Morocco (Part 3): Fez
We closed our ten-day trip to Morocco with three nights in Fez, one of the country’s other imperial cities. The medinas of Marrakech and Fez are quite different: Marrakech is shades of red and pink, flat, commercial, primed for tourism, and energetic but orderly, while Fez is shades of gray and beige, hilly, lived-in, less bothered with tourism, and chaotic in a very disorderly way. This isn’t to say Fez is off the tourist map—if anything, we felt like there were more large tour groups than in Marrakech, and Marrakech seemed to attract more independent travelers and also dealt better with dispersing the crowds.
We stayed at Dar Seffarine for the duration of our visit, a guesthouse lovingly restored by couple Kate and Alaa, with a stunning inner courtyard, ornate but tastefully minimalist rooms, and a terrace with panoramic views of the medina and the rolling hills around it. If it were simply a sight to visit, it would easily rank near the top of beautiful sights we saw in Morocco, so it was mind-blowing to us that we were actually staying there! The beauty of the guesthouse is matched by the hospitality of its owners and staff and the convivial atmosphere at breakfast and dinner, where we shared communal tables and got to know the other guests. Even the food is amazing: bread, cheese, eggs, and yogurt for breakfast; salads, bread, zucchini soup, garlic soup, mashed potatoes and beans, veggies with yogurt, a variety of tajines (kefta, lamb, vegetable) for dinner and an array of tasty desserts with mint tea to follow it up. We hadn’t planned to eat dinner in every night, but it was so good that we did just that! Dar Seffarine was without a doubt one of our favorite accommodations in all of our travels.
Rule number one in Fez: prepare to get lost. The medina is full of tiny alleyways and myriad dead-ends, almost like it was designed to frustrate visitors! But, as with many things in Morocco, if you approach it with a smile and sense of adventure, it becomes part of the essential experience.
Our noses led us to Tanneries Chouara, probably the most famous tannery in Morocco. You can pay any of the leather shops in the area a small fee to visit terraces overlooking the tannery. Many of them offer mint leaves with admission, the reason for which becoming clear as soon as you emerge up top! With our mint leaves pressed against our nostrils, we listened to the shop owner as he talked through a day in the life at the tannery. It’s an up close and personal view of leather production, and for us it was an exercise in wondering if we should ever buy leather again! Despite the stench and challenge in morals, it was worth the look.
We wandered into El Andalous, a residential area on the east side of the medina, which gave a less crowded view to life in the old city. On the opposite side of the medina, we also trekked out to Fez el Jedid, the old Jewish quarter that is just as crowd-less, passing Bab Boujloud and Parc de Boujloud on the way.
We weren’t planning to visit the Nejjarine Museum of Wooden Arts & Crafts, but we passed it and thought “what the heck?” The museum stunned us with its beautiful courtyard, interesting displays of woodwork through history (more interesting than it sounds), and great views from the terrace!
Just as in Marrakech, we spent lots of time wandering the souks in Fez. We were on the hunt for pillowcases and pouffe covers, but couldn’t quite find what we were looking for, so we settled for a small ceramic bowl (which has joined our carpet from Marrakech in our living room!).
We took this trip to Morocco to push ourselves out of our comfort zone and see what the world outside of Europe had to offer. Maybe it took so long for us to venture out because we knew as soon as we did, we’d be opening the floodgates to an overwhelming list of destinations all around the world. As overwhelming as it is, we’re so happy we’ve taken the leap, and Morocco was such a perfect place to do it. It’s safe to say we’re addicted—so addicted that we’ve committed to visiting again in 2019. In the meantime, we’ll reflect on all our memories, stories, and souvenirs and remember the incredible rollercoaster ride that was our ten days in Morocco.