Discovering the Moroccan life in 10 days

Du 17 au 27 janvier 2019
11 jours
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Salam alekoum dear readers, and happy new year 2019! 😀 I will start this year by a little trip to Morocco. As you may know, I have already been to Morocco a few weeks ago - for a short city trip in Fez. You can read my story here, however, it is all in French... This is why I decided to write in English for this second trip! 😉

Morocco (المغرب‎, al-maġrib in Arabic) is a country located in the Maghreb of North West Africa. Its capital is Rabat, whereas its largest city is Casablanca. It overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Morocco's predominant religion is Islam, and its official languages are Arabic and Berber. The Moroccan dialect of Arabic, Darija, and French, are also widely spoken.

You may wonder why I am going back to Morocco already? Well, I really enjoyed my first stay; I met some awesome people (i.e., Yassine, my Couchsurfing host, and his family), and four days was too short! 😉 This time, I will discover a few more places - and my mum will join me for a few days in the city of Fez! 😀

But, before that, I am going to Belgium to meet some friends and to Cardiff for my PhD viva...

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Good news folks, I successfully passed my viva! You can now call me Doctor Lucie! 😀

I landed in Fez airport around midnight yesterday, and met Yassine who was waiting for me there.

From the airport to the city centre, you have two options: either the taxi, which most people take, which costs about 200 Dirhams (about €20), or the bus, which I took in December, which costs... only 4 Dirhams! To find the stop, cross the parking lot and walk to the round-about.

This morning, I was happy to chat with my friends Maria (Yassine's mum) and B'tissam (Yassine's sister) around breakfast! 😀 I also met Sylvie and Jean-François, two Canadians from Québec staying over. It was sunny in the morning, so we chilled a bit in the sun. By the way, I forgot my sunglasses... 😥

Founded in the 9th century and home to the oldest university in the world, Fez reached its height in the 13th and 14th centuries, when it replaced Marrakesh as the capital of the kingdom. The urban fabric and the principal monuments in the medina (madrasas, fondouks, palaces, residences, mosques and fountains) date from this period.

In the medina 

Yassine and I went for a coffee in the medina (old town), where we met Momo, a friend of Yassine I met last month. After that, we went to Jnane Sbil park with Ouadieh, another friend I met previously.

Jnan Sbil gardens were created in the 18th century by the sultan Moulay Abdallah. It is the oldest public garden in Fez. It probably looks great in the sun! 😀

Jnan Sbil 

We came back home for a late lunch; I got to try harira, a delicious Moroccan soup made by Maria. We also ate some fresh and tasty mandarines. Sadly, as you can see from the pictures, the sun left... Maria thus offered me to join for hammam. My answer? Of course! 😀 And I discovered a whole new thing!

"The Moroccan hammam is one of the most widely loved and yet puzzling experiences for people who have never visited or Morocco." I found a great post here.

I feel too sleepy to describe my whole experience tonight, but I will come back to it. Long story short: it only cost 20 Dh (about €2), we stayed there almost 4 hours, and I feel completely relaxed now! 😉

Do I look Moroccan? 

Leila saida (good night)! Come back tomorrow for more stories!

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The sky was very grey when we woke up this morning, and it was freezing. But the sun started to shine around 11am, and I am now enjoying it in the garden! 😀 After breakfast, I went for a walk to the Marinids.

The Marinid Tombs refer the ruins of monumental tombs on a hill above and north Fez. Today, they are also a popular lookout point over the historic city (medina).

The Marinid tombs 

Two Canadian women came for cooking class and made us a delicious sweet couscous.

Couscous and Minouch 😉

This evening, Yassine, Jean-François and Sylvie (the Québecois), and me, are taking a night bus to reach Merzouga, where we will spend a couple of days and a night. I will probably not have any internet for a few days, thus I will tell you all when coming back to Fez! 😀

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Erg Chebbi is one of Morocco's several ergs: large seas of dunes formed by wind-blown sand. Technically all these ergs are within an area of semi-arid Pre-Saharan Steppes and not part of the Sahara desert which lies some distance to the south.

Hassilabied's village and view from the rooftop 😀

"Most of the Moroccans are either Berbers or Arabs. Most of today’s Berbers live in the mountains of Morocco while the Arabs live in the cities. The west has characterised Berbers as nomads using camels to cross the Sahara desert. Most today are farmers of the mountains and valleys in Morocco. They were traders in the earlier days." - Who are the Morocco Berbers?

At 3 pm, serious business started: we met our camels! 😀 And also Ana and Rosa, two Dutch girls who joined us for the rest of the trip. We walked - or, shall I say, our camels walked - for about an hour in the dunes to reach our camp. The sun was very strong, hence the hoods, but the landscapes were impressive.

Camel ride 

I was so surprised when I discovered the camp: it was pretty much a luxury camp! With toilets, a sink, private bedrooms, and even a dining room! 😀 The guys even served us some tea and biscuits!

If you are interested in this amazing experience, you should contact Lhoussin! You can find him on Facebook, Couchsurfing, on TripAdvisor. For only 400 Dh, you get: a camel ride, a night in the desert, dinner, breakfast, Berber live music, sand boarding... What else? 😀

By the way, did you know that there was such a thing as sand boarding? Have a look on YouTube... 😉 Tomoya, a Japanese traveler, met us at the camp and spent the night with us. He's been traveling around the world for 8 months now! Nobody seemed to be able to remember his name, he was thus baptised Japan.

Sunset in the Sahara 

Sunset on the dunes was absolutely impressive. My pictures only give a tiny bit of an idea. We then had a delicious tajine in the camp, and enjoyed a warm fire with some Berber live music. The night was cold though.

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I am a few days late in writing! So Lhoussin woke us up around 7 am to watch the sunrise on the desert. It was beautiful, maybe not as beautiful as the sunset - or was it because I was freezing and still tired? 😉

Sunrise on the camp 

We then quickly reached our camels for a ride back towards Hassilabied, where breakfast was waiting...

Morning ride 

We spent the day in the village, walking around, enjoying the sun, climbing the big dune (for Yassine and Jean-François) or buying a souvenir (for Sylvie and me)! 😉 At 7 pm, we got on our coach to head back to Fez. Funnily enough, after the desert, we drove through the mountains and the road was white of snow! We reached Fez around 5 am. Unfortunately, the "petits taxis" were on strike and we thus had trouble to find a car... Read Morocco World News about the strike here. Ana, Rosa, Yassine and I then slept until noon! 😉

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Breakfast at noon with the Dutch girls, and then not much work done in the afternoon, as I was pretty tired and it was cold anyway! 😉 A last coffee in the medina with Jean-François and Sylvie, and I also booked my bus tickets to go to Chefchaouen... but this is another story! Go to post J6 (jour 6 = day 6)! 😀

Meanwhile in Fez 
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The bus ticket from Fez to Chefchaouen costs 75 Dh and can be bought from CTM offices. I arrived at the station around 10 am, and had a good surprise: I met Tomoya there, waiting for the same coach than me! 😀 We reached the city around 3.30 pm. The coach station is only 20-minute walk from the medina.

Chefchaouen – or Chaouen – is a popular tourist destination: one distinction is its blue-rinsed houses and buildings. The blue is said to symbolise the sky and heaven, and serve as a reminder to lead a spiritual life. It is also a popular shopping destination, as it offers many native handicrafts that are not available elsewhere in Morocco, such as wool garments and woven blankets. The countryside around it has a reputation for being a prolific source of kief. The Chefchaouen region is one of the main producers of cannabis in Morocco.

We started our visit of the city by a walk to Uta El Hammam square, the main square of Chefchaouen.

In the streets of Chefchaouen 

A small Kasbah (fortress), founded in 1471, can be found in the square. The entrance ticket costs 10 Dh for Moroccans or 60 Dh for foreigners. We hesitated a few minutes and decided to give it a go, as it is supposed to be one of the highlights of Chefchouaen. To be honest, it does not really worth it 😉 - even though the view on the city and on the mountains is rather beautiful, as you can see on my pictures! 😀

El Kasbah 

You can notice on one of my pictures a white minaret on top of a hill: it is the Spanish Bouzafar mosque. I read on a travel blog that the view from there was worth it: there was our next stop! 😀

On the way 

To find the Spanish mosque, one has to follow the Ras El-Ma river.

Panorama on Chefchaouen from the Spanish mosque 

We ended the day by a good tajine at Morisco, a cheap restaurant with friendly staff on the main square.

View from Morisco's terrace 
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No best way to start the day than with a delicious breakfast! The Souika hostel offers coffee and orange juice and malawi for 25 Dh = perfect! 😉 After, I met Tomoya and we enjoyed an orange juice on our terrace.

Good morning Chefchaouen! 

We then explored the beautiful streets of Chefchaouen for a few hours, with no special goal. See in pictures!

Pretty Chaouen 

Did I mention that Chefchaouen was also a city of cats? 😀

We love kittiiiies! <3 
The blue city 

In the afternoon, Tomoya took a coach to Tangier whereas I headed back to Fez.

Funny fact 1

During coach breaks, you can get some "sandwiches" (Moroccan bread with keftah). The fun fact (for us Europeans) is that you first need to buy your meat at the butcher (ask meat for one person), and then give it to a second guy who will cook it for you on the BBQ! 😉

Funny fact 2

The petits taxis were still on strike when I reached Fez. I did not want to pay for 50 Dh instead of 10 to go back to Yassine's, therefore I walked 6 kms in the dark to head back. It may sound a bit stupid, but it was nice to walk though! I do not regret haha! 😀

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Nothing special to say about that day in Fez. The weather was pretty bad (rain, wind, and cold), and I spent most of the time either waiting for the bus, in the bus, waiting for my mum at the airport, waiting for the bus, or in the bus! 😉 Yes, you read it right, my mum joined me for a few days in Fez! 😀 We stayed at Yassine's as Airbnb guests (you can book here to get a private room for €9, Moroccan breakfast included).

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The sun and warm weather came back, yay! 😀 I introduced my mum to the medina, we walked around for a few hours and saw a few famous sites, such as Al Quaraouiyine mosque and the Chouara tannery (check my previous article about Fez here for more descriptions).

Wandering in the medina 

We had lunch at Thami's, a small restaurant next to the famous Bab Boujloud (blue gate). It is probably not the best food but it was edible, cheap (€4 for a tajine or couscous dish) and friendly! 😉 After that, we visited the famous Bou Inania Madrasa, recommended to me both by Yassine and my friend Mouna.

The Madrasa Bou Inania was founded in AD 1356. It is the only madrasa with a minaret in Fez. "Madrasa" is the Arabic word for any type of educational institution, secular or religious. The entrance ticket costs 20 Dh. Be careful, the madrasa cannot be visited during prayer times.

Bou Inania 

After our visit of this impressive building, we decided to enjoy the sun at Jnan Sbil park with our book! 😀

Jnan Sbil 

We ended this nice day at the Marinids tombs, with a pretty sunset on the medina.

Marinids 

For dinner, Maria prepared us some kind of delicious porridge with "baby spaghettis". Leila saida!

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Last post of this article for our last day in Fez (and Morocco)! 😥

In the morning, we visited the impressive Al Glaoui Palace, which I discovered on a travel blog.

Al Glaoui is an 18th-century palace as fascinating for its state of disrepair as it is for its architectural magnificence. It was built by a pasha from Marrakesh, and the family living here have been its guardians for 100 years. The main house is the height of Andalusian style and includes a well-preserved early-20th-century bathroom. A harem leads to a large kitchen with cooking pots. The biggest surprise is the modern-art gallery in a salon at the back.

The entrance costs 25 Dh per person.

Al Glaoui palace

Both my mum and I were pretty impressed by this palace, particularly because we have not heard about it before. Fun fact, Abdou (current guardian), appeared on French TV a few years back to talk about the palace!

For lunch, we went back towards Bab Boujloud and stopped at a terrace. We ordered a chicken tajine with plums, and a pastilla: a traditional dish from Fez. It is a kind of pie combining sweet and savoury flavours. We loved it! It is however quite filling, and we barely managed to finish our tajine after that! 😉

Just for fun! What you can find in the medina... 😉

After lunch, we visited the Batha Palace and Museum, located a few hundred meters from the blue gate.

Dar Batha is a former royal palace in the city of Fez. The palace was commissioned in the 19th century, and was converted into a museum in 1916 with around 6,000 collections.

The entrance costs 10 Dh per person.

Batha museum 

We really loved its peaceful gardens. Furthermore, the staff was extremely friendly and funny.

Back to Jnan Sbil park to end our day - and our stay in Fez! Besslama readers!

Jnan Sbil 

Stay posted for my future adventures in China and Asia starting next month! 😉