Tag Archives: Fès

Madrid, and heading home

We are at the Madrid airport in the Neptuno lounge, waiting an hour for our flight to begin boarding.

While this holiday has not been without its challenges, this trip has done exactly what it was supposed to do: help me leave behind some daily cares for a while, be a time of friendship and camaraderie, and give me even more understanding of Morocco (and more reasons to return).

The challenges have included no luggage (found only as we were leaving Tangier) and a lingering touch of The Portuguese Revenge from the local water in Fès.

But the joys!–

  • the blue of Chefchaouen
  • that camel ride
  • several memorable meals
  • talking with locals
  • the corniche in Tangier
  • Volubilis
  • Kevin’s glee at buying spices at the market in Meknes
  • the medina in Fès
  • attentive staff at riads and hotels
  • medicine delivered to the hotel
  • sights and sounds and scents (and smells) to fill a lifetime

Some of my favorite photos from the past ten days:

Fès to Tangier: scenes from the day

Saturday evening in Tangier.  We are safely back at the Hilton near the beach, adjacent to the train station.

I’m beat.  Tonight makes six different beds in eight nights, including an overnight transatlantic crossing.  My tummy was a bit of a mess this afternoon, but seems better now.

And no luggage, nor no word of luggage.

But I shall persevere.

The drive from Fès to Tangier was on the high-speed tollway.  We drove west toward Rabat, and then north to Tangier.  Agricultural foothills of the Mid-Atlas mountains gave way to the red clay hills of western Morocco, and green plants to scrappy shrubs and rare views of cattle, but still sheep.  Those working the land in the west have a harder time of it. Rivers are really streams, but closer to the ocean, one can see the flood plains where waters do at times stretch and flow.  The coastal temperature is much more moderate than that inland; 140 km makes a difference when the Atlantic is nearby!

Fès: local color on Friday

As I write at 4.30 p.m., the late afternoon call to prayer is sounding from what triangulating ears present as hundreds of minarets.

I surely cannot hear 100 minarets from here at Riad El Amine, but I bet I can hear 20.

Today is Friday, and mid-day prayers today are obligatory for the faithful.  Our guide, Abdul, hurried us to a restaurant at mid-day, and came back an hour later.  He wanted to make the prayers, and we certainly obliged him.  I mean, I’m the guy who arranges my travel in order to hit noon-day Eucharist at Westminster Abbey, or Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on Easter Sunday.

This has been a full day of highlights of Fès, a city worth visiting over and over.  Our guide took us to the royal palace, through a portion of the Jewish quarter in the medina, and to a deconsecrated synagogue, to an old castle with a prominent view of the old and new medinas, to a pottery and ceramic factory (I succumbed and am having shipped….), to lunch at a terrific restaurant (the best meal of the trip, says Kevin), and then to various spots in the old medina itself.  These included a 14th-century secondary school, the Koranic university, the tannery (oh, the smell), the woodworking district, the tombs of two important holy men, the cloth-dying district, and souks full of candy and nuts and spices and meat.

It’s been a full day.

Fès may well be the artistic center of Morocco.  I’d have to return more often to find out.  And I may.

Fès: tannery

Chouara Tannery is one of three extant tanneries in Fès.

The smell was nearly unbearable at first, since it’s a mixture of cow urine, pigeon dung, quicklime, water, and salt.

We basically had to bribe the tannery guide (MAD15, or US$1.50) to let us out.

These guys are working with their legs to be certain the leather is in the dye.

Fès: design

The visit to Fès included a sumptuous luncheon at a fine local restaurant (that caters to folks like me and Kevin and others from outside Morocco; and a visit to a pottery and ceramic tile factory; and loads of examples of local crafts, including plaster, tile, and wood carving.

Fès: Al Attarine Madrasa

مدرسة العطارين

Al Attarine Madrasa  is a 14th-century ‘secondary’ school, teaching all subjects important for learned scholars — Koran, algebra, history, science, and so on — and boarding students who came from away to study here.  The cells upstairs are just that — Spartan and perfect examples of how teenage scholars would have lived hundreds of years ago.

The collection of ceramic tile, cedar wood carving, and plaster work is a sight unto itself.

This was so worth the MAD20 (or US$2) admission fee.

Fès: Riad El Amine

Our home the last two nights has been Riad El Amine in Fès.  Kevin and I are both in junior suites, which means a large room with high ceilings and loads of comfort. (See the door to my room, pictured above.)  My bed is quite perfect.

Service is efficient and eager.  Zakaria has been our ever-present help, fetching tea, serving breakfast, finding a beer or two, giving directions, making a call to a restaurant.  He has provided remarkable assistance and eager kindness.

The guest house itself is off the beaten path, in the rather low-rent downhill area of of the old medina.  An odor of sewer persists in the derb leading to the door, and is especially present at the parking area at the foot of the hill. While the interior and service (and food) is five-star, the location isn’t.

But that is small matter, and first-world rambling.  I’d stay here again.