Lost in the medina: The cities of Morocco – Fes el Bali (Fez medina)

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A late evening flight, we land in Morocco, at the Fes airport. The airport is almost deserted and while everyone of our group passes quickly through the passport controls, my wife stays longer. They asked her about her occupation and she dared to say she was a journalist, so they kept asking her questions and placed an unusual red stamp in her passport. Indeed, she used to work as a professional journalist for 10 years but not anymore. But for some reason she recalled her previous job. Finally, she was let in and we quickly headed to the money exchange office to buy Moroccan Dirhams.

A tip about Morocco – at the Fes airport the exchange rate Euro – Dirham was better than the one we were offered here in Bulgaria and also better than in the city exchange offices we saw during our stay in Morocco. But have in mind that upon leaving the country, you are allowed to sell back no more than 2000 dirhams with one boarding pass (around 200 EUR). So try not to buy too many dirhams upon entrance. Check the actual exchange rate before you travel.

Some 24 hours later we enjoyed good weather and view from the roof of our hotel in Fes
Some 24 hours later we enjoyed good weather and view from the roof of our hotel in Fes

At the exit, quietly in the corner, our driver was waiting for us. He quickly navigated us out of the airport, which was almost empty at midnight. We crossed the empty parking lot and jumped in the van that took us to Fes el Bali, the Old Medina of Fes.

We had decided not to take a risk and booked a transfer through the hotel. Usually it costs about 20 EUR for 4 people. If you decide to arrange it yourselves or take a taxi, it would cost no less than 15 EUR. And it will actually take a lot of bargaigning to make it 15 EUR.

First steps in Fes

When you enter the Medina of Fes, you will most probably get lost. The streets are countless – they are thought to be more than 9000, but no one knows the actual number. There are narrow, wide, colourful, dirty, quiet, noisy, crowded, steep, dark ones.. The most important thing is that they are really so many and there are no cars in this area.

We had some concerns how we would find our hotel at midnight in a place where even locals get lost. So we trusted our driver and Aiub, who was waiting for us to take us to the riad.

The medina of Fes in the night, when the shops are closed
The medina of Fes in the night, when the shops are closed

Aiub came in flip-flops (it was not that warm outside) and from the main street where the van dropped us, he took us through the small streets to our riad. There were still people on the market outside and some of the small shops were still open. We had picked one of the popular riads in Fes el Bali, in the midst of the UNESCO World Heritage zone – the Old Medina of Fez. In Arabic the word “medina” means “”city”. But in Morocco the word is widely used for the older parts of the cities. The time to explore the medina had passed and we decided to take some rest because we had spent almost 24 hours travelling (we had a long stay in Bergamo).

Our riad in Fes, Morocco
Our riad in Fes, Morocco

If you have not been to Morocco, you may not know about the Moroccan riads. Riad is a house with an inner garden with a fountain. In the past these were the houses of rich merchants or noble people. Nowadays many hotels and guest houses in such buildings are called “riad”. In the medina of Fes you will notice that the houses have no windows overlooking the streets. The houses look like small forts where the only source of fresh air and light is the roof.

One day in Fes, Morocco

The morning found us in good mood, but outside it was cool and wet. However, it was our first day in Morocco and we started it with great expectations. Aiub, the guy from the hotel, assured us that he would bring us a local guide and help us buy local SIM cards with mobile data. Half hour later we had one SIM card and Arabi. Arabi was our guide. He was wearing grey-black sweater with Christmas motives and a traditional fez hat. He was not speaking too much but apparently had a lot of friends in the local shops. Initially he was in good mood, before he found out that we were not willing to shop a lot. In this part of the city hospitality is measured by the money you spend.

Equipped with waterproof jackets, we explore Fez el Bali
Equipped with waterproof jackets, we explore Fes el Bali

When exploring the medina, you should better have a lot of small change, especally if you are keen to take photos. The locals usually say that you are welcome to take photos but it is also good to ask people if they are ok with this. Well, I think this is the official way to ask you to leave a tip. Actually, in Morocco everyone and everywhere asks for tips which sometimes is really rude and annoying. But we had no choice so we got ready and followed Arabi. The first stop was a mobile phone shop, to buy another SIM card.

The Fes attraction that takes your breath away (literally)

If you are sensitive about animal well-being, you can skip the description below. But it is a true life story which we personally experienced.

The Chouara tannery in Fes, the first tannery we visited
The Chouara tannery in Fes, the first tannery we visited
Tannery Sidi Moussa
Tannery Sidi Moussa – another tannery in Fes

The most memorable thing from Fes are the various smells. Smells of spices, smells of garbage, of mules, fish, chicken, ammonia, animal skins.. Some of the strongest smells you will find in the several tanneries in the medina which have not changed for centuries. Our guide took us through the crowded medina to the river bed and we entered a small shop full of leather products.

Romance with a mint stalk in the rain
Romance with a mint stalk in the rain

Upon entrance we were given mint stalks to hold under our noses. They were supposed to make the smells more bearable. We climbed three or four floors to the rooftop terrace of the building, overlooking the largest tannery in town. It is a cooperative of several shops that keep this old craft alive and try to lure the tourists to buy as much as possible from their production.

The Chouara Tannery

We stood above the men working in the rain, watching the slightly barbarian job they were doing, preserving thousand year-old traditions. The odour was almost bearable because the day was cold and rainy but in the summer it must be unbearable for the outside visitors. We saw the many earth gaps, full of various liquid substances where the whole procedure of colouring the skins occurs. Chouara is the largest tannery in Fes and all tourists are brought here.

The Chouara tannery in Fes
The Chouara tannery in Fes

The whole procedure step by step:

Tanning and softening the hides: The sheep hides are initially doused in a blend of cow pee, quicklime, salt, and water. This helps removing the plenitude fat, substance and hair from the skins. The hides are soaked for 2-3 days to remove all the unnecessary things from them. The calfskins are soaked in another mix of water and pigeon craps, containing high quantities of ammonia which helps to soften the skins.

Tanning and softening the hides at the Chouara tannery
Tanning and softening the hides at the Chouara tannery
The same gaps at Sidi Moussa tannery
The same gaps at Sidi Moussa tannery – Fez medina

Colouring the leathers: After being softened, trimmed, cleaned and dried, the leathers then go to the many honeycomb-like dried earth gaps, each one containing different colour. The colouring techniques have not changed for centuries and all the leathers are coloured with purely natural pigments. Cedar trees give cocoa shading, poppy blossomes give red colour, mint is used for green, indigo for blue and saffron for yellow.

Clouring the leathers at the Chouara tannery
Colouring the leathers at the Chouara tannery
A painting of the tannery
A painting of the tannery

Finally, the coloured leathers are taken by the workers and carried on the roof of the tannery to dry in the sun. You can easily see them – a roof covered with tens of skins of the same colour.

Leathers hanged to dry in the tannery
Leathers hanged to dry in the tannery
Leathers hanged to dry at the Sidi Moussa tannery
Leathers hanged to dry at the Sidi Moussa tannery

We went back to the shop from where we came and our hosts took us to the “exhibition”, as they call it, where all of their products are on show. Indeed, it is not an exhibition but just a regular shop for leather products. They assured us that if we liked something but they lack the size, they can immediately sew a new piece for us within 2 hours and send it to our hotel.

A travel bag from camel leather that I really liked
A travel bag from camel leather that I really liked

I don’t know whether their products are worth buying. They looked nice but we were not particularly interested. We learned that the camel skin is the strongest and the best comes from the hump. Next comes the calfskin. The sheep leather is among the most commonly used and is softer than the calfskin. And the goatskin is the finest, used mostly for linings.

We tried to leave the shop quickly and we were not asked for tip here. But Maria made the mistake to ask about one of the handbags and they wasted us a lot of time trying to sell us handbags at absurd prices.

A little bit later we made a stop to another tannery – Sidi Moussa, a smaller one than Chouara but also popular in Fes. Here the skins are processed the same way and the only hi-tech thing is a huge water wheel for rinsing the skins, installed in 2015.

Sidi Moussa tannery in Fes, Morocco
Sidi Moussa tannery in Fes, Morocco

A few minutes later we found ourselves on a street ful of teenagers, washing and colouring clothes. Here you can refresh or change the colour of any textile. Everything is made by hand, on the street. And everyone is smiling for photos, hoping to receive a few dirhams for the pose.

Al-Attarine Madrasa

We entered the only madrasa (or medersa) in the Medina of Fes that is open for non-Muslim visitors. In the Arabic world madrasa mean any type of educational institution. However, in the West the word is often referred to a relugious school, particularly Islamic. So, we entered the Al-Attarine Madrasa, a school built in 1325 by sultan Abu Sa’id Uthman II, a member of the Marinid dynasty that ruled the area from 13 to the 15th century.

Al-Attarine Madrasa in Fes, Morocco
Al-Attarine Madrasa in Fes, Morocco

Nowadays the school is only a tourist attraction but is a wonderful example of Islamic and Moroccan architecture. When we were inside, for a moment I was sorry that it was full of people. In the social media I had seen plenty of photos of the empty building, without the crowds.

The corridors of Al-Attarine Madrasa
The corridors of Al-Attarine Madrasa
The rooms of the pupils with their small windows overlooking the inner yard
The rooms of the pupils with their small windows overlooking the inner yard

But now, when I look through my photos, I think it is better that the place was full of people. Otherwise someone could think that we took photos in the bathroom. The beautiful and labor-intensive terracota decoratons sometimes bring such associations to me. Maybe I have to find a book about the history of Morocco, I am probably missing so many facts. Do you have something in mind?

Al-Attarine Madrasa in Fes, Morocco
Al-Attarine Madrasa in Fes, Morocco

Al-Attarine Madrasa is always full of tourists. To enjoy the place in silence maybe you have to come really early in the morning.

The rooms of the upper floors of the madrasa have views towards the roofs of Fes el Bali
The rooms of the upper floors of the madrasa have views towards the roofs of Fes el Bali
The minaret of Qarawiyyin university
The minaret of Qarawiyyin university, Fez medina

Getting to know Fes, step by step

Our guide Arabi showed us many hidden places in the old town. We passed by a bread oven with its wooden shovels and wood for maintaining the fire.

 A bread oven in Fes
A bread oven in Fes
 A bread oven in Fes Morocco
A bread oven in Fes

Then we enterd in the basement of a local hammam where I almost stepped on a guy napping near the oven. All the way to the oven I saw sacks with sawdust, used to maintain the fire for warming the hammam.

The oven under a hammam in Fes
The oven under a hammam in Fes

We passed by several workshops of various crafts – jewelers, carpenters, woodcarvers, tinsmiths, fruit sellers, sellers of anything else. On the market we saw stretchers for brides and stretchers for taking a man to his last home.

A carpenter shop in Fes el Bali
A carpenter shop in Fes el Bali
Decorated wedding stretchers
Decorated wedding stretchers in Fez Medina

Some of the buildings we were only allowed to see from the outside, because non-Muslims are not accepted there. We also entered the shopping mall of the medina, one very luxurious-looking zone with shops for textiles, buttons and ready garments for special occasions. Here women usually come to buy textiles and garments for weddings and other very special events.

Numerous of sewing threads on sale in one of the shops in the Fes medina
Numerous of sewing threads on sale in one of the shops in the Fes medina

Sightseeing in the Fes medina can be a challenging experience. You reach the famous buildings but you are not allowed in, you have to stay on the door. It is usually forbidden for non-Muslims to enter. I think they should write different travel guides for Muslims and non-Muslims. Otherwise, we feel like intruders in the locals’ life, spying them thtough the door.

Sightseeing in Fes
Sightseeing in Fes

Arabi was guiding us and showing us the places from where we could take a glance into the forbidden areas. Fes is really a strange place, they enjoy the incomes from tourism and do not miss to remind you about the tip, but they actually dislike tourists and do not want them around.

The oldest existing higher educational institution in the world – University of al-Qarawiyyin

Some would say that this is the oldest university in the world. Others would say that actually the oldest university is the one in Bologna, Italy. Qarawiyyin University (also written Al-Karaouine) was founded in 859 by Fatima al-Fihri as an extension of the mosque, previously founded by her. Fatima al-Fihri was a well-educated daughter of a rich Tunisian merchant, whose large family moved from the town of Kairouan to Fes. The mosque and university bear the name of Fatima’s native town.

The green roofs of the buildings surrounding the garden of the university
The green roofs of the buildings surrounding the garden of the university

The University of Ez-Zitouna in Tunisia was established even earlier – in 737 (or 732 according to some sources). I cannot say why it is not considered the oldest university in the world.

The entrance to the inner yard of the Qarawiyyin University
The entrance to the inner yard of the Qarawiyyin University

We stood at the gates of Qarawiyyin University and looked to the inner yard, we were not let in. Our guide said that non-Muslims were only allowed to take a glance through the gate. So, we took a glance, took some photos and continued our walk with our unsatisfied curiousity.

The white minaret of the Qarawiyyin University and mosque
The white minaret of the Qarawiyyin University and mosque

The Berber carpet show

Our guided walk through Fes was really long and I can’t mention every place we saw. But some of the experiences were especially attractive.

Tourist guides in Fes will always be eager to take you from shop to shop, hoping that you will buy something and they get a commission. However, as the day progressed, our guide Arabi was less and less happy to know that we were not the most shopping tourists. But we kept walking after him, discovering the exotics and the colours of Fes.

A shop for traditional Berber carpets in Fes medina
A shop for traditional Berber carpets in Fes

We entered a carpet shop where we were welcomed by another enthusiastic seller. We were immediately served tea and two men started unfolding rug after rug on the floor before us. In 15 minutes they showed us tens of rugs, each one special in its own way. Some of them were from cotton, others from wool, thirtd – from cactus silk, etc. The guy kept explaining all the things about the carpets but the most we was repeating that they offered free worldwide shipping. Well, it sounds fair enough shen you are selling things with price tags for thousands of euro.

The carpet show
The carpet show

Carpets, carpets, carpets.. They threw more than 20 carpets in front of us. Colourful, soft, beautiful, some double-sided, expensive and even more expensive. Every rug goes with its own story. One was weaved by a single lady for three years, another one was made by another lady in just 6 months. A carpet was only made by a single person because when two women worked together, they did not work in sync. We heard so many stories about these carpets, they were really beautiful and really expensive.

Well, in the words of the traders, these carpets were indeed very cheap. We did not bargain because we were not interested to buy but we would probably manage to drop the price to at least one third of the initial offer. If you have already been to Fes, you must know that this is the most common attraction locals would offer to tourists in Fes – taking you from shop to shop, showing you “exhibitions” and hoping you will buy something. At the end, you see that there is no exhibition but just a normal shop and they are really unhappy when you leave without buying.

Hand-made carpets in Fes, Morocco
Hand-made carpets in Fes, Morocco

Anyway, we would not miss the chance to watch, touch and learn all we could about the carpets. We also learned that the carpet production in Morocco is supported by the state because it is an important sector with old traditions. Every big city has its traditional patterns on the carpets. But Fes is the largest carpet producer in the country.

However, these are not the only wonderful carpets in the world. I have seen traditional carpets in Turkmenistan, where they are also very proud of their carpets. The Turkmen carpets are also a part of the UNESCO World Heritage and in the capital Ashgabat there is a museum and a Ministry of Carpets. Also, I know a place in Bulgaria where they make amazing and unique hand-made carpets.

Looking like Berbers lost in the desert
Looking like Berbers lost in the desert

From the carpets to the scarves

After the carpets we entered a shop for scarves. Scarves are widely used accessory in this part of the world, often for berber turbans to cover the head in the desert. They are also very popular among tourists for photos in the desert. We were already tired but we still posed for a photo with turban and we headed for a late lunch.

Everything in the medina of Fes is hand-made
Everything in the medina of Fes is hand-made
The textile shop in Fes
The textile shop in Fes

Our lunch was nothing special. You should be aware that most guides will take you to ridiculously expensive places, actual tourist traps. We really enjoyed Moroccan food a few days later when we trekked through the High Atlas mountains, accompanied by local Berbers and a mule, and had amazing dinners at the Kasbah du Toubkal.

The three cities of Fes

We were standing by Borj Sud, a 16-century fort on a hill near Fes. From the tower there is amazing view towards Fes el Bali, the oldest part of Fes. The Medina dates back to the Almoravid dynasty. Once it was surrounded by fortification walls and the buzz of narrow streets and people between them has not changed a lot ever since. Somewhere, between the streets and mosques, is the unclear border with Fes Jdid, a newer part of Fes from the times of the Marinid Sultanate. Somewhere in the distance, out of our sight, is the third city – Ville Nouvelle, the new Fes, founded by the French.

Borj Sud, The fortification on the hill near Fes
The fortification on the hill near Fes – Borj Sud
The Medina of Fes, Fes el Bali, Moroco
The Medina of Fes, Fes el Bali, Moroco

The time passed quickly and we were not able to see all the parts of Fes. But seen from above, the old medina (Fes el Bali) looked beautiful with its towering minarets and brownish buildings. The old fort was a calm place, we were alone there, together with the few soldiers guarding it. Very different from the busy and noisy medina. Somewhere to the left was the Royal Palace in Fes Jdid and we headed to see it and take photos before its gates.

The medina of Fes
The medina of Fes

The Royal Palace of Fes (Dar al-Makhzen or Palais Royal)

We are not trying to draw a map or a travel guide for Fes, we just keep telling our own experiences. Fes is not stunning and it can even look unwelcoming in the beginning. It is a place that needs to be felt and understood. I think we felt it, but maybe we did not understand it initially. Now, while writing these article, some points become clearer.

The royal palace in Fes - Dar al-Makhzen
The royal palace in Fes – Dar al-Makhzen

If you are in Fes, you will most probably be taken to the gates of the Royal Palace. Well, you will most probably see only its gates, but they are still impressive. The palace is still in use by the king of Morocco, when he visits the city. It is not his permanent residence because since 1912 Rabat is the capital of Morocco.

The royal palace in Fes - Dar al-Makhzen
The royal palace in Fes – Dar al-Makhzen

If you browse photos from Fes, you will see many pictures of people in front of these gates. And also in front of another famous gate – Bab Bou Jeloud, The Blue Gate.

Bab Bou Jeloud - The Blue Gage in Fez, Morocco
Bab Bou Jeloud – The Blue Gage in Fez, Morocco

The Blue Gate

Bab Bou Jeloud is widely known as Blue Gate – the richly decorated main western entrance to Fes el Bali from Fes Jdid. After the advent of gunpowder, the fortifications of the old Fes became useless and the gates to the city had a mostly decorative role. So, after the French took over the administration of the city in 1912, they decided to build a new, more impressive entrance to the old town. They demolished parts of the fortification wall and stables to make place for the new gate, next to the old modest Bab Bou Jeloud gate. The remains of the old gate are still visible on the left site of the Blue Gate when seen from the outside, but it is not functuoning anymore.

Nowadays, the impressive Blue Gate marks the border between Fes Jdid and the old Medina. It is reachable by car from Fes Jdid but you cannot continue by car in the medina.

Bab Bou Jeloud and a look towards the medina
Bab Bou Jeloud and a look towards the medina

The pottery and ceramics of Morocco

We recalled our friend Zineb from Morocco whom we met during a trip in South Italy while exploring pottery workshops. Zineb was explaining us about Morooccan ceramics and workshops. But we could not fully understand her until we saw these places with our eyes.

The typical Moroccan tables, heavy and with ceramic mosaics
The typical Moroccan tables, heavy and with ceramic mosaics

All of the walls in our riad were decorated with mosaics of ceramic tiles. They were incredibly beautiful but all the time we felt like sleeping in the bathroom. This feeling didn’t leave us diring our whole stay in this curious country.

The traditional Moroccan mosaics, known as Zellige, can be seen everywhere in Morocco. They are on the exteriour, interiors, on the walls, tables and on various architectural elements. The main production centres are the cities of Fes and Meknes. The mosaics are made entirely by hand and we could not resist the temptation to see how they are actually made, so we headed to visit one of the zellige ateliers.

A potter in Fes, Morocco
A potter in Fes, Morocco

After a few trips, we became very curious and learned a lot about ceramics. In Puglia, south Italy, they are really proud of their ancient traditions in ceramics and they have preserved them to a large extent, using few modern technologies. However, in Morocco we returned several centuries back in time. Upon entrance to the factory, we were welcomed by a smiling man working on a pottery wheel driven by his foot. Then we entered the hall where they decorated the tajines, dishes and other products made in the factory. Each element of the decoration was entirely drawn by hand.

Decorating pottery in Morocco
Decorating pottery in Morocco
Ready Moroccan tajines for sale
Ready Moroccan tajines for sale

The tajine is the traditional pot for cooking food. Almost everything you will eat in Morocco is prepared in a tajine. Moroccan cuisine is known as very healthy because everything cooked in the tajine is cooked and stewed very slowly at a low temperature. The food is very soft and delicious.

Cutting small pieces for the ceramic mosaics
Cutting small pieces for the ceramic mosaics
The master making zellige mosaics
The master making zellige mosaics

In the next room we witnessed the making process of zellige mosaics. Several men, sitting on the ground, were breaking the painted ceramic tiles with small hammers. Then another man, the master, was carefully arranging the mosaic, picking the right pieces and placing them on their spots.

Arranging zellige mosaic
Arranging zellige mosaic

We were amused to see that the mosaic was arranged face down. It must be incredibly difficult to make a picture without seeing it. At the end, they pour cement or other material on the mosaic to fix it and make it ready for placement on a table, wall or other object. That time they were making tables.

The pottery products are extremely beautiful
The finished products are extremely beautiful

Watching the ready for sale products in the pottery shop, you can fall in love with them. They were incredibly beautiful.

Moroccan ceramics
Moroccan ceramics

Back to the medina

The streets of the medina are full of life, almost round the clock. Despite the medina is a real labyrinth, the market is divided into some thematic zones. On one street you can buy baklava, candies, dried fruits and nuts. Another street is a livestock market, where you can pick a live animal, like a hen, and have it prepared for cooking. There is the street for fish, another street for olives or fruits. On one street you could hire huge cooking pots, in which I assume you could cook a whole lamb.

Olives on the market in Fes
Olives on the market in Fes
The corner with the giant cooking pots
The corner with the giant cooking pots

Fes is an incredible place, full of life and its peculiarities. At the moment we separated with our guide, many people started chasing us, offering us various products and services. Some were inviting us to their restaurants, others offering guiding services. Locals never leave the tourists alone. At one point one guy even tried to persuade us that we were not allowed to be on a certain street after sunset. Then he “politely” tried to guide us to another street, where he accidentally owned a restaurant. It is a strange and challenging feeling.

The camel meat shop
The camel meat shop
The camel meat shop in the Fes medina
The camel meat shop in the Fes medina

In the medina you can really buy everything. Before we left for Fes, we watched a movie with Gordon Ramsey who was shopping camel meat from the only camel meat shop in Fes. You cannot miss it, you will definitely notice the large camel head on the stall. However, we tasted camel meat later in Chefchaouen.

Food in Morocco and some other peculiarities

We also try to have no expectations before visiting places we do not know. However, it is maybe in the human nature that we have some expectations, anyway. Before we left for Morocco, we imagined various, colourful food with many spices, tastes and flavours. Indeed, the overall atmosphere in Morocco and Fes in particular was actually this – filled with so many colours and smells, that the ones in the food were almost unnoticeable. 10 days later we had a fuller view on the food in Morocco or at least the food tourists can eat.

Vegetarian couscous
Vegetarian couscous

Tajine

What is tajine? Tajine is actually not a single dish. The term is used for all the dishes prepared in the traditional pot with conic cap, named tajine. In the tajine the dishes are cooked at slow even temperature and become very tender, delicious and healthy. In the menus of the restaurants you will find a whole section of tajines. The most popular are chicken tajine, veal tajine, lamb tajine and vegetable tajines. In your dish you will most probably find stewed meat with vegetables, usually potatoes, carrots, zucchini. However, do not expect a lot of spices. Sometimes the food will be even saltless.

Couscous

Couscous is a popular dish not only in Morocco but across the Arabic world. It consists of 1-mm steamed balls of crushed durum wheat semolina.

The traditional technology of preparing couscous is quite labour-intensive process. The semolina is first sprinkled with water and rolled in the hands to make small balls. Then they are sprinkled with dry flour to keep them separate, and then they are sieved. The pellets that are too small fall through the sieve and are again rolled and sieved until they reach the proper size of about 1 mm. As this work is quite labour-intensive, once women gathered into groups for several days in order to make couscous for the upcoming months.

Couscous is quite a popular dish in Morocco. It has many varieties – with vegetables, meat, fish, seafood, depending on the available products in the region. Usually it is served in a deep plate, with large pieces of stewed vegetables and meat on the top.

Pastilla

Pastilla is a traditional Moroccan pastry, stuffed with various things. Often it is stuffed with chicken or pigeon (we tried the latter in Fes). Cinnamon is a traditional spice for the stuffing and the pastry is sprinkled with powder sugar. If you are not used to such combinations, you may find the taste challenging. Pastilla is usually served as a main dish, not as dessert, despite it may be quite sweet.

Pastilla with pigeon meat
Pastilla with pigeon meat

Camel meat

You can taste camel meat at many places but I would advise you to pick a higher class restaurant. We tried a camel burger in Chefchaouen.

If you are adventurous, you can also try street food in Morocco
If you are adventurous, you can also try street food in Morocco

Alcohol in Morocco

Alcohol is prohibited for Muslims in Morocco but a limited number of restaurants and shops have license to sell alcohol to non-Muslims. Out of respect to the local traditions, we did not look for alcohol in Morocco. We only tasted some Moroccan wine in the luxury restaurants in Marrakech the last day.

Maria enjoys a glass of wine in a nice restaurant in Marrakech
Maria enjoys a glass of wine in a nice restaurant in Marrakech

Generally, if a restaurant has an alcohol license, it is most probably a place aimed at serving tourists. From such places you can also expect higher prices, but no guarantee for good food or service. So if you insist on drinking alcohol, mind that it can go with other “benefits”. However, we have to admit that we have experienced wonderful tourist-only restaurants in Morocco.

Moroccan tea

Wherever you are in Morocco – a shop, a hotel, a restaurant, you will be offered Moroccan tea. Usually this is black tea with mint leaves and optional sugar, but you can ask for tea without mint, too. At some places the tea is really good, at others – not that much. However, we never refused to try a cup of tea. Moreover, serving tea is a traditional welcoming ritual in Morocco and it is not very polite to refuse it.

Moroccan tea by the pool
Moroccan tea by the pool

Water in Morocco

All tourists in Morocco are advised to drink only bottled water. The water from the tap is not for every stomach and the bottled water is at reasonable prices, so it is not worth the risk. In front of some shops you may notice clay pots full of water and locals drinking from them. However, you should better not try it. One of the few places where we found drinkable tapwater was in the High Atlas Mountains, at the Kasbah du Toubkal. They have a natural clean water source from the mountains. Also, the water in Chefchaouen is known as quite clean because it comes from the springs in the mountains around.

Water pot on the street in the medina of Fez, which we would not dare to try
Water pot on the street in the medina of Fez, which we would not dare to try

If you want to try good Moroccan cuisine, we would recommend Restaurant Annette in Sofia, Bulgaria.

We could write more things about Fes and it will never be enough. There are so many things we could not fully understand and see. The next morning we hired a car and headed to Chefchaouen – the Blue city of Morocco.

If you are curious about Morocco, take a walk with us and see all the places we visited in Morocco.

Instagram Andrey Andreev PhotographyIn our Instagram account we share more photos and thoughts from our trips and daily life, so if you are curious, follow us there, too.

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