FEZ – FES EL BALI

There are approximately 1,112,000 people living in Fez often referred to as Morocco’s cultural capital. It’s primarily known for its Fes El Bali walled Medina, with medieval Marinid architecture, vibrant souks and old-world atmosphere. In 1981 it was listed as a world heritage site under the name Medina of Fez.

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The amazing city of Fez

The Medina is home to over 100,000 people and there are around 80,000 shops! The laneways are very narrow, crowded, hot and dirty.   There are many donkeys carrying their loads coming through with their handlers calling “Ballack, Ballack” meaning “get out of the way”.  If you don’t then you must suffer the consequences.

You can easily get lost in one of the many souqs here but thankfully we had a guide and if you are going to Fez I suggest you do too.  Otherwise you WILL get lost and it could take you a very long time to find your way out.  It is such a fascinating place and it remains the world’s largest car-free urban area.

Of course no visit to the Medina is complete without a visit to one of the many many carpet shops.   If you have never experienced buying a carpet in Morocco, Turkey or any other country then I suggest you do yourself a favour and do so.   You are always given mint tea and told how the rugs are made etc.   After a lengthy showing of just about all the carpets in the shop you are of course expected to buy one, which we did!

We also went to the tannery another must see on the list.   This is where they make all varieties of leather goods from the hides of animals.  You are given a sprig of mint when you arrive (we wondered why but soon found out) to hide the smell of the place.

I don’t know how those poor men can work in the 40 degree heat in smelly water which is no doubt toxic and get paid a mere 100DH (A$10) a week.   We don’t know how lucky we are.

After our visit to the tannery we had a lovely lunch in a beautiful old house.  The food was delicious.   These houses are hidden behind little doors and when you walk inside it is just amazing.

Silk is also another product of Morocco and of course there are a lot of these shops where you can very easily be led to buy.

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Lovely silk scarf – we were shown how to tie it to keep the sand and wind out of our face when in the desert

Something that Lee wanted to do here was have a good old fashioned shave with a cut throat razor.   So a hair cut and a shave all for A$5.  He was very brave I thought.

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Having a shave with a cut throat razor!!!

Don’t go home without some saffron and other spices, brass lamps and lights (beautiful), a tajine and of course a carpet.   There are many other amazing things to buy in Fez but unfortunately not all will fit in your luggage.

We also had a day trip to Sefrou a small Berber village on the outskirts of Fez.   It was a lot cooler here as we walked around the Medina and admired the many fresh fruit and vegetables.

Our visit to Fez was complete.   Some may not like the chaos you experience in the medina however we couldn’t help but be charmed by the many alleyways that led to squares with exquisite fountains, beautiful restaurants, streets bursting with aromatic food stands and the many fascinating people who live and work here.  A truly incredible city.

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MAGICAL MOROCCO

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To many travellers Morocco holds an intriguing sense of mystery.   We were no different and I’m pleased to say we were not disappointed.   Lonely Planet describes Morocco as “the gateway to Africa, and a country of dizzying diversity”.

From the westernised city of Casablanca to the old cities of Fez and Marrakesh to the High Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert and many others in between this country is stuck somewhere between old world where horse and cart are still the well used means of transport to and the new where modern day houses and cars line the streets.

We don’t normally do tours when travelling however we had heard good reviews about Moroccon tours with Peregrine Adventures and decided to try a small group tour.  So glad we did we learnt so much and our local guides in each city were so knowledgable and our main guide Saaid was absolutely amazing.   We would visit Casablanca, RabatMeknes, Volubilis, Fez, Midelt, Sahara desert, Todra Gorge, Dades Valley, M’goun Valley, Ait Benhaddou, Ourigane and finish in Marrakesh.
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RABAT – MOROCCO’S CAPITAL

We left Casablanca and drove north along the coast to Rabat (approximately 1.5 hours), the capital of Morocco and its first Imperial city.   It rests along the shores of the Bouregreg River and the Atlantic Ocean. It’s known for landmarks that speak to its Islamic and French-colonial heritage, including the Kasbah of the Udayas. This Berber-era royal fort is surrounded by formal French-designed gardens and overlooks the ocean. The city’s iconic Hassan Tower, a 12th-century minaret, soars above the ruins of a mosque. (Source:  Google).

Our first stop was to visit the palace which was very impressive.   They have 2,000 people living in the grounds and 500 working in the palace.

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The palace an impressive sight

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Having a chat

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Guards outside the palace

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Some of the workers inside the palace

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And the band played on!

Just a short walk from the town are the ruins of the citadel one of the earliest known settlements and now known as the Chellah.

Then on to the Mauseloum and time to explore the lovely walled quarter known as the Kasbah of the Udayas.   The edifice of the Kasbah was built in the 12th century during the reign of the Almohad Caliphatekashbar.  It is painted blue and white and our guide told us the blue keeps the mosquitos away!!!

We were very fortunate that our local guide in Rabat lived in the Kasbah and he invited us in for mint tea.  He told us his family have lived there for 300 years.     It was fascinating to see his home and meet his family.   They made us all very welcome.   One of the things I love about travel is seeing how other people live.

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Lee inside the Kashbar

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Just love the blue and white walls

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And the mysterious laneways

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The doors here are amazing

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The beach at Rabat

We walked through the markets in the Medina and had a delicious dinner at a cafe such an amazing atmosphere.  Make sure you visit Rabat it is full of history and culture.

Meknes would be our next stop. Continue reading

CASABLANCA

What do you think of when you hear the word “Casablanca”.    For me it has always conjured up a sense of the exotic and romance.   I guess everyone who has ever seen the famous movie “Casablanca” feels the same however it is not like that at all.  Quite a large city in fact the largest in Morocco around 4.5 million people live here.

Casablanca was our first stop on a 13 day Casablanca tour of Morocco.   We had a couple of days here before starting our tour of Morocco with Peregrine Adventures who I can highly recommend.  Of course we went to the Medina where the locals were shopping for food.   Such an interesting place we loved all the hustle and bustle of the everyday life here.

The food was great especially the tajine with lamb, boiled eggs and prunes very tasty. Not to mention of course the delicious mint tea.  Also visited the famous “Rick’s Cafe” looks just like it did in the movie.

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The food is delicious as is the mint tea

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The famous Rick’s Cafe

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Hard to find but we eventually got there

After a couple of days exploring on our own we met up with our tour leader and the other tour members.   I love the fact that there were only a lucky 13 on our tour.  The first day of our tour was a trip to the Mosque of Hassan II, which dominates the Casablanca skyline.   There seems to be a lot of debate as to whether this Mosque is the second biggest to the 13th biggest in the world so I really am not sure.  Very impressive and right on the water.

 Our next stop would be Rabat.

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