Leaving our desert camp we travelled north towards Fez into the famous Ziz Valley which is a paradise of palm trees that create a lush oasis following an ancient river path across this desert landscape. Our local guide, Tata, took us to a wonderful local market and then to visit two women’s cooperatives that we will support with our tours - one was a facility where they processed local dates into jams, syrups, and other products. This was supported by Slow Food. The other was a reed weaving center where they created beautiful baskets and household items. After a short walk in the palm groves we arrived at Tata’s house where we feasted on roast chicken and fresh veggies from his garden.
Later we drove to the mountain town of Ifrane where we met our wonderful travel partners Tom & Fazia. It was amazing to see how their home town was so similar to a European mountain town with chalet style architecture surrounded by cedar forests. We took a nice walk through the cedar trees and took in the fresh mountain air. We continue to be amazed by Morocco’s diverse landscapes from desert to sea, mountains to oasis, and forest to river valleys. All along the route we are finding historic medinas, kasbahs, caravansaries and more.
Eventually we reached the ancient capital of Fes which boasts the largest walled medina in the world. A short walk within the magnificent city walls led us to our secret gem of a hotel (Riad) which featured a small pool in a lush garden in an open courtyard surrounded by beautifully decorated walls with mosaic tiles and carved plaster in the traditional Andalusian style. Dinner was in the garden and we were treated to the local specialty, pastilla, which is a delicious flaky crusted pastry filled with spiced chicken, chickpeas, and sprinkled with cinnamon. Delicious!
Our guide, Aziz, met us the next morning and took us on a a wonderful exploration of the inner medina including an amazing former koranic school with gorgeous tiles, carved wood and plaster ceilings and walls. We visited the children’s library that we will support with our tours and then peaked into the great mosque and royal palace where we were not allowed entry. The street are full of craftspeople and it really is a living culture with metal workers, stone carvers, leather tanners, and more working in the streets and selling their wares.
We visited a superb pottery workshop where we witnessed the full process of producing the stunning tiles and pottery pieces we have been seeing along the way. Another example of the living tradition and culture that is still thriving in Morocco.
Shopping for a leather jacket
In the evening we dined at a wonderful restaurant set in a historic riad. The food was some of the best of the entire trip - fresh salads of buffalo mozzarella, quinoa, beetroot and goat cheese followed by fresh sea bass, roasted duck, and grilled lamb which we shared family style. A nice deep Moroccan red wine complemented the meal.
Shopping was amazing in Fes. The whole medina is filled with artisans and craftsmen. We visited the famous tannery (yes, the smell is not pleasant but they give you a sprig of fresh mint that you can smell as you look at the tannery). There are beautiful leather shops next to the tannery. Jordan saw a suede jacket and we found ourselves bargaining with Mohammed. Jale showed her bargaining skills honed at the Grand Bazaar and ten minutes later we became friends with Mohammed. He showed us photos of what he has been cooking and we found ourselves talking about food while Jordan was trying on the jacket.