Morocco: From Casablanca to Fes
As some of you might have already seen in our Instagram feed, I spent a large part of my Christmas holidays in Morocco. Honestly, if you had asked me a week before the trip, I wouldn’t have been too sure if it was actually going to happen. I went there with a close friend and we booked the flight (with one stop in Rome) and planned our itinerary early in summer. Then, a few weeks later, our flight got changed which meant that now, our flight from Rome to Casablanca left about half an hour before our flight from Munich would have landed in Rome – can you see the problem? Initially we were supposed to leave Munich at the 28th of December and after weeks and months of calling, on the 26th we finally were told we would be leaving a day earlier to solve the problem. This lead to very hectic packing and organizing things like finding and booking a parking space at the airport in Munich, but in the end, it all worked out and was so worth it.
So, after spending a night in Rome in a cute little bed and breakfast, we arrived at the airport in Casablanca in the afternoon of the following day. The line at immigration was long and as some travellers did not fill out the immigration form like they were supposed to, it was pretty exhausting. The airport of Casablanca is the biggest one in Morocco, but very far away from the city centre. In fact, it took us nearly an hour to get there by taxi. We then went to dinner as it was already dark outside, and we knew we would return to Casablanca at the end of our trip.
The next day we went to Casa Voyageurs, the biggest train station in the city – a VERY beautiful and modern one. We did some research before and learned, that the easiest and cheapest way to travel is by train. The ticket to Fes was 102 Moroccan Dirham (about 10 Euros) for 4 hours of journey. Moroccan trains are pretty good, I’d describe them similar to Italy’s trains and the trip was quite comfortable.
We arrived at lunchtime in Fes (again, a very pretty train station!) and after bringing our baggage to the hotel, we went for a quick meal, changed and then went to see the Royal Palace of Fes first. This building, with all its golden doors, is really impressive and this was the first time we felt like being in the Aladdin film!
From there, we wanted to head to the souks, but had to stop at the Jnan Sbil first. This is a beautiful garden filled with palm trees, cacti, flowers and even a little lake with swans and ducks. Even though it was December, the sun was burning and even when sitting next to the water it got really hot quite fast.
Then, we finally made it to the souks, and boy, did we get lost! The souk, or also called Medina of Fes is simply fascinating. We wandered around for hours and still never got to the same place twice. This is truly a maze! We couldn’t stop looking at all these amazing spices, olives, traditional crèmes, leather goods, pashmina scarfs, carpets and simply everything. We quickly learned how to bargain, and my friend became quite a pro at it. At the end of our trip, the sellers even complimented her on her business skills. Some places you should try to find in the Medina (as I mentioned, it’s a real maze) are the Place Rcif and the Bab Bou Jeloud. As there are no real streets inside the Medina, these are the only places you can try to catch a cab to get back to the modern part of Fes (which is quite far from the Medina), but as it’s quite busy there you might have to wait for a bit. I do not recommend taking a bus, as we’ve seen them and not too seldom they pass you by with the doors still open or the arms of a passenger hanging out of the door as it’s so packed. Fun to watch, but I would not want to be inside of these buses.
The next day we already knew about how to get around inside the Medina, so we went in there from the Place Rcif, willing to get lost, and so we did. Eventually we got to the world famous Chaouwara Tanneries. This is the largest Tannery of the city and was built in the 11th century. Here, you can take a look at the original way leather was processed and coloured, but you need to be aware that they work with pigeon excrements and cow urine to make the colours. As it was pretty early when we went there and not too warm, the smell was not as horrible as imagined, but we read from other travellers who described the smell as unbearable. They hand you a piece of mint to smell instead if it gets too bad. Getting there is not so hard, but leaving again is. You can only take a look at the Tanneries if you enter through one of the numerous shops that later on try to sell you all kind of their leather goods. Again, I read all kinds of horrible stories on the internet of sellers that did not let you leave if you didn’t give them any money, but we found that if you are polite but firm, there’s no problem. We were even prepared to pay them a small fee for letting us look but in the end, that wasn’t necessary. The Tannery is definitely something that has to be on top of your Fes travel list!
Honestly, Fes was the city we enjoyed the most of our trip. Everything there is still so original. Or at least you feel like it is. There were just a few tourists, the goods at the souk were true, traditional Moroccan goods, not stuff you can find at any market around the world and I bought some of the most amazing spices there! If you want to see Morocco less touristy than Marrakech, this is surely the place to be. Still, I can’t wait to tell you more about Marrakech and Casablanca in the next post of this series, as these two cities have some great experiences to offer as well.