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Fes and the Sahara

We picked up a local guide for our tour of Fes and we set off for a short drive to the Imperial Palace. We weren’t allowed to enter, (no riffraff), but the palace gate was impressive enough. Robed Rashid then took us round the Jewish quarter which had a noticeable absence of Nike trainer shops.

Next stop was a hill overlooking the town of Fes. The population is around 2 million and Fes dates back to the 9th century (founded in 808), making it Morocco’s oldest city.

View from hill

We were treated to a tour of a ceramics factory next. My expectations were low, however, it was rather impressive seeing the whole process from start to finish and the various skilled workers beavering away. The potter’s wheel was my personal favourite. It looks very therapeutic. As expected, the tour ended in a shop where you could purchase all manner of things made of clay.

Then the highlight. The Medina which had over 1000 alleys, some of them very narrow indeed. The best visit was the tannery where animal hides are washed, dried, coloured, and then turned into something useful. The leather jackets were particularly appealing. Any style, any colour. I resisted.

A narrow alley
The Medina
Washing and colouring the hides

We lunched at the only restaurant in the Medina that served alcohol. I stocked up on wine for the desert trip.

Six of us dined at a rather nice restaurant called Isla Blanca where the Champions League game was showing. In fact, on the walk back to the hotel, every bar we passed had the football showing.

Just a small observation about my hotel room bathroom. It was small. Possibly the smallest bathroom I’ve ever seen. 7ft by 3ft and the door couldn’t fully open because the sink was in the way.

A few more observations about Morocco in general. Pedestrian crossings are more a “suggestion” as a place to cross the road. Cars won’t stop. You have to find a gap then break into a small jog. Cars are mopeds will simply weave round you. And every bathroom break we’ve had on the journey involves some sort of payment.

Wednesday we left Fes and headed south toward our evening destination, the Sahara. We had 8 hours driving ahead of us with some stops along the way. Our first stop was an unscheduled Lucy bladder stop. Then we hit the town of Ifrane which didn’t seem like Morocco at all. They call it Morocco’s Switzerland and it was by far the neatest town we had seen so far. 5000 ft up so a little nippy.

A little further south was the Khenifra National Park and we stopped to feed monkeys. I’ve very much enjoyed my monkey experiences and if they were legal, I might like one as a pet.

We had sunshine which made the journey more agreeable and the landscape was highly scenic as we drove through the mid-Atlas Mountains towards the desert. An hour later we had our first glimpse of the high Atlas Mountains which were still snowcapped. An incredible contrast to the desert landscape we were driving through.

After a lunch stop we drove for a further 90 minutes and reached the dunes on the Sahara. We were heading to the overnight camp by camel. A fabulous experience trekking through the dunes on camels. 30 minutes would have been enough, but it was 90 minutes and we all had sore arses by the end. At times is was like a sandstorm with the wind whipping through the dunes. Fortunately, I was wearing my Moroccan outfit so I didn’t suffer like the rest of them.

Mike looking like a pro

Our overnight camp was “glamping” and I had by own tent. After watching the sunset over the dunes we dined as a group before retiring. An excellent day.

Mike, Doug, Rachel, Lucy, me, Julian, Maggie, January, Dan

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