In a series of articles about a trip to Morocco, PR specialist Andrei Sidorov shares his observations about this African country. This time we will focus on the three ancient capitals of Morocco – Fez, Meknes and Marrakesh. It is here that the bulk of tourists flock in search of Arab and Berber authenticity.
Most of the popular routes go from here: to the Atlas Mountains, to the western dunes of the Sahara in Merzouga, or to the cinematic Ouarzazate. If in Casablanca or Tangier you constantly hear from the locals that you are not in the real Morocco, then here it is. This guide will help you in your travel in Morocco with Marrakech desert tours or Fes desert tours or any other tours in Morocco.
Fez is a once prosperous and now impoverished Moroccan city. Argues with Marrakech for third place in terms of population. In terms of authentic North African culture, this is the juiciest place in Morocco. As the Spanish said, viajes al desierto es muy amable.
I got to Fez from heaven directly through the mountains. Transport almost does not go along this route, so I got there by hitchhiking. To overcome 200 kilometres, it was necessary to change three cars. Hitchhiking in Morocco is very comfortable. The roads are good and varied. You can always find an alternative to the high-speed toll highway (and they also exist) to get up with an outstretched hand. Both Moroccans and Europeans in their rented cars stop frequently and are ready to offer roadside assistance.
The first car picked me up 10 minutes after leaving the “blue city” of Chavin. An Arab family with two small children was in the car. This symbolically reflects the level of security in the country and the degree of trust between people. During the stop, the driver Khalid dragged local poachers for a walk through the mountains, olive groves and forest caches, and his wife fed and gave tea. Many clients as they love to visit Marrakech, do the 3 days tour from Marrakech to Fes as a small itinerary tour where you can do the camel ride and go camping in the Sahara desert.
The next driver did not know a word in English, but he told everything about his work and family, at the same time showed photos of his wife and his own excavator. The advantages of Belarus tractors were discussed in sign language. The topic is relevant – in May, harvesting was already underway around the road. Ripe brownfields with neatly cleared hay stacks against the backdrop of the mountain range create some incredibly kind and warm views.
And the driver of the third car was Anas, who was a student of the Kharkiv Medical University in the recent past. A huge number of Moroccans go to Ukraine to study. Why exactly there – no one could clearly explain to me.
Medina (oldtown) Fez
The first thing Anas did when he arrived in the city was to go buy local hashish. In general, in Morocco, it is smoked everywhere, but in Fez – almost more often than cigarettes. In rich and poor areas, in the old medina and in the modern city, smoke everywhere. I have heard the opinion that employers are trying to hire migrants and refugees from Central Africa – they, unlike the locals, are not dependent on “gash”.
And all of Fez is in this. The city is both sleepy and excited, in the smoke of hundreds of barbecues and braziers, tangled and poor, dirty and beautiful. Life in the medina is very stuffy, dense and measured – because of this, the city resembles a piece of plasticine.
The Medina of Fez is the most confusing place I’ve wandered in Morocco. Everyone you meet proudly talks about the 6,000 streets of the old city. But the problem is not even their number. Most of them lead nowhere. The streets simply run into a few twisting lanes and it’s good if at least one of them leads to a busy place, and not to the entrances of local poverty.
The streets just run into a few twisting lanes and it’s good if at least one of them leads to a busy place, and not to the entrances of local poverty.”
Houses converge tightly and hang over each other. They are so dilapidated that they are supported by a web of beams, through which sunlight can hardly break through. Downstairs, on the streets, it is cool enough but stuffy. On the roof-terraces – hell and views of thousands of terracotta houses and mosques.
Separately, it is necessary to tell about the “helpers”. There are always a lot of them in the tourist places of Morocco. As soon as you show confusion on the streets, a local appears next to you, ready to take you where you do not need or where you need to. Payment will be required in any case and the amount of remuneration will never satisfy him.
There is only one way out – just to pretend that you don’t notice anyone and, like a steam locomotive, move smoothly and inexorably about your business. But in Fez, it doesn’t always work. Firstly, one can steadily and steadily enter some streets completely forgotten by Allah. In order not to look like donkeys stubbornly trudging into a dead end, you have to succumb to the offer of help.
True, you still look like a donkey, only already led. Secondly, there are many very poor people living in the medina and this kind of income is the only possible one for them. They won’t leave you so easy. It is important to clearly understand one thing – nothing really bad can happen to you there. There is a lot of police in the city and everyone knows each other.
If you don’t give the money yourself, no one will take it. Usually, the conversation about money starts already in more or less open spaces, so you can just leave. It isbetter to askoldersellers for directions.
I came across, perhaps, the craziest guide. He looked like Jamel Debbouz’s evil twin. After three hours of exhausting wanderings around the medina, I no longer had the strength to look confident. Having warned that there were no dirhams, I had to agree to his excursion.
So I plunged into the very bottom of the poverty of the old city. Houses without interior decoration, women in rags are crushing cottage cheese right on the earthen floors, from the furniture set in the rooms – a mattress, an old small TV and an ashtray with the remains of Ketama hash. It is cold and damp in the “apartments”, despite the +40 C outside.
After 20 minutes of walking, I still convinced him that I really had no money, and anger and rage began. He yelled at the whole medina. I shouted that you shouldn’t do that to him – he is completely repulsed, he has a “sword” and he will kill me. Find the hotel and kill.
It is difficult to take such threats seriously in the middle of a busy street. The role of the “killer” finally collapsed when he tried to explain to me in English that he had a Kalashnikov assault rifle. The situation is as comical as possible – you yourself suggest and guess what kind of threats the person is sending. I left.
In order not to get into such situations, it is better to abandon plans to just wander around the city. My advice is to pick one attraction, map out the direction in advance and walk firmly to wards it. Most of the noteworthy spots are close to busy market straight streets, so you won’t get lost. I have chosen the leather dye houses (Tannerie) as my tentative target.
To get to them, you need to go through almost the entire medina, bypassing the main markets, quarters of artisans of various kinds, fortresses and mosques. Those. if you are too inquisitive and greedy for shopping, then you may not get there in a day.
The dyes themselves look colourful and pretty. The smell around is nasty but bearable. You look at them from the terraces of tanneries and shops. Right here they will hang you with leather of any colour and shape. A jacket or a good bag – from € 100 to € 300, depending on your bargaining talents.
Coming down from the terrace, I stumbled upon my assassin guide, with whom I had dangled through the medina the day before. Another lazy attempt to get money from me. Then they sat down, talked intimately about life and went about their business.
Fez is a new city
A couple of hours after walking through the slums of the medina, I was sitting at a party in the block of private cottages in the new city. Tea, almond sweets and French news on a plasma screen the size of that poor man’s house. The living room itself is so huge that it is divided into several parts – traditional Moroccan mosaics and carpets, European style, a fountain (a picture of storks in reeds laid out with tiles – the heart ached with memories of the homeland), a twisted-carved staircase. Fes is a great city to visit. Therefore, we highly recommend exploring it if you are doing any excursions in Morocco.
The young people of the new city spend their time disappearing for days in these living rooms, driving around in cars or strolling around Assan II Avenue. Everyone is just chatting about how boring it is in Fez, how you need to go to Tangier or take a walk in Essaouira, how people leave for Casablanca, Rabat or Europe.
We ride aimlessly in a smoke-filled car, my player plays the tracks of “Mushrooms” and Max Korzh on the speakers. Fez finally finishes off with contrasts and surrealism of what’s happening. The conversation in Renault pours on a mixture of Arabic and French, trasyanka and surzhyk. The established rapport is broken by the Talking Heads song Psycho Killer:
– Qu’est-ce que c’est (“Whatisthis”) – the ensemble sings.
– Qu’est-ce que c’est. What it is? – asks Anas.
“I don’t know, it’s probably in French,” I answer.
– No, what is it? It’s French.
“But I don’t know French, you know.
– Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa, the speakers say.
– Kes, keskese – whatisit … – says Anas.
– Whatisthiskeskeskese? – I clarify the question.
– Yes, keskeskeseis “whatisit”.
“But it’s in French, I don’t know what it is.
– I know, I know French. This is “what it is.”
The only thing missing in the dialogue is Louis de Funes.