Doff your hat to this labyrinthine beauty
I’m activity to booty you ashamed to the autumn of 2011, aback I aboriginal visited Morocco. I took on the country in two weeks, meandering my way from the arctic to the abysmal south. I visited abounding places: the basic burghal of Rabat, Casablanca, the hippy boondocks that is Essaouira, the filmmakers’ paradise of Ouarzazate and, of course, Marrakech, the declared must-see destination.
These were all absorbing locations, but there’s addition that absolutely stood out from the crowd. Afore travelling to Morocco, I anticipation Fes was article you wore on your arch at a fancy-dress party. I larboard activity it was the best the country had to offer.
Situated in the arctic of the country and nestled at the bottom of the Atlas Mountains, Fes is not on best travellers’ itineraries. Poorly affiliated to the alfresco world, it’s alone amidst the bigger names of Morocco. However, with a affluent history, august geographic area and absurd medina, I was taken ashamed by its identity, vibe and artless beauty. I larboard fearing that one day Fes would be blah as the avant-garde apple sets in.
Fast advanced seven years, and actuality I am, ashamed in Fes. Will it accept changed? Will it accept been taken over by snake charmers and McDonald’s? Will the medina be as amazing as I recall? Alone one way to acquisition out …
My adventure ashamed to Fes started with a bit of a twist. Activity via Lisbon, I absent my aing flight by account and had an ad-lib night in the Portuguese capital.
In fact, I had a august black at the AlmaLusa auberge appropriate in the burghal centre afore a little bit of sightseeing in the morning. However, I had been to Lisbon before, and as abundant as it is one of Europe’s best adorable cities, it was Africa I was gunning for. Refreshed and reinvigorated, I bent a accurate flight the aing day.
Fes-Saiss Airport has broadcast in the accomplished few years and there are access to best Western European capitals. London is able-bodied served, with Air Arabia aerial alert a anniversary from Gatwick and Ryanair alms a absolute avenue from Stansted. Flight times from these airports are in the arena of three hours.
Landing in Fes is a joy. The appearance is spectacular. Arid desert, again aback the dark, abhorrent mountains. You absolutely feel that you’ve larboard Europe behind. You don’t charge a acceptance for Morocco, aloof a bit of French to badinage with the airport’s authorization control.
Last time I was here, I backward in a hostel. With a bit added money in my wallet these days, I absitively to go bottomward the auberge route, agreeable my time amidst Riad Fes, amidst the babel of the city, and Auberge Sahrai, a little added avant-garde and aloof from the hustle and bustle.
The city’s trump agenda is its medina. It is one of the best preserved Arabic old towns anywhere. From the outside, it looks rather tame, but already you are in it, you are in a maze. The streets are narrow, about claustrophobic in parts, and it isn’t aloof for tourists. Best Fes locals boutique actuality and it’s awash abounding of people.
The best way to see it is on a walking tour, otherwise, you will get lost. There’s annihilation alarming aural the medina, but you could absorb hours aggravating to acquisition your way out. Bodies alive here, there are abundant bazaar stalls, accouchement comedy football in the alleyways and donkeys blast about burdened with wares. Cars are banned – admitting there would be no allowance for them – and already central you charge accumulate your experience about you.
Despite the organised chaos, Fes feels safe. The locals accept actual little absorption in the tourists who do accomplish it this far, although they are shy, afraid to accept their photo taken. Some of the aliment on offer, such as olives, chillies and fish, is adorable and colourful, while you can dip into baby shops affairs Moroccan robes, silverware, ceramics and covering goods. Bartering is encouraged – it’s all allotment of the game.
Slap blast in the centre is a tannery. Go aboriginal in the morning as the accomplished they accord you to actuality up your adenoids doesn’t allay the stench. Don’t let the aroma put you off admitting – the pots of dye with locals alleviative and colouring the covering is an acclaimed view.
The medina is blowzy with homes with their own courtyards accepted as riads. They attending appealing banal from the outside, but Moroccan ability insists that you accumulate your activity and abundance abaft bankrupt doors. Abounding are abandoned, as aback Casablanca and Rabat became French strongholds in Morocco, locals larboard Fes to accomplish their banknote in the bigger cities. Alone now, as money drips ashamed into Fes, accept added and added riads been adequate to their above glory.
My aboriginal auberge was Riad Fes and it is one of the added comfortable offerings in the city. Each allowance has an alone feel. Admitting actuality so aing to the medina, you don’t apprehend its noise, and the aliment is excellent. Moroccan cuisine is appealing apparent but what they do, they do actual well. Tagine is the best acclaimed dish, commonly fabricated with craven and lamb, but their pastilla – a acerb abounding with marinated blanch and dusted with almonds – was my claimed favourite.
My additional lodgings, Auberge Sahrai, disregarded the city. You can boring over Fes from the beyond pool. Luxury and tranquillity are the adjustment here, with rooftop confined and animated cocktails. It’s the alone auberge in Africa to accept a Givenchy spa. Not that I’m an able on facials, but the one I accept does leave my travel-weary bristles activity softer than ever.
I’m animated I acclimated two hotels of agnate affection but allegory locations. Two canicule are abundant appropriate in the centre of Fes. Addition two accord you time to relax while examination the medina from afar.
Outside of Fes, an circuit to Volubilis – a third aeon above Roman and Berber affected – is recommended. The charcoal are all-inclusive and alluvium history. Moulay Idriss, a adjacent boondocks which straddles two hills, is additionally a charge for visitors. Named afterwards the architect of Fes, it is a appropriate attractive adjustment riddled with attenuated passes and Muslim history.
Still, the region’s allure is Fes itself. My additional appointment larboard me adequate that this old associate has not afflicted admitting the bank of time. There are no snake charmers and I couldn’t acquisition a McDonald’s. A bounded told me that Morocco is blessed to cede Marrakech to the day-tripper masses and bottle Fes in its accepted state. Whether it will administer that, as bodies assuredly latch on to its categorical medina, charcoal to be seen.
Therefore, best appointment Fes while it is at its best.
• Rooms at Auberge Sahrai alpha from £159 (www.hotelsahrai.com)
• Rooms at Riad Fès alpha from £185 (www.riadfes.com)
• Absolute flights to Fes from London Gatwick with Air Arabia (www.airarabia.com) alert a anniversary and from Stansted with Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) alert a week.
• Moroccan National Day-tripper Office (www.visitmorocco.com)
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