Our group arrived in Fez from Rabat early Saturday evening, and stopped to enjoy panoramic views of the medina before reaching the hotel. We got a sense of how large the medina was, and our tour guide from Gate 1 further recommended against venturing there alone because it was so easy to get lost in one of the thousands of unmarked streets.
Our hotel in Fez was a short walk away from a shopping mall that had a grocery store and American chain restaurants. My roommate and I decided to split from the group for the rest of the day, and went to the grocery store for a few snacks and liquor. Later, we had dinner at the mall food court. My roommate was having some stomach issues and was only willing to eat at Burger King, and I was content with that. My stomach had been cooperating thus far, but I took some oregano oil as a preventative for traveler’s diarrhea.
The energy of Fez that night was so much more electric than in Rabat. There were people everywhere. There was traffic. There were horns blowing. There were vendors attempting to sell any and everything. There were children running around and playing – some sleeping on the ground while their parents sat next to them trying to sale whatever they could. Crossing the street to get to and from the mall was a quest that required faith.
On Sunday most of the ladies in my group decided to spend the day shaking off jet lag, hanging at the hotel spa, or lounging at the hotel pool. I decided to partake in the optional city tour offered by Gate 1. It was a much smaller group of us on the tour since not everyone joined, and we began the day at the Fez Royal Palace. The brass doors and mosaic tiles were wondrous, and probably one of the more noticeable Instagram shots of from Fez. A photo couldn’t do justice to the beauty of the mosaics.
From the Royal Palace, we all strolled through the Jewish Quarter, and learned about the Jewish influence in Morocco. Our tour guide, M’hamed, pointed out the windows and balconies in the Jewish Quarter and how its architecture differed from the rest of the city. Traditional buildings in Fez did not have windows because women were not allowed show themselves. Instead most buildings have a center courtyard.
We continued to more sites – a university, museum, mausoleum, and mosque – before we paused the tour to do a bit of carpet shopping inside the medina. I wasn’t interested in purchasing any carpet, so I sipped on the offered mint tea and spent the allotted time admiring beautiful mosaic tiles that had grabbed my attention as soon as I walked into the building.
I will say I survived the medina strictly with my black girl privilege. Being the only black girl in my group was advantageous to me because none of the vendors tried to hassle me at all. I was practically ignored. Meanwhile, the other less melanated members of my group were constantly harassed to purchase everything from jewelry to scarfs to useless trinkets.
When lunch arrived, I decided to finally try tajine. I hadn’t eaten enough Moroccan dishes yet, but I was ready to devour some lamb tajine. The entire spread of tajine with salad, bread, and baba ghanoush was delicious.
After lunch, we continued to the tannery and leather shops. As we entered the shop, the employees handed us fresh mint to sniff to block the horrible smell of the tannery. I was prepared to be overwhelmed by the most awful smells ever, but it wasn’t that horrid. We walked out to view the tannery, and walked back into the shop to view the leather goods for sale. There were purses, ottomans, and jackets in a variety of styles. Someone who previously visited Fez told me not to purchase any leather goods at the tannery because the prices were a rip off, and to shop for them at the medina instead. However, the prices at the tannery were reasonable upon negotiating, and I didn’t trust the quality of the leather goods in the medina.
The final stop on our day tour in Fez was Mosaique et Poterie de Fes, where we learned the process of turning clay into mosaics. It really takes a lot of skill to make something so beautiful. At the end of the demonstration, we were able to shop for a variety of mosaics, including tajines, teapots, vases, and fountains.
When I returned from the day tour, a handful of members of the group were lounging by the hotel pool after a nice spa day. I joined them for a while, and learned about drama between some of my group members on the night before. I was glad my roommate and I decided to split from the rest of the ladies that night and we weren’t involved.
Later that night, we all took two taxis to a rooftop bar as suggested by the group leader. I expected party vibes in an enjoyable ambiance, but it was the third floor of a small building and there was hardly any other patrons. Maybe it was because it was a Sunday, or maybe it was because our group leader failed to research an appropriate place. For whatever reason and to my disappointment, our group couldn’t even get access to the rooftop. Instead we crowded into a dark room on the third floor.
It was dark in the bar because we had to choose between lights and air conditioning, and sitting in a room next to the kitchen without air conditioning wasn’t an option. We eventually had to open the two windows and cut on the lights. On the bright side of things, the waiter gave us access to the music. We grabbed the aux cord and played our favorites, and had a few drinks before returning back to the hotel. The next morning we would be headed to Marrakesh.