I used the CTM bus company to travel from Chefchaouen. (It's a nicer coach for the tourist paths, and locals remain in the minority of their passengers) It cost about 80 dirham for 4 hours. They stopped halfway through at a restaurant in the middle of nowhere, with several skinned lambs hanging centrally off the awning in front of the dining tables. The whole area smelled of fresh animal skin and blood. . the most unpleasant 30 minute stop ever. I had to walk around the back of the bus to avoid walking inches past the dangling corpses.
Once we reached Fes and the bus station, I was swarmed by taxi drivers offering to take me to the medina for 50 and 100 dirhams. Since my accommodation told me it shouldn't cost more than 15 dirham to get dropped at the door, I figured I could get better from a taxi on the street. It was 12 dirham. Just walk up to the car, tell them where you need to go, wait for them to nod, and put your bags in the car. Get in, ask them to put on the meter, and voila! Local price. If you start asking taxi drivers how much, you are inviting them to try to rip you off ;)
Fes was certainly the most challenging city that I visited in Morocco. The young guys on the street were ruthless. Every other person I passed in the streets of the medina would talk to me or try to help me. It gets overwhelming when people won't leave you alone. I suppose someone who enjoys being in the center of attention would LOVE Fes, but I hated being bombarded constantly. I learn the "headphone" trick after I left. Oh well. I don't think it would have helped me any.way.
This is my compilation of "cat calls/pick-up lines/sales hooks etc" while being in Morocco. I created it one day, recording everything being said as I walked down the street. It took all of 10-15 minutes to get this much. No, I'm not joking. Welcome to Morocco.
- Chicken White / Belle Chicken White
- If you give me your phone, I will give you mine
- Nice Fruit / Hair / Trousers / Pants
- Hello, I'm just wondering where you're from
- Your bag is from India
- Hi sweetie, I like you
- Hi, you're welcome, bye (Obviously the only english words they knew)
- United States
Most Commonly used:
- Very Nice
- Come into my shop
- Can I help you find something?
- Are you lost?
- Sorry ma'am. . . . hello?
Fes is the old capital of Morocco, and still retains it's ancientness. Through Funky Fes, my hostel, I joined the daily medina tour. I was told that it was extremely easy to get lost in the maze of the medina, and the idea terrified me, so I felt a tour could provide the best experience.
It begun with this amazing overlook of the city medina. The guide used the opportunity to inform us about the culture and help raise awareness about the mindset behind the way Morocco and Islam operate. I was annoyed that the beautiful architecture was reduced to the doors of mosques, and you couldn't see inside homes or hotels very easily. Everything was contained inside the medinas, and the walls in the streets were underwhelming. It was revealed that it's done out of modesty for the poor by containing wealth within the walls. Only some larger and more ornate doors can signal possible size and lavishness inside.
Same for the clothing covers. Most of the other generation still wear the layered robe, but it used to disguise a wealthier person's clothing material from the poor. Restaurants are contained inside, and there is less food on the open street because it's considered rude for people to eat in front of others. It might insult a poor hungry person. My guide noted that Ramadan is meant to remind everyone about the hunger that poor people suffer. I found this all interesting, and my experience so far in Morocco made more sense!
But, then slowly with time, the tour turned into being shown into different shops to buy products that the guide had coordinated to receive commissions. Oh well.
The coolest aspect of the tour was the leather tannery. Granted, the 5 minute walk radius around it produced the most gag-worthy acidic revolting smell. Upon entry, they gave each person a wad of mint to keep to our noses.
Then, naturally, they send you into the gift shop to try to encourage you to buy overpriced items. The backpack that I eventually bought for 120 was being sold for over 500. I had been price shopping in Tangier and Chefchaouen, so when they told me their price, I laughed out loud.
We did get to see the (outside only) oldest university. . . in the WORLD!
and have a delicious local "hole in the wall" meal for 6 dirham.
We passed by the main mosque at it's many different entrances.
One of the coolest places in Fes was the El Mokri Palace. It was originally built in 1996 for the Prime Minister, and somewhere in the last 20 + years it became uninhabited, things started falling apart and money ran out. There are about 6 renovated rooms of 100. I didn't stay there, but I had discovered it through another traveler. The journey there was interesting. To access the property, you have to pass through a locked gate. My luck, a car had pulled up and opened it while I was there. I've learned in my travels (and through my photojournalism instructor) to keep going until someone stops you. I knew people stayed there, so held my head high, and wandered down the dirt road to the palace grounds. (It's like the dream of wandering into a random stranger's house, but instead, it was a palace, and I did it - successfully!)
There was a young boy following me into the property. I assumed he was trying to get paid to take me there, and naturally asked for money once we got inside. I told him no. I helped myself into the courtyard through this tiled archway. . .
to see this below! Immediately, I pulled out my camera, and started taking photographs of the strangely desolate yet beautiful royal palace! If you act like you own the place and are meant to be there, people somehow don't bother you.
I did my best to explore what I could, but there were some questionable staircases . . . and little chills coursing through me in areas that seemed eerie and haunted. When I got to the top of this staircase, there were bird droppings for the last 5-10 steps, and while I could see a huge room above, I didn't know how safe it was. So, I turned around. . .
With perseverance, eventually, I found my way to the top. . .I feel like there were other possibilities for exploration, but closed doors deterred me from opening what could be someone's private room.