RTW Trip Fes, Morocco Day 34: Cafe comforts, urine soaked leather, and bedbug nightmares!

Fes for most people, consists of lounging in cafés and restaurants, and just wandering around.

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Cafe Clock is a restaurant that costs more than the average place (in Morocco), but was quite the treat.  Decent wifi, and delicious food in a calm setting with very comfortable seating.  The service is what you would expect in North America, and it is very easy to hang out here all day.  They are known for camel burgers, but frankly, after Chefchaouen, there was definitely going to be no meat eating by me.

I am always intrigued by street food, and found a guy selling homemade potato chips served in a paper cup.  All for 3 dirham (although I think locals were paying 1).  There should be more of these in America and Canada!

Beers are hard to come by in Morocco, but we found Flag beer at Hotel Batha.  The beers are small and the taste is like watered down beer, but it does the job!

For dinner, we went to the busy corner of the medina to Chez Rachid for some eggplant salad and beef brochette and harira soup.  The restaurant was busy due to its great location for people watching, but I am warning you that this restaurant only has a squatter toilet.  The eggplant salad was decent, but it is definitely not healthy as it was fried, fried, fried (I think even the tomatoes were fried).

We found beer!

We found beer!

After Cafe Clock, we ventured on our own to watch the leather dying process.  We saw other travelers coming out of narrow alleys and decided to explore the same streets.  We could smell the horrible smell of the tanneries and knew we came down the right street.  We came to a large leather shop, and climbed up the stairs for an excellent view of the tanneries.  There were men slapping leather, dipping leather in urine, moving animal skins around, and washing down the walkways.  It smells way worse than it sounds.  We were pleasantly surprised that we were, for the most part, left alone.  There were loads of tours there, so we were kind of hidden amongst the groups.

Views of the tanneries

Views of the tanneries

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By the end of the day, I noticed I had several (like 80-100) excruciatingly itchy bites all over my body. ALL. OVER. MY. BODY.  This wasn’t the first time that I had that many bites overnight.  I had 88 mosquito bites after spending a night in a hut on a beach in Thailand, and had my face literally blow up after a few bites from probable spiders in Laos.  I even got bites on my face in the small town I lived in, while in Japan during the winter.  THIS IS IN THE WINTER PEOPLE!  Who gets bites in the winter?  I do.  Bugs always, always, always find their way to my skin.  I am that girl that travels with bug spray, a bug liquid vaporizer, and bug pants that I always wear when sleeping in tropical locations.  The fact that I had 80-100 bites in Fes, Morocco, a non tropical place confused me.  Why am I getting so many bites in such dry climate?

I have never felt more sorry for myself than at this moment.

I have never felt more sorry for myself than at this moment.

I know two people that had bedbugs in Morocco.  One was a good friend of mine, and another was the sister of my coworker.  I think I only know 5 people who have been to Morocco and 2 out of the 5 had bedbugs.  If you bring up the topic of bedbugs in a conversation in New York, it is often someone’s worst nightmare.  Another good friend in New York had bedbugs in her apartment, and she said it was a living nightmare.  While I have never had bedbugs in New York, I can personally say that getting bedbugs anywhere is absolute hell.

I had done a lot of bedbug research prior to my trip, terrified of getting bedbugs, especially in Morocco.  I knew what they looked like, had all my clothes in separate Ziplocs, checked the beds prior to settling in, and had my flashlight in hand to look for casings.  None of that helped, nor prepared me for that night.

riad nassim view copyI had quietly told one of the workers at the hotel of the situation.  A few of the staff members looked at all my bites in disgust.  I could tell that they felt sorry for me.  That’s how disgusting my skin looked.  They immediately moved us up to a larger suite for no extra charge, and while it was gorgeous, I could not enjoy it due to my fear of more bedbugs.  They asked us to leave our luggage in our previous room, to avoid contamination to new rooms if there was an issue.

riad nassim 2 copy My suspicions of bedbugs in the new room came true.  I laid in the bed playing Candy Crush on my mobile phone.  As I was playing, I noticed a bug crawl across my pillow.  It was in fact, a bedbug.  I jumped out of the bed, and found a few creepy crawlies on the bed. I killed them all and knew there was no escaping them.  It was already late, and I didn’t want to wake up the staff after already complaining once.  There was a separate cot at the side of the room, so Greg and I decided to try to sleep on that since it was far away from the bed.  Greg eventually slept (in fact he snored!), but I did not get a wink of sleep. I was on the internet re-reading everything I had read about bedbugs, took a shower, and was constantly checking the cot every five minutes for bugs with a flashlight.  I ended up sleeping in the bathtub, but sadly, I must have brought a bedbug in the tub with me, because when I found and killed one, it burst into a splatter of red.

By morning, I was exhausted, and wanted to rip off my own skin.  At 7am, the same worker I spoke to previously, entered the riad with a woman.  Both looked utterly wasted and high.  They were still on the clock and working the hotel, so I explained what had happened and showed him all the bedbugs I had killed throughout the night.  He claimed that these bugs were already dead prior to me finding them.  It was pointless talking about it with him, as he couldn’t really follow the conversation and just kept saying the bugs were already dead.  While he felt bad for me, we still had to pay for our hotel in full, and also paid for our laundry.  The fact that they prepared the room for the next guests as if it was any other day, also tells me that they did not take the problem very seriously, and that was what made me angry.  While the place looked quite nice, I wished I had never stayed there in the first place. I would be itchy for weeks with scars (physically and emotionally) lasting a lifetime.

Tea and coke 35 dirham
Cafe Clock – falafel with tabbouleh fries coke water 115 dirham
Street chips 3 dirham
Flag beer at Hotel Batha 60 dirham
Chez Rachid eggplant salad beef brochette harira coke water 122 dirham
Riad Nassim: 220 dirham

Total cost: 555 dirham / 2 = $30.98 per person

What I learned: Everyone reacts to bedbugs differently.  Mine appeared immediately after the first night at our riad, but Greg’s arrived a couple days later.  Some people do not even react to bedbugs.  Oh ya, if you can’t tell from my post, I hated staying at Riad Nassim, so you may want to avoid this place too.

Actual date of travel: Oct. 7, 2014