A More Confident Day in Fez

Chouwara Tannery

Chouwara Tannery

After wandering around aimlessly on our first day in Fez and feeling like we’re on edge the entire time, we decided that it would be worth it for us to get a personal tour guide on our 2nd day.

Worth. Every. Penny.

He helped us navigate through the maze of the medina and it was also great to get some perspective behind the history of the city. The most impressive sight during the guide was the tannery. The Chouara Tannery, the largest tannery in Fez, has been washing, treating, and coloring animal skins into leather goods for thousands of years. It reeks of dead carcasses but it is a must see if you ever find yourself in Fez.

The yellow dye is an expensive separate process using saffron to get the color.

The yellow dye is an expensive separate process using saffron to get the color.

We ended the night with a personal cooking lesson back at our riad! Our cook, showed us how to make cous cous, chicken tagine, and an amazing eggplant zaalouk. I say ‘we’ cooked, but in reality it was just me. Melanie gave up halfway and Jimmy….well…

What's wrong with this picture?

What’s wrong with this picture?

Chop, chop, chop

Chop, chop, chop

Private cooking lessons

Private cooking lessons

Eggplant Zaalouk. Yum!

Eggplant Zaalouk. Yum!

Tonight we hop on an overnight train and make our way to Marrekech!

Medieval Charm Mixed with Modern Day Chaos

 

Dar el-Ghalia - Fes

Lunch at Dar el-Ghalia

Our first day into Fez was a confusing one. Fez itself is such a charming city, but the charm and beauty of it can get lost among the chaos of the aggressive vendors, tour guides and kids who are all trying to sell you stuff. You definitely have to keep your guard up and be smart when traveling through this town.

We’re staying in the old medina, and we’ve probably gotten lost every single time we’ve gone out. The high walls, narrow pathways, twists and turns that seems like it’s leading you to no where is enough to make anyone feel claustrophobic. And the heat…good god the heat! It doesn’t help either but it sure is giving me that vacation tan glow.

Bab Boujloud

Bab Boujloud

One of the many pathways of the old medina

One of the many pathways of the old medina

Hellooo from the The Blue City of Chefchaouen

A short hike to an amazing view of Chefchaouen.

A short hike to an amazing view of Chefchaouen.

Everyone here thinks we’re Japanese. We got tired of explaining that we’re not…so we just went with it. Jimmy now goes around waving to people and replying back ‘konnichiwa.’

Our adventure for today was finding a place that serves alcohol. We found two places in the entire city. The first was the Parador Hotel that had an amazing view of Chefchaouen. The 2nd was a small bar primarily for locals. As soon as I stepped inside, I wanted to leave immediately. It was filled with all local men smoking and drinking beer while watching the big soccer match on TV. I could feel all the eyes following me as Jimmy and I made our way upstairs. They’re probably thinking why is this girl at this bar? It’s not common for women (or even men for that matter) to drink because of their religious beliefs. We quickly ordered our food and Jimmy ordered a beer. I didn’t want to order alcohol because it just didn’t feel right. The food was amazing, but I was just busy shoving it into my mouth because all I could think about is getting out as soon as possible. It was an experience for sure, but if you’re a woman and traveling alone, I don’t recommend going to bars by yourself. Even having Jimmy with me was still an uncomfortable experience.

Aside from the bar experience, Chefchaouen is amazing city full of very friendly people. It is known as the ‘Blue City’ because …well…it’s quite obvious why.

PS – Jimmy and I have managed not to kill each other. Surprisingly.

Shops filled the narrow alleyways of the Medina

Shops filled the narrow alleyways of the Medina

Chefchaouen, Morocco

Chefchaouen, Morocco

Chefchaouen, Morocco

Chefchaouen, Morocco

Blue, blue, blue - you make me feel anything but blue.

Blue, blue, blue – you make me feel anything but blue.

Casablanca – Rabat – Chefchaouen in 24 hours

 

Driving on the road less traveled - enroute to Chefchauoen.

Driving on the road less traveled – enroute to Chefchauoen.

Has it really only been 24 hours total in Morocco? We drove a total of 6 hours from Casablanca to Rabat and ended up in Chefchaouen. Today’s highlights:

A first! It was my first time driving in a foreign country! Of course, it had to lead to my first time being pulled over by a cop (yes, this includes the US).

We got pulled over by the cops not once, but TWICE. Once with me and another time with Jimmy. We both had no idea what we did to get pulled over. BUT if you smile a ton and look very confused while repeating the name of the town that you are trying to get to…the cops will just let you go.

Hassan II Mosque - Casablanca, Morocco

Hassan II Mosque – Casablanca, Morocco

Lanes don’t matter. Drive in one lane or both lanes…it doesn’t matter. Cars and people will come at you from all different directions, but somehow you’ll make it out in one piece. It works. I just go with it and don’t question it.

While we’re at it…signs don’t matter either. We somehow miraculously made it to every one of our destination going purely based on instincts. I have to give props to Jimmy on this one, although I ALWAYS question his sense of direction and will probably continue to do so.

Large doors to the Hassan II Mosque

Large doors to the Hassan II Mosque

Chellah ruins - Rabat, Morocco

Chellah ruins – Rabat, Morocco

Beautiful Moroccan archways - Rabat

Beautiful Moroccan archways – Rabat

We arrived in Chefchaouen pretty late, but this is no sleepy town. We were lucky enough to be here during one of their biggest music festivals (Alegria Musica De Chefchaouen). So Jimmy and I decided to grab a quick dinner and head into town for some music with the locals.

It’s officially 1:35am, and I’m not tired. I’m going to be so screwed tomorrow.

IMG_20140516_222746 (1)

Late night dinner at Casa Hassam. Grilled chicken and Moroccan mint tea.

Alegria Music Festival - Chefchaouen.

Alegria Music Festival – Chefchaouen

Here’s Looking At You, Kid – Casablanca

Friendly Moroccans leading the way to help us with finding out hotel.

Friendly Moroccans leading the way to help us with finding our hotel.

We arrived in Casablanca pretty late on Thursday night and as the plane approached the gate all I could think about was the infamous scene out of Casablanca where Bogart says ‘Here’s looking at you, kid.’ We made it. ~20 hours later and we’ve finally arrived at our first destination. Alive, exhausted and feeling a bit sticky from the humidity, all I could think about was checking into our hotel so that I can finally lay down. But…we weren’t done yet. We still had about a 45 minute drive ahead of us into the city to get to our hotel.

After about one and a half hours of driving around aimlessly, we gave up and pulled into a gas station to ask for help. That was when we met Soufiane and his friend. He graciously offered to lead us to our hotel on his motorcycle. Weaving through the streets of Casablanca is not easy when you’re trying to follow a motorcycle. We were off…waaaaay off. I looked at Jimmy and laughed because there was no way we would’ve found our hotel without the help of these awesome guys.

Tomorrow we explore Casablanca…but for now my head is hitting my pillow.

PS – Why are street signs so hard to find in other countries?