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Published: January 1st 2019
After the Blue City we headed south to Fes on a local bus. Morocco has a pretty decent bus system and their CTM company is really the company I would recommend people use - book your seats at least 3 days beforehand online to ensure you get on the CTM bus and aren't on a local. Locals are broken, stinky and stop for all people along the side of the road, and aren't any cheaper than the upscale bus, so use them only when you have to. The upside to the looong bus trip was meeting some young Uni students who were from Singapore and studying in England who were there for holiday. They were fun to talk with and were similar to other travelers on the trip - I'm originally from (here), but I am now living (here) - I do the same thing. Along the way the countryside was this beautiful green with some high desert attributes as well. Olive, orange, and argan tree orchards are everywhere - and quite frankly if you don't like olives perhaps don't choose Morocco! They come with every single meal and can be purchased with all sorts of spices, oils, etc. It is
an olive-lovers dream!
Fez is very much reflective of Morocco in that various languages are present (though Spanish to a much lesser degree), architectural beauty is as commonplace as decay, and the medinas are a maze that only the locals know the way out of. The Blue Gate marks the entrance to the Medina and it was here we started our first journey through the city. We were doing some shopping and a young man then offered to take us to the leather tanneries. Because we had a map and gps, we didn't need his help and he replied that he would not charge us (note: they always charge you - they will look you in the face and say "I won't charge you", and then when you reach your destination, they will demand you pay them). So we followed him through the maze for about an hour, picking up some argan oil from the women's collective on the way. Argan oil is endemic to Morocco and is used for various culinary and cosmetic purposes.
We eventually ran into the tannery, one of those must-sees that I have had in my mind's eye for awhile. Thankfully, it is
winter and the smell was fairly easy to deal with - heaven help you if you go in the summer though. Fez is known for their leather products, which are made by the collective and shown on site. If you don't purchase anything be prepared to pay for the tour. I was happy to pay for the tour, they just require you to pay them in the stairwell, away from the cameras and the eyes of fellow members of the collective. Expect to pay a small bribe - and expect to be yelled at if you do not pay them enough.
After a day in the medina we went on a day trip to Volubilis, a set of Roman ruins near the holy town of Moulay Idriss Zerhoune. The Romans were here well before the creation of Christianity and didn't leave until 285 AD. In addition to an informative visitor center, the ruins were intact, the property clean and the mosaics interesting. It was worth the trip. We also stopped at Meknes, a former imperial city of Morocco, on the way back. The city has much of the same sites as the rest of the country - a medina,
a great gate, etc. In addition, we saw the stables that apparently held over 10k horses and the top of the underground prison where thousands were kept at one time.
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