The Epicurious Wanderers!

Day 5 & 6: Fes

This morning we packed and said goodbye to Chefchaouen and made the journey to Fes. Our nice neat orderly suitcases with packing cubes and compression bags are becoming slightly less organised as we travel. The road to Fes is, for the first 100km or so, an exact reversal of the road we took to get to Chefchaouen. What’s amazing is the different things you see travelling in the opposite direction.

Fes is the spiritual and cultural heart of Morocco; a vibrant, noisy and fascinating feast for the senses. After we’d checked into our rooms we decided a walk was in order. After all it’s not we haven’t done any walking so far on this trip, or stair climbing, as of last night I’ve climbed just over 100 flights of stairs according to me watch. Our Riad though is located in the best spot for casual wandering. Depending on the direction we took we either end up outside the walls of the Medina into the outskirts of town, not a great walking area. Or in the other direction we head deep into the alleys that is the maze of the Medina, with it’s 8000 “roads” and even more dead ends. Given we’re going tomorrow the group decides to pass for now. No one is particularly interested in getting lost at this point.

Dinner gave us a unique opportunity to see a different side of Moroccan life as we were warmly welcomed into the home of a local family for a pastilla dinner. The home we entered was amazing, very ornate yet very homy, just a shame that it seemed wrong to take pictures inside a private dwelling. The pastilla is one of the country’s most celebrated dishes, this sweet and savoury delight is made with layered pastry and meat, cooked with eggs, caramelised onions, lemon and sugared almonds. As we’ve now worked out when Adil says there will be lots of food, he’s not joking. The meal started with a hearty soup with lentils and chickpeas, this is one I need the recipe for, it then moved on the shared plates of vegetables. There were tomatoes, several different types of beans, carrots and spinach, then came the pastilla. Let’s just say this dish is amazing, the flavour and textures send the taste buds into raptures, another to add to the must cook collection. Then came sweet pastries and fresh fruits and the ever present mint tea.

As we arrived back at our Riad I noticed the minaret on the Mosque next to us was was lit up like a beacon in the night sky. A beautiful sight against the darkness.

Today we head into the Old Town, known locally as Fes el Bali. Medieval Fes was one of the world’s great centres of education and culture, both Islamic and Jewish. Its religious institutions and libraries are legendary, its mosques of great renown.

Adil and our local guide shared stories of the city’s history as we walked through the twisting streets and alleyways, passing donkeys piled high with goods, and explored the specialty sections that divide the souk. Such is the labyrinth of streets and alleys that our local guide is taking the lead with Adil at the rear, we’ve been told if we lose the group to just stop and stay still. They will come and find us as they know the path we’ve taken. If we go looking we may become lost, in fact Adil has told us of a previous tour where two women, who thought they knew best, did wander away and were lost for many hours until found by the local police. True or not it just helps to reinforce the idea we need to stay with the group, the joke was made that maybe we need to be roped together. Filled with historic khans, medresses and dye-pits, stalls loaded with fruits, herbs and soups, and where the squawk of chickens, smell of spice and sound of hammering of copper fills the air, this is a vibrant place to be. We spent the day exploring the old city, visiting Al-Attarine Madrasa, the tanneries, the smells here are incredible, and not in a good way. We’re given mint to hold under our noses to block the pungent aromas. We also visited a weaving mill and the Medina’s old university, we even checked out the dorm rooms.

Tomorrow we have an early start and then a 7 hour road trip to Erfoud, are overnight stop before we hit the Sahara.