Saturday, 20 November 2010

11 Nov 2010 - Fez

This was the only full day in one city for the whole tour, so with no early start we were able to have a leisurely breakfast before joining the coach for a morning tour of the city.   Fez is the second largest city in Morocco, Casablanca is the largest.   Like Marrakesh it has a very Arab look and feel.

Our tour started at the Royal Palace, where we met our local guide.   Yet another “character”, with excellent English and a wry sense of humour.   He made a point of telling us he was a Berber, nor an Arab.   Not at all sure what the difference is.   The Royal Palace is not open to the public, but the main entrance is a very popular tourist attraction.   It was also ideal for a group photo.

Our next stop was on a hill overlooking the city.   Apparently it is used as an outdoor stadium for religious ceremonies, and our guide could not resist addressing us from one of the platforms used by the holy men.
The view of Fez is pretty spectacular, and as you can see the weather was a great improvement over the heavy rain of the previous evening.
One of the few times when it was warm enough to leave our jackets behind in the hotel.
Back to the city to visit a pottery factory and shop.   Another popular tourist trap, to judge from the number of coaches parked outside.

Each piece of the table is hand cut and filed to fit.   We were told that it would take about four days to finish just one table.
The Medina, or old town, is surrounded by a medieval wall.   A short time on the bus took us to one of the most famous entrances, the Blue Gate.   No motor traffic is allowed in the Medina, so the tradesmen use donkey transport.   They don’t slow down for pedestrians, so you have to move quickly when they bellow at you.

Our guide set a fast pace, and did not wait for stragglers.  So there was not much opportunity to stop and look.
The narrow streets were packed with bodies, tourists, locals and animals.   There were also lots of young children who would brush past your legs like an impatient dog.   Everyone, except us, seemed to know where they were going.
This was the nearest we got to a camel!   There was a lot of unsavory food on offer, and presumably some of it was camel.
This was obviously a regular stop on the tour.  There was an English speaking assistant ready to give us a soft sell, and the walls were covered with photographs of famous people who had been here in the past.

Leaving the Souk behind us we entered the medieval living area of the Medina.   It was fascinating to catch glimpses of locals in the houses we passed, but one of our party was told off when she tried to take of photo of them.
A short break as our guide joined this group of strolling musicians.   As soon as we had taken a photo the music stopped and we were asked for a tip.
Both Jan and Rosemary love hand bags and were pleased when we paid a visit to this one.   But as soon as you stopped to look at a bag one of the assistants pounced with the hard sell.

From the balcony of the shop we were invited to view the tannery.   It looked like a scene from a biblical movie.   The smell was really overpowering.

Our city tour had lasted four hours, and a very active four hours at that.   By the end we were ready to return to the hotel to freshen up.   Part of the group went for a 15 euro lunch, but we wanted to get away from the noise and tourist attractions.

From the hotel we walked to the very modern nearby supermarket.   It was interesting to see what the locals buy, and what they pay.   We were particularly interested to note that there was a plentiful supply of wine and spirits.   More expensive than in Spain, but much less expensive than in the hotel.   We found one bottle of wine on offer for 3 euros which had cost 18 euro in the hotel at dinner the previous evening.

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