Labyrinth in Fes

As we are used to in Morocco, we again travel by train. ONCF has very good connections between certain major cities (even smaller), but if you are one of the road transport supporters, you may take a ride also with one of the private bus companies, Supratours. They offer better conditions, while local services in Morocco are not just so recognized.

Railway Station in the city of Fes was not long ago renovated and its design is identical to the station in Marrakech. To walk to the main road, you need to cross the beautifully landscaped park in front of which is bunch of cars – and those are not ordinary, of course we talk about famous taxis, to which you could in Morocco face every second. Let us therefore briefly given a few words about those… first about colours. Almost every city in Morocco have the taxis painted in his colour. In Marrakech are beige, blue in Rabat, in Casablanca and Fes are red. Drivers are required to pay a licence, while the car get from the state or it’s purchased by themselves. We drove with elderly and newer (on the outside) taxis, but in both cases those are very worn-out cars. The price for a ride is different from your ability to haggle.

In Fes we afford a little better hotel Jnane Sbile, a great location next to eponymous park. For two nights in a double room with breakfast, we will pay 700 mad (about € 64). The room is in a typical Moroccan style, full of vibrant colours and country-specific ornaments (copper chandelier, glass table, cupboard painted with flowers).

Our city discovering begins in the market Bab Bou Jeloue. However, because we travel long time to get there, and there is a whole bunch of restaurants, we first decide to try some Moroccan specialities. Each of hosts provides you the best food for the best money (supposed to), what make your choice more difficult. As a welcoming sign, first they served us with lentils, which apparently does not look like tasty, but we are surprised, it’s delicious 🙂 for our main course we chose kus-kus with chicken and different types of vegetables (potatoes, carrots, chickpeas, cucumber, raisins) and excellent chicken skewers with homemade fries and its mandatory accessory, salad. The dishes were tasty, spiced just right and the portions were large enough that we were full all day. For a lunch together with drinks, we paid 90 mad (cheap) and we need to add, that, all the prices in those street restaurants are very similar.

With full stomach, we continue along the main road. For orientation in the medina, we use planned path of the attractions, which is suggested in Lonely Planet. We soon found out that narrow streets in Marrakech were a true Avenues in compare with streets in Fes. All are highly compressed and very similar to each other, the only difference is that you go downhill or uphill. The streets are really like the labyrinth. Local guides immediately worn us on that, but we just didn’t believe them in the word.

Nevertheless, with some difficulty we found attractions that were more or less similar to what we saw on previous places. However, there are not positioned somewhere in the open air as it is customary, but are all fuse together in the streets, so that they are hardly recognize. We walked past Medersa Bou Inania, el-Attarine and Kairaouine Mosque. In the meantime we turn into the space called Fonduq Kaat Smen, which is specialized in the manufacture and sale of various kinds of honey. Honey is stored in blue plastic barrels and it doesn’t look tasty… especially when you see one of the traders, during mixing the honey with his dirty hands.

Way back to the hotel, was for us again a real puzzle.

For the next day, we have no choice, than again try our ingenuity. The aim was the most famous tannery, Chaouwara. It is one of the over 50s in the city and one of few, in which leather is processed in the traditional way. Knowledge of leather processing is transmit from generation to generation and each of the workers are actually birth in this job. Working conditions are extremely hard and poor, because the workers are all day long in pools full of chemicals. The situation should be identical as they were in the middle Ages. The main components of the leather processing are pigeon droppings and bovine urine (as a source of potassium) and for dyeing, are using indigo and saffron. Leather from Fez, is for centuries considered to be one of the most respected in the world. The most famous is the soft leather of goatskin called “morocco” and sometimes it was used for books wrapping.

We got to the tannery, with some help of the locals and then we quickly connect with large group of Spanish pensioners. In this way, in fact we did not have any costs, because the entire tour has been greatly overpaid by Spanish ladies and gentlemen. Unfortunately, we still didn’t fully merged with the group due to the age differences 🙂 …but we saw everything we wanted without any problems. We looked pools where leather is processed and coloured, from the terrace of one of the major stores of leather. Upon entering, each of us received a twig mint, with which you can mitigated the stench, generated by leather processing. The whole thing was really interesting and it is really the thing we will most remember from Fes.

S & B

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