We wanted to go to Morocco for three reasons: architecture, art and food. We didn’t expect more and we weren’t disappointed. But, first, you gotta get there.
Our Morocco visit came at the end of our Spain visit. We both had always wanted to go, and since our boat trip ended in Gibraltar, we were close enough to see the country across the Straits of Gibraltar – so, why not? Why not, indeed.
After an easy ferry ride from Tarifa, Spain to Tanger, we changed money, bought train tickets to Fes and hung out in the train station awaiting our departure. The four-hour ride to Fes was uneventful and we passed the trip reading and watching the mostly agricultural scenery from the window of our compartment. First class ticket was about $10 USD.
We had found a “riad” on Air BnB and invited friends to join us in Fes for four days, then travel to Marrakech for four days. Buying and rehabilitating old homes in the historic walled-centers (medina) in Fes and Marrakech is a popular endeavor for Westerners. Some live in their projects, while others rent them out. A “riad” technically is a home with a courtyard in the center, with the rooms surrounding the courtyard on 2-3 floors. Sometimes they have a pool and sometimes a rooftop terrace. Our riad in Fes was a “dar”, not a riad, since it did not have a central courtyard. Still, the Belgian owner had made a few nice upgrades to a home that had a lot of beautiful tile mosaics and wood carved balcony railings.
The highlight of this place was the couple who were the caretakers. A wonderful breakfast was included each morning and we also chose to have the woman cook our evening meals for us. While we were in the medina, where alcohol is usually not sold, we slipped outside the city’s wall to the “new city” where Moroccan wine and beer was available. Dinner on the terrace, with a chilled bottle of rosé during the call to prayer was an unforgettable experience.
Some people may choose to spend countless hours wandering the narrow streets of the ancient town, but you would be wise to use a guide. With no signs, very narrow streets and a confusing array of markets, it would be very easy to get lost. Regardless, don’t miss seeing the beautiful buildings and tile work that are the hallmarks of Moroccan style.
We chose to have a guide for the medina on one day, a driver and car to visit sites outside of the medina on another day Don’t protest too much about not wanting to shop. Any guided tour is going to take you to a leather shop, a carpet shop and a silk shop. Enjoy the tour, but have a good understanding of the prices back home before you enter into negotiations for that “bargain” carpet.
The highlight of our visit in Fes was the cooking class with Ouliya at her home. Her mother helps and the experience is not to be missed. Terrific food and a glimpse into the lives of a typical Fes family.
Enjoy some of the street, market, dar and cooking class photos.