Fez – so much more than just a hat!

Coca-Cola delivery van - Fez style

We’re still at the campsite near Fez.

Weather: sunny most of the day

Hope you all got your copies of the Nottingham Evening Post today – we’re famous at last!! If you aren’t in the Nottingham area, we’ll hopefully have a version on our blog early next week.

What a day we’ve had today. The French guy who we met in McDonalds car park yesterday at Meknes is also parked up here in Fez. He negotiated a deal for a tour for the city with a guide and transport, so that’s where we’ve been – from 10am – 6.30pm! Poor Charlie had to stay in Dave, so J got up early and took him out for an extra long walk this morning before we set off. Good job he did as I don’t think he’d have enjoyed himself (and right now he’s really enjoying J hand feeding him his dinner because of the guilt from leaving him so long!).

We piled into a mini-bus with McDonalds man (I’ll have to call him that as we never found out his name) and his wife and their two small kids, and another french couple. Luckily our guide spoke many languages – as they do – but the majority of the day it was french, which suited me fine as I was happy to wander around and take piccies – about 500! They’re going to take some sorting, but I’m pretty sure there will be some new header images soon and pics on the photos page as soon as we have a decent enough connection.

Our first stop was the royal palace. It seems the king has quite a few of these dotted around the country from time gone by and if they are anything like this one, they’ll be quite impressive. As we stood taking photos of the main entrance another tourist nearby was asked by the guards not to photograph the wooden side entrance, our guide said it was because it didn’t look impressive enough!

We were then taken to a fort on a nearby hill to see a great panorama of the city. We were told there are over 160 mosques in the Medina (old town) and you could clearly see the green roofs speckled among the beige buildings and millions of satelite dishs. If about a million people live here, then it looks like each one has their own dish.

Our guide told us that in each area of the city there are five things you always find – 1. A fountain – for drinking water (although many of these have been dismantled as people have water in their homes now) 2. A Hamman (hot water/washing area – that also does massages, men in the morning, women in the afternoon) 3. A souk (covered shopping area) 4. A Mosque 5. A Fonduk (stables and accommodation).

We walked about for several hours in the souks (covering about 5km) visiting tiny workshops where people were making the items on sale – metal work, wood work, weaving, spinning yarn, leather goods and even the tanneries where they make the leather (unfortunately this was done with lime and pigeon poo to soften it, then donkey and horse wee – image the smell, we were all given some mint to sniff as we approached).

Leather tanneries:

A few of the thousands of workshops:

We also visited a Mosque that used to be a university so we could go in (non-Muslims are not allowed in Mosques), a hotel which was a Riad (big house) with a garden area in the middle, fountains and roof terrace. The main thing for me was just walking around the maze of tiny alleyways, diving to the side at the cry of “attention” as a donkey, horse or cart came through with little room to spare on either side.

Lunch was on a restaurant roof terrace over-looking the roof-tops and as we sat up there we could hear the call to prayer from all of the minerets across the city. I couldn’t face the chicken after a look around at the wrong time in the souk and I came face to face with a chicken being killed and saw it’s feet wiggle as it went into the plucking machine – yuk! Then again, it was only marginally worse than some of the things on sale in the butchers!

It’s been an amazing day full of incredible sights (and smells). Total cost for 7 hours of guide, taxi to and  from campsite and around the city, plus a few tips here and there: 216Dh (about £16, that’s for both of us – not each!). Lunch was a bit more, around £28. It’s remarkable to see that everything here is still done by hand with very little machinery. Metal plates have designs hammered into them, fretwork is carved, intricate fabric is woven (it takes three men to work the loom) for wedding gowns all by hand. I would strongly recommend a trip to see all of this. It really makes you think about what you have as most of these people have hardly anything, literally – they were buying chocolate by the cube/piece or individual cigarettes – but all seem so happy and don’t complain about it or try to guilt you into buying things. We’ve never seen anything like this before and both agree it might be the most intersting/different place we’ve every witnessed.

Ju x

Bonus video: Moroccan mog munching our lunch leftovers: