RTW Trip Fes, Morocco Day 33: The World Heritage Site with Agressive Touts
Most of the day was spent waiting and riding our bus on the windy roads from Chefchaouen to Fes. Dramamine to the rescue!
We checked into the lovely looking Riad Nassim. Riads were always a great place to stay, as they usually incorporated beautiful Moroccan decor, built around a central courtyard. They can be covered or open air. Riad Nassim was instantly an eye pleaser, but proved to be a below average place for me (read tomorrow’s blog post!) It was difficult to find, so we paid a man to guide us to our hotel. You will get countless offers from locals to lead the way for you, for a cost of course!
People say that Fes is the medina of all medinas. The medina has supposedly 9000 streets so it is very easy to get lost! There are a billion leather, spice, teapot, clothing, and souvenir stores… Only we came here during the end of a major Muslim holiday so it wasn’t nearly as bustling. It was nice to be in a big city again, but the touts were bad. Really bad.
Fes is known for the tanneries, where leather is processed and dyed in bird poop and cow urine. Even if your not interested in handicrafts, you can get views from the surrounding leather shops of the giant vats of colored water, dyeing the leather.
It definitely stinks, and if you are on a tour, you will probably get a sprig of mint to smell while taking the view in. It may be a bit difficult to find the viewpoints, but there are always touts willing to take you to leather stores for a tip. And then when you get to the store, the store owner wants to give you a 3 minute chat about how the leather is dyed, and also wants a tip. I am warning you, it may be a better idea to o with a guide, as the store owner we were led to was extremely aggressive, asking us for more money, and was bullying us into buying something from his store. He should get a gold star for customer service!
We just finally walked away, as I was quite frightened at this point. We ended up finding a nicer viewpoint on our own the next day, but our first experience visiting the tanneries haunted me.
As one does in Moroccan cities, we just wandered around the medina again. I saw a decapitated camel head, lots of animals and veggies being sold, a few donkeys here and there, and lots of closed shops. Already unispired to eat more Moroccan food, we just decided on a place I read about on Trip Advisor, which seemed to get decent reviews at a price that fit our budget. Thami’s is located in a great spot for people watching inside the medina, which was the main draw for us to eat there. A lot of the seats are Paris style, all facing outwards, so you can watch all the action go by. Looking at the menu, you see the usual food of TAGINE TAGINE TAGINE and COUS COUS (getting sick of it now!), with Thami’s moustached face plastered on the front of the menu. An energetic man resembling the man on the menu greeted us, only he was sans moustache. It was a clean shaven Thami, and his peppy attitude convinced us to take a seat. The food was edible and nothing to write home about, but as I said earlier, Thami’s is a great spot for people watching.
As night fell, we went back to our hotel to relax and rest…but not for long. This night would be the start of several sleepless nights of hell.
Luggage for bus from Chefchaouen to Fes 10
Bus from Chefchaouen to fes 150
Taxi and guide to find the way to Riad Nassim 25
Veggie couscous, beef brochette, 2 harira soup, coke and water at Thami’s 130
Taxi home 15
Riad Nassim 220
Total cost: 555 dirham / 2= $30.98 per person
What I learned: Dealing with aggressive touts can be a difficult one. Follow other tourists on your own to find the tanneries, or go with a guide. Generally, the shopkeepers will still ask for a tip of some sort to go to their store to view the tanneries. (Why don’t they just sign post the amount of the tip?) I will be talking about tipping a bit more in my Marrakech entries. Until then…
Actual date of travel: Oct. 6, 2014