber Pharmacys..
I was dying to experience this. It was filled wall to wall with remedies. We spoke about the tummy tea that’s filled with herbs to help you digest and make your stomach happy. We also tried some essentials oils and I was sold on two different kinds. One helped with stress (which smells awesome) and the other help alleviate swelling. Our new friend showed us how to put the oils on your pressure points to allow it to seep into your skin to really get the full benefits.
After my two knee surgeries I do have a tendency to swell when on my feet too long. So he gave me an oil to rub on my legs to help reduce the swelling.
The one thing I knew I went there for and was going to take home was this pod of herbs that you breathe in. I’d read several blogs about this and had to have it.
He mixes together menthol crystals and black cumin seeds in a sheer cloth and rubs it around, plugs up one of your nostrils and makes you take a deep breath.
Wow….I had no idea I wasn’t breathing until I did that. It feels so cool and crisp in your lugs and opens up your nose. You all of a sudden feel like you’re taking your first breath and you can actually get air.
Needless to say I bought a good amount of that and I’ve made the pods for both Chip and I. It’s become part of our daily routine to inhale it every morning. (I really do believe it’s helped Chip not get as many sinus infections this year.)
Besides being known for their pottery, Fez is also known for being the country’s’ cultural center. It is home to the University of Al Quaraouiyine.
The oldest existing, and continually operating educational institution in the world is the University of Karueein, founded in 859 AD in Fez, Morocco.
The inside felt very similar to the Ben Youseff in Marrakesh that we visited, just on a smaller scale.
Bab Boujeloud (Blue Gate)
Fez is simply full of surprises, you think that you’re wandering down a nondescript alleyway with cement walls and unbeknownst to you, those walls hide these masters of art inside.
Our tour was complete and so where our feet…
We finished our day of exploring by a relaxing evening on the roottop of our hotel. We planned on going up there for cocktail hour which turned in to dinner and then having one of the girls who worked there giving us henna tattoos!
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