Fes – March 7-9

Last night, we had a rethink of our plans for the next couple of weeks. The remaining itinerary of our tour with MSDT included a day off in Fes, with a guided tour of the city, and then a night in each of Chefchaouen and Tangier, before we were to leave by ferry for Tarifa, Spain. After travelling approximately 1500 kms by road over the past week. we, especially Lois, were feeling the need for some down time, to rest and to process all that we had experienced so far. We called Hamid and told him we would like to fly from Rabat to Malaga, Spain. Hamid was very understanding and said he would instruct Khalid to drive us to Rabat and then take us to the airport for our flights. We would still have a day off in Rabat, but without a scheduled city tour.

Leaving our hotel in search of coffee this morning, Lois noticed a sign for “Croissant-Rouge”, momentarily wondering (to Paul’s amusement) whether this might be a coffee option, before remembering it is the Islamic version of the Red Cross! We had a cafe noir in a souk by the Bab Bou Jaloud (the Blue Gate), before setting off on a self-guided online tour. Google maps and GPS were invaluable in the depths of the narrow alleyway of the Medina! It was less busy than usual being a Friday, which was just as well, although it also meant that some of the sites were closed.

We particularly enjoyed visiting Niijarine Museum of Wooden Arts and Crafts. Once the traditional inn for woodworkers in Fes, the building displays samples of native woods and tools, as well as a great array of traditional wooden articles, including musical instruments, boards of customary law, and furniture. This museum is a remarkable omission from the Lonely Planet Guide. Easily finding the mausoleum of Moulay Idriss II, the final resting place of the main founder of Fez and one of the holiest shrines in Morocco, we were only able to look at the intricate woodwork on the exterior. Next, we visited the Ras al-Cherratine Madrasa, built in the mid-17th century by Alaouite Sultan Moulay Al Rashid. This Madrasa was one of the city’s most prestigious student halls, housing up to 150 of the country’s best scholars studying at Kairaouine University to become imams. The cedarwood carved balustrades were impressive, but difficult to photograph as visitors kept leaning over the balconies to be photographed from below (or to sing Italian opera)!

After a lunch of veggie and cheese sandwiches on a rooftop patio, we took a taxi back to our hotel. Dinner at Veggie Pause, the 5th best vegetarian restaurant in the world according to Trip Advisor (!), was Moroccan (vegetable) lasagne and a veggie burger, with fresh fruit smoothies. In search of a (stronger) drink afterwards, we were told at a 5-star hotel that there was no alcohol because of Ramadan (although Ramadan had not yet started), but then we just happened upon a beautiful courtyard of a Riad where a guitar concert of Andalusian music would begin later. On inquiring about tickets, we were told that a glass of wine or beer was included! We were not sure how well-advertised the event was, as only a handful of people drifted in after us. But, the concert, an enjoyable mix of Andalusian and contemporary music, was fun and the atmosphere enchanting.

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