Ancient Fes

Katrina Smith on 05 June 2019

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I was recently invited by the Moroccan Tourist Board on a trip to Fes in Morocco. My journey started with a flight from Gatwick Airport to Fes with Air Arabia, a low-cost airline with direct flights from the UK to Fes. The flight is just 3 hours long, but it is worth noting this is a dry airline, so no alcohol is allowed on board.

We arrived into Fes, to a beautiful modern air terminal, and then a quick journey to our hotel – the Palais Medina & Spa. It was now 01:30 hours in the morning (I am an early to bed person normally) so it was straight into bed for me!

I awoke early the next morning, opened my bedroom curtains and was struck by just how beautiful everything looked from my balcony, looking across the hotel grounds to the gates of the medina. I was very lucky and had a junior suite all to myself – huge bedroom, a huge lounge and enormous bathroom with walk-in shower and bath and 2 basins, plus a further small bathroom.

We were met after breakfast by our guide for the next two days, Abdel. Abdel was quite a character and knew the medina like the back of his hand. If you want to explore the souks, I would strongly advise you take a guide. It would be so easy to get lost. We visited a pottery and mosaic works to see how the mosaic tables, fountain and pottery items are made – it is very intricate work which takes so much concentration – beautiful!

The medina is much more relaxed than the medina in Marrakech, no motorised vehicles are allowed (which is great) but watch out for the donkeys! It is full of sights and sounds you won’t find anywhere else. The colours and the smells are amazing. Fes is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Walking through the narrow streets you are walking through 1300 years of history, with ancient and beautiful mosques to be found around every corner. The architecture is splendid.

You can’t come to Fes and not visit the tanneries. We were warned that it had a certain smell about it that was not very pleasant and handed a sprig of mint to hold to our nose to block it out. However, I think we must have visited on a good day, as I really couldn’t smell anything, other than the glorious mint (I should imagine if you visit during the height of Summer you may very well notice it). We visited a shop with a terrace that overlooks the tanneries – what hard work it must be turning animal hides into leather, using natural dye. The methods haven’t changed since medieval times.

Having spent some time in the medina, it is lovely to relax over a fabulous lunch in a local riad. We visited the Riad Myra and sampled a typical Moroccan meze. It is so peaceful and tranquil sitting here behind the wall of a quiet street off the medina.

The next day we journeyed into the mid Atlas Mountains to the town of Ifrane, which has a ski resort – yes a ski resort in Morocco – I had no idea! Ifrane is so different to anywhere else I have visited in Morocco, with alpine style buildings. It is such a peaceful town. We visited the 5-star resort of Michlifen Golf & Spa, a beautiful 5-star hotel with an incredible spa.

On route back to Fes, we stopped at Meknes, again a town with stunning architecture, smaller than Fes but still plenty to see, with miles of walls, beautiful gates and huge palaces built by Sultan Moulay in the 17th Century. It is definitely a city to visit as part of your holiday in this area.

That evening we visited the Palais Faraj, a riad on the outskirts of the Fes medina. A beautiful hotel with a swimming pool and a marvellous restaurant. The food here is fantastic, and the Moroccan wine delicious – definitely a place to stay.

If you want to visit somewhere different and perhaps a little less visited than Marrakech, then Fes is definitely worth considering. It is an ideal long weekend break, and you will see and learn so much.

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