Saturday, December 7, 2019

Morocco Diary - Fez

Hi there, how is your weekend going? I'm enjoying a long weekend off, Friday was a holiday here in Spain so I have time to relax, do some yoga, blog work and visit my lovely friend in Palma later to celebrate her birthday.

Fez and the biggest Medina in the World

Today's post is about our second stop in Morocco. Fez is a place that I have mixed feelings about I have to say. First of all, it is definitely super interesting to see because of its authenticity and culture. The larger part of the city is very modern and organized but what really draws tourists to Fez is its ancient medina which is the biggest in Morocco and the whole world. Fez is also a great shopping destination where you will find lots of artisan craftwork, leather, carpets, lamps and other beautiful things.

Now you might be asking yourself why I haven't enjoyed Fez as much as other places we have visited in Morocco. To begin with, the weather didn't mean it well with us. The only full day we had in the city it was pouring all day so we didn't really feel like exploring too much. It was also quite cold as you can tell from what I'm wearing in the photos, even in the restaurants and hotels, so the city wasn't as enjoyable as others we had visited.

Second, the medina of Fez is a chaotic maze of lots of run-down buildings and narrow, winding alleys packed with people, mostly locals. I do enjoy experiencing the local life very much when traveling. However, with all the rain, mud, lack of wide space and people on the street I felt a bit overwhelmed in Fez. You get completely lost in the maze of the medina and even though I have a quite good orientation we had to check our GPS all the time. It was also quite difficult to stay together as a group. We hired a tour guide for a few hours to show us the most important sights as our time in the city was limited. He had a hard time keeping us all together because the crowds on the streets constantly separated us.

What to see in Fez

Despite these few things we had a great time exploring Fez. In the end, the things I mentioned are what makes the medina so interesting. It's chaotic, authentic and full of life. You can wander its streets for hours with your eyes wide open marveling at all the handicrafts, colors and street life. Below you find a few places that we have visited in Fez with our tour guide:

  • The Tanneries: There are several shops around the tanneries that offer great views of the latter. Take a few flights of stairs in one of these shops to see the tanneries and the people working there from above, it's super interesting. Upon entering you are offered mint, take it! The smell of the fresh leather is quite strong. The only thing I didn't like much about this visit was that the vendors of the leather products became a bit rude and unfriendly when we decided not to buy anything at the shop we had visited. Our guide told us we have to leave a tip which he hadn't mentioned before entering the shop, but ok. We've had several unpleasant experiences with vendors all over Morocco that got upset and rude when we didn't buy anything from them. 
  • Al-Attarine Madrasa: The madrasa (an educational institution) you see here on the next few photos was in my opinion the most beautiful building in Fez due to its detailed architecture. Al-Attarine was founded in 1325. For a 2€ entrance fee per person you get to explore its beautiful patio and the dorms of the students which are also quite interesting to see. 
  • The Andalusian House: I'm not quite sure what the exact name of this place is, our guide called it the Andalusian House. You will find hundreds of beautiful rugs here and can even go up to the building's rooftop to enjoy great views of the medina (when it's not raining like in our case, haha).

Was it worth getting a guide?

Yes. Since we were a group of eight and only had one day in Fez it was worth it. Our guide showed us quickly all the most interesting spots, explained their history and helped us not get lost in the medina. However, most guides (like ours) will also show you some shops where they make rugs or argan oil for example. It's interesting to see how these things are made but you feel kind of pushed to buy something before continuing with the tour. We didn't like this feeling too much but just ignored it. After lunch we had the whole afternoon for ourselves so we could explore a bit more and do some shopping on our own. Even though we didn't buy much we enjoyed passing by all the shops filled with beautiful Berber rugs, lanterns, kitchenware and local spices.

Where to Stay in Fez

We stayed at a lovely guesthouse called Dar Bab Guissa which my sister had booked for us. We were super happy with her choice. The place was cozy, had a lovely patio, spacious and beautifully decorated rooms, and a lovely host who served us hot Moroccan tea at all times. We booked two rooms with private bathrooms, one for three, another for five persons. The guesthouse was located in the medina a bit outside of the busy center which we welcomed because it was a quiet area. However, our host recommended us to not go out alone at night because Fez can become quite dangerous after dark. You can easily get lost in the maze of the medina and not find your way out. He also told us about some groups of young men that are waiting for tourists on the street at night to rob them. We had read about this problem on several travel blogs before. So we didn't want to risk anything but called a pizza place the night we got to Fez and they came pick us up personally at our guesthouse to bring us to their restaurant, what a service! The second night we stayed in and had some food for dinner that we had bought during the day. However, Dar Bab Guissa also offers homemade food at their own place which I'm sure is great as well.

So we spent two nights and one full day in Fez which was quite packed and busy. We saw some of the medina's highlights and fully got to experience the local life which was very interesting and enriching. Despite a few things I didn't like too much about the city I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Fez and would recommend a visit to any tourist because it gives you a taste of the real Moroccan life.

I hope you find this post helpful and had a good time reading it! My next Morocco post is coming up soon, so stay tuned!

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Morocco Diary - The Blue Pearl

Hello there, everyone. I hope you're having a wonderful Thursday! I'm already back with a new Morocco post, the second one about our stay in the beautiful town of Chefchaouen. By the way, did you know the city is also called the Blue Pearl? Such an adequate name in my opinion, Chefchaouen really is a gem and stood out from all the cities we visited in Morocco.

Breakfast in Chefchaouen

We were very lucky, both days that we spent in Chefchaouen were sunny and quite warm. On our second day we went for a morning walk through the town. Chefchaouen is one of the most photogenic cities I've ever seen. Every little corner is so beautiful. The blue houses, stairs and doors, the shops, even the cats are photogenic :D We were also lucky with the crowds, I read that Chefchaouen can become quite packed with tourists but we barely met any so it felt like we had the whole city for ourselves. 

After our morning walk we headed for breakfast at a lovely café I looked up beforehand on Tripadvisor. I had read some good reviews about Cafe Clock on Tripadvisor but was blown away by how good their food really was! They offer delicious breakfast at a great price. For only 40 dirhams (more or less 4€) you can choose between scrambled eggs with bread, yummy pancakes or yogurt with fruit. All come with hot coffee or Moroccan tea and fresh orange juice.

I opted for the pancakes and they were honestly the best pancakes I have ever tried. Topped with lots of fresh fruit and delicious caramel sauce these fluffy pancakes were a real morning treat. In addition to that, Cafe Clock has some cozy corners, both inside and outside on their roof terrace where you can spend a relaxed moment enjoying their tasty food.

After finishing our breakfast we had to go back to our hotel already because that's where our private driver picked us up. Our kind host had organized a private transfer to Fez the night before and we couldn't have been happier with it. Our driver Monsef from California Travel was very kind, open and helpful. We had a big, comfortable van for the eight of us. It took us about 4 and a half hours to get from Chefchaouen to Fez. We stopped several times along the way to eat lunch, enjoy the views from the road or buy some delicious pomegranates. Side note, pomegranates are super cheap and sooo insanely good in Morocco. You will find them at any local market, private vendors along the road and in touristic places. Their seeds are so big, juicy and simply delicious. Make sure to try them when you visit Morocco!

I added some photos of our road trip at the end of this post, a new one about our time in Fez is coming up soon. Have a lovely day, everyone!

Monday, December 2, 2019

Morocco Diary - Exploring Chefchaouen

Hello my dear readers, I hope you're all having a wonderful start of the week. Can you believe it's December yet? Time flies... I know I always say that :D But when checking my blog I become even more aware of it. I get so caught up in life that I don't have (or make) any time to post here regularly and all of a sudden months have passed without any new post. My apologies! Today I finally have some new pics and travel tips for you guys. I just got back from Morocco a few days ago and really wanted to share some of my travel experiences with you guys. So here we go!

First of all I have to say that thanks to its very diverse landscapes, its rich history, lively culture and kind people, Morocco became one of my favorite countriesEven though we toured the country for only eight days we had the chance to visit so many different spots I fell in love with. From enchanting little towns to maze-like medinas, colorful souks, vast steppes, snowy mountains and not to forget the colorful, endless dunes of the Sahara desert, I loved each and every part of Morroco! The country simply has a very unique beauty and so much to offer.

How to get from Tangier to Chefchaouen and where to stay

My sisters, boyfriend and I toured Morocco with a few more friends for eight days in total. We started our trip in Tangier, located in the northwest of Morocco, where my boyfriend and I met up with my younger sister and her boyfriend. We didn't leave the airport but exchanged money and took a shared taxi directly from Tangier to Chefchaouen where we would meet up with my other sister, her boyfriend and two more friends. It's quite easy to get a taxi there as the airport of Tangier is very small and there are some taxis waiting directly in front of it, you can't miss them. We paid for the whole trip to Chefchaouen (about three hours) 700 dirham which is only about 70€, very cheap for such a long trip. 

The taxi left us right at our aparthotel called Résidence Chaouina d'hote. We were very happy with our stay at this place. We had two full apartments for eight people both consisting of two bedrooms, a private bathroom, a living room and kitchen. Everything was super clean, comfortable and the host was the nicest person. He was very helpful with everything and even arranged a private transport to Fez (our next stop) for the whole group at a very good price. 

Exploring Chefchaouen

After dropping our luggage at the hotel and changing we went for lunch near the Kasbah and walked the alleys of Chefchaouen's old town marvelling at all the tiny shops and blue houses. Chefchaouen is a truly magical place and was also my favorite city in the whole country! It feels quite unreal wandering the old town, it's like walking through a postcard. All the houses are painted blue, there are beautiful details on all doors and walls or steps and everyone is very quiet and nice to you. Chefchaouen also offers many cafés and restaurants, most located near the Kasbah, which makes it a perfect place to spend a full day or two. 

In the afternoon we went up a mountain to see the sunset over the city from a building called the Spanish Mosque. We never actually made it all the way to the top as we took a detour and it got a bit late but we enjoyed an amazing sunset with scenic views from the mountains on our way to the Spanish Mosque. Less tourists and equally stunning views, a big win! The blue houses look magical when the sun sets over them. Furthermore, Chefchaouen is surrounded by mountains which create an even more beautiful setting. 

Back down in the old town we wandered the alleys a bit more, visited a few shops and grabbed dinner to take home. It was freezing cold at night so we decided to stay in that day. If you should plan on visiting Chefchaouen in November make sure to bring a winter coat, warm shoes, a scarf and hat. 

That's all for now, within the next few days I will publish another post about our second day in Chefchoauen with a great restaurant tip, so stay tuned!

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