Tempted by incredibly cheap flights from Barcelona, we flew to fifth continent of our trip and landed in Fes, Morocco. We stayed in Fes el Bali, the medina and oldest walled part of Fes. Fes el Bali was originally founded between 789 and 808 AD. The Fes medina is home to the world’s oldest university and boasts the world’s largest car-free urban zone.
The Fes Medina is a very complicated area to navigate. Streets bend, twist, and turn at odd angles and it can be like navigating a maze. Vendors line the streets selling food, leather, ceramics, and textiles. The sights, sounds, and smells can overwhelm your senses.
We stayed at an Airbnb home in the center of the medina. The family of 12+ which included extended family members opened their arms to us and cooked us excellent local dishes. The only downside was the bathroom, which happened to face the kitchen and was only separated by a thin curtain. On top of that, it was a squat toilet – the norm for Morocco. Needless to say, the lack of privacy was a bit uncomfortable for our Western sensibilities.
To escape the bustle of the medina, we hiked up the hill beside Fes to the Merenid Tombs, built in the 14th century. The top offers spectacular panoramic views of the city and mountains. Once we reached the tombs, the Call to Prayer echoed off the mountainsides as around fifty mosques in Fes joined in as heard in the video below.
We spent most of our time purposefully getting lost in the medina. At one point we met a woman covered in henna and she explained that the colorful temporary tattoos were from her wedding day. We also watched copper-smiths hammer beautiful copper cookware and watched leather-makers sew wallets and purses.
From Fes, we headed four hours north to Chefchaouen, also know as the Blue Pearl of Morocco. Founded in 1471, Chefchaouen is nestled in the Rif Mountains.
The city is unique since every building is painted in shades of blue. Jewish refugees in the 1930’s painted the city blue since the color represents the sky and the heavens in Judaism. To keep the tradition alive, the government supplies fresh blue paint to the residents every year. Walking through the medina is quite the serene and surreal experience as shown by the photos below.
After two months in Europe, Morocco was a little bit of a culture shock, but well worth the visit. The stunning colors, exotic smells, and unique scenery made the trip very memorable. Now its back to Europe to meet up with some more friends!