Fes-Atlas Mountains


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Africa » Morocco » Anti-Atlas » Fez
May 1st 2014
Published: May 1st 2014
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Once we found our riad we were really impressed with the beauty of it. It had beautiful architecture and a beautiful courtyard. And luckily the girl that worked there spoke English so Tyler was finally able to communicate with someone other than me. They brought us tea and gave us a map outlining the main sites of the medina. From there we were brought to our room.



Our room was gorgeous and was decorated with beautiful Moroccan woodwork. However one strange thing........ no door on the bathroom. It was just wide open in the room. Tyler and I ran into this problem in Thailand and worked out a system of one person waiting outside while the other used the washroom. We used this system again. The shower was also open with no curtain or anything which seems to be the norm over here.



The girl working at the hotel offered to book us on a tour of the medina. Seeing how lost we were trying to find the Riad we took her up on the offer. She called Rachid for us and he spoke with us on the phone and asked if we needed any other tours. We mentioned we may be interested in crossing the desert to reach Marrakech. He met us later to show us pictures of their tour and give us the prices. The prices were much too high and we decided we would take the train to Marrakech instead.



After finding a place to eat dinner we returned to our Riad to relax some and sit on the rooftop terrace. Since arriving in Morocco, our Riad is the first place we have seen that serves alcohol. So we got a beer and a glass of red wine and just relaxed on the roof. After taking in some sun we went to the courtyard to use the wifi and get in touch with our families. It was while I was phoning my mom that Tyler took the opportunity to check trip advisor for desert tours. He luckily found a great one that was just in our price range. It consisted of driving through the mountains to the desert. Taking a camel to a berber camp and camping for one night in the desert. The next day you visit two beautiful Moroccan towns and stay overnight. The following day drops us off in Marrakech. Tyler arranged the tour for us and we booked a hotel for our arrival in Marrakech.



Sunday

Our second day in Fes we met Rachid for our tour of Fes. The tour was very informative. On our walk towards the medina we passed by a house that was under renovation to become a Riad. The man who was in charge of the renos invited us in and showed us around. The work was amazing. The amount of hours that go into the details in the wall and cutting the wood and rocks by hand and staining it and placing them piece by piece on the wall. It was quite amazing.



When we arrived in the heart of the medina, we got to see the Cooper Square where artisans make copper pots, pans, and lanterns by hand. This is very extensive and hard work and was nice to see. The men who were working on this were using giant scissors and a hammer made out of wood.



We then visited a museum of carpets. We got to see the machine the ladies use to make carpets and learned how it can take three years to make a large carpet. Wow- they were beautiful. They showed us some carpets to purchase but they were very expensive and as most of our house is carpeted anyways so we wouldnt have a use for them.



Next we visited a tannery. This is where they dye leather. We climbed to the top of this building to see the overview of this. It was beautiful and there were so many colors. The process of dyeing starts by placing the piece of leather in pigeon poop. Yep thats right- and very smelly. This makes the leather soft and supple. After it is softened the piece of leather is washed and is dyed. The colours they use are all natural. Poppy, mint, cedar etc. The tannery also had a shop which we looked around and purchased a few items.



After the tannery we visited a silk and cotton shop. We were shown how to weave using silk from cactus. The man also showed us how to make desert turbans out of scarves by fashioning one on each of us (see pic below). The curtains and scarves were beautiful but we left without buying anything.



Throughout the day we made several other stops around the city seeing mosques (we cannot enter unless we are Islamic but we marvelled in the architecture and beauty anyhow), we also visited other shops and looked around the medina and saw the University of Fes. After all this we went for a late lunch on a rooftop terrace and then found our way back to our Riad. At our Riad we relaxed and packed our bags for our next excursion.



Monday

On Monday we were picked up and began our journey to the desert. Our Riad was nice enough to prepare breakfast for us before we left which was very nice of them.

We went to Ifrane which is a town where there is an American University. It was beautiful and someone reminded me of Montreal in the spring. There were trees in bloom and terraces everywhere. It was the most Americanized placed we have been to as of yet.



After Ifrane we followed the roads through the mountains and found some monkeys. The monkeys live in the forest and are accustomed to people. Tyler fed the monkeys some nuts as we were told they like nuts and fruit. We even got to see a tiny baby monkey and a teenager monkey (see pics below).



We arrived in the desert and left our bags at a hostel. We mounted our camels with a group of twelve people and were lead to the desert by native Berber's. This was my first time being on a camel. And having never been on a horse this was a totally new experience for me. I wanted to pet my camel and hug her but I don't think she wanted to be too close to me. I had heard before that camel's spit but they don't. They do however bite. They have big teeth. They also poop..... a lot. Luckily I lead the group in the front so I did not get to witness all of the pooping. The desert was very hot. Close to forty degrees. I was happy when the sun went down as it was too hot. When we arrived at the camp we were shown our tents for the night. The guys climbed up to the top of a dune to watch the sunset but I stayed with a new Polish friend to rest and chat.



The camp is in the middle of the desert so it is much like camping in the bush. No running water, no toilets, no oven. The berber's made us dinner over a camping stove and the dinner was great. We got to know new friends from Spain, Australia, Poland and a family from Meknes in Morocco. It was great to hear about everyone's travel and we stayed up chatting til almost midnight.



Tuesday

We woke up Tuesday morning in to the beautiful sunrise in the desert. It was very beautiful but as I did not sleep well I was a little tired. We returned to the hostel by camel and we were able to take a shower- which felt amazing after all the sweating and dirt in the desert. We awaited our ride back to town and got to speak with Alex- a new friend from Australia that has been traveling the world for almost a year. It gave me some ideas about not coming back but after the evil glare from Tyler- I don't think he liked my ideas.



After reaching the city we were back on our journey through the Atlas mountains. We made our way to an amazing gorge. It was beautiful and very red in color. There was a small stream in the middle of the gorge which the locals insist is very cold but coming from Canada Tyler and I found it refreshing. After seeing the gorge we continued on our way to Ourzazate.



Arriving in Ourzazate was unlike any of the other cities we have visited. It seemed to be very clean and much more rich and modern then anywhere else we had been. We walked around a little outside and enjoyed the change in scenery before going to bed.



Wednesday-

Waking up this morning my cold has made a full on comeback.... I have lost my voice. It seems to come and go but I am trying to rest it as much as possible. Now I know how Ariel felt when Ursula took her voice. Not fun.



After leaving Ourzazate we traveled to the movie studios in Ourzazate. Famous movies such as Gladiator & Price of Persia were filmed here. We took a few pictures but there was not much to see as they did not take care of the sets from the movies.



After departing the movie studio we went to Ait Benhaddou. Which was so cool. It is an old Unesco World Heritage Site of a old Casbah made of mud and straw and rocks. The walls are completely made of mud. We are unsure how it is still standing but it was so beautiful and we got to talk around all inside all the way to the top and take pictures.



We are now finishing our journey through the Atlas Mountains and into Marrakech. The drive is beautiful but is very slow as the drive through the mountains is difficult. I love the red desert and the red mountains. They are so breathtaking. However my skin has never been drier. The desert air is even dryer than the Calgary air and both Tyler and I have both already suffered a desert nosebleed.



See more pics below



Until next time



Jill


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