Sunday 9th December

Today we went on a mini bus tour of Fes. First stop was the royal palace where we saw the massive cedar wood and bronze doors, seven in total. The King was not in residence today …. if he had been, royal guards would have been guarding the gates.

Royal Palace Gates

After that we walked through the Jewish quarter, the guide gave us lots of information about the buildings but as usual it was hard to take it all in. Next we went up to the hillside overlooking the medina where we had another good photo opportunity.

Looking down on the Medina

Next stop was a ceramic factory where it was fascinating to see pots being made and then the intricate patterns painted onto them with fine, fine brushes and really in quite poor light. But that was nothing compared to the rows of young men sitting cross legged or squatting who were making tiny little ceramic shapes using a chisel and anvil for mosaics. The precision required is mind blowing and their level of skill quite remarkable. They start their training at 15 and it takes four years to become skilled.

No surprise that the next stop was the shop, where we were told to look around and pay from our hearts! The goods were stupendous, it was so hard to choose but I bought two coffee mugs and another little something which is going to be a present for someone so I can’t tell you what it is. We had a cup of tea in our mugs when we got back.

After the ceramic factory we were dropped off just inside the medina and we went into a coffee shop where we were glad of a drink and a sit down, we also had a couple of delicious little cookies each. The sun was shining and all was well.

Coffee and cookies and SUNSHINE!

Next we were escorted through the medina……a veritable assault on the senses! I am not surprised that one needs a guide, it would be impossible to find your way without one. It was extremely busy, donkeys and hand carts were continually being pushed/pulled past us in both directions, beggars young and old crouched down and holding out their hands expectantly, one young lad of about 12 walked past us, on his head were a pile of folded hides about a metre high. There were cages of chickens and pigeons awaiting their plight and cats and kittens everywhere scavenging a meagre meal of whatever they could find. I bought a punnet of fruits which I have never seen before (and don’t know the name of. They look similar to a lychee but don’t have a hard shell, I would photograph them but unfortunately I forgot to take them out of my rucksack and they have all got very squashed and now don’t look at all appealing.
Unfortunately being in a group we were hustled along quite a bit so we couldn’t take our time and have a good look around but the penalty for not keeping up would have been getting horribly lost. Next stop was the tanneries, we were handed a sprig of mint as we went in to help dispel the smell which actually wasn’t too bad. Much worse in hotter weather I imagine.

Worst/most unhealthy job in the world?

Saffron dyed hides drying in the sun
As anyone who knows me will know I am a sucker for leather goods, I love bags, purses etc don’t need any more but thought I would be greatly tempted today but actually I wasn’t. The bags all looked as if they had been there for donkeys years and none of them were particularly appealing or well made. So I wasn’t tempted despite the hard sell techniques, in fact none of our group bought anything there.

Next was a carpet warehouse where even heavier selling techniques were applied, the rugs were all hand made and all unique and intricate but very expensive, a tiny one about one metre by .75 of a metre was the equivalent of €200. By this time we were all getting a bit jaded, the sales team were hacked off with us as no-one bought anything.
It was by now 2.30 so we went into a restaurant (pre booked by tour leader) and had lunch which was very average and very expensive. We all jumped out of our skins when the call to prayer came bellowing through the open window. We have suggested that this venue is not used again on succeeding tours because we felt we were being ripped off which was a shame as it rather spoiled the day following on so closely from the hard sell of the leather and carpet shop.
Finally we left the restaurant and walked back to the minibus for the return journey to the campsite.

The dogs were very pleased to see us when we got back, it being the longest we have left them for in a long time.

Steve, our guide, made us Berber soup for tea which we had sitting round outside together and discussing the day. It got quite cool, so now we are warming up with the fan heater on and wondering where we will be this time tomorrow….well we know….Azrou, further south in “the best campsite in Morocco” allegedly. WE SHALL SEE!!!!