One of the main reasons we stayed in Moulay Idriss was to be near the city of Fes without having to be completely immersed in the craziness of the city. On Google Maps it looks like (and is listed as) a drive that should take about an hour. Well, turns out when you factor in all of the crazy stuff going on in and around the roads between the two cities, it is more like a 2 hour drive. Ooooooohhhh…so close! One cool part of the drive, though, was the number of beautiful fields of red poppies we passed.
While in Moulay Idriss we had arranged with Mohamed (our host in the Riad) to meet up with his wife, Nouzha, who happens to be a Fes tour guide. The plan was to meet her in the McDonalds parking lot and then set out on the tour from there. Mohamed kindly scrawled some random words and diagrams onto a napkin so we would know how to get there…we were set!
Fes was definitely the craziest place we drove in Morocco. No signage, crazy traffic, motorbikes, donkeys, you name it…everything was in play. Add all that up and we were soon lost with no McDonalds in sight. Also, street lights were a bit of an issue. Instead of being directly in front of you, they are instead on the passenger side curb and are oftentimes hard to see due to trees, trucks, or just plain dim lighting. We completely blew through one red light unknowingly and got pulled over by a cop! He was nice, though, and let us off with a warning (side note: Moroccan police were all very polite and nice). After that experience, we figured it would be worth a few bucks to pay a motorbiker to lead us to the McDonalds.
After meeting up with Nouzha, our first stop was the Royal Palace of Fes. Apparently it’s a pretty magnificent palace set on 80 hectares of land in the center of Fes, but we only got to see the walls and gates (only royalty can go inside). We did get to take a close look at the Islamic architecture, though, which traditionally consists of brass doors, tile mosaics, plaster work, and carved wood.
The picture below is of the Sahrij Medersa school, which was built in the 14th century. It is a theological school, complete with dorm rooms, a central fountain for ablution, and prayer rooms for both men and women (separate of course). Notice the wood, plaster, tile mosaics…not sure where the brass is. Lots of donkeys in Fes, especially in the Souks. Here is a picture of the Bab Bou Jeloud, the most magnificent gate in the Fes Medina. It is green on one side, and blue on the other, with tons of tile work and carvings. Very striking. We had our fair share of olives while in Morocco. The best ones were in Fes, though, and they displayed them in such beautiful containers. Like every old city in Morocco, Fes had a number of small wood-fired bakeries where you can buy fresh bread right out of the oven. We pretty much had the best Moroccan Pastillas at a restaurant in the center of the Medina. They were served with about 14 different appetizers shown in the picture below. Yum!
One “delicacy” we unfortunately didn’t have a chance to sample was Khlea, shown in the jars below. It is beef or camel meat that is cooked with spices, dried in the sun for a few days, and then stored in a tub of the cooking fat. It is then stored for up to 2 years at room temperature before it is eaten. Only for the very daring to try.