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Published: February 8th 2019
Off to Fes today. Our drive takes us across the plain between the High and Mid Atlas ranges then over the Mid Atlas to another plain. As we climb up into the Mid Atlas, the scenery changes yet again. It’s still very arid, but no longer wholly devoid of vegetation, with small low scrubby bushes scattered across stony soil. The Mid Atlas range is volcanic, and the rocks are less red. As we gain altitude, the ground is covered with frost and there are patches of snow. We drive through what look like Alpine valleys, covered in frost. It’s hard to believe that in a couple of months they will be a sea of green. Here and there we can see small mud brick buildings of one or at most two rooms, barely big enough to stand up in. These belong to nomadic tribespeople. In winter the men leave to take the flocks to lower ground for grazing, leaving their wives behind to tend the smallholdings. It looks like a miserable existence especially in the bitter cold of winter.
As we start to drop down a little, we move into the cedar forest. At first the trees are widely scattered
and very small and stunted, then gradually they become larger and more densely packed. Aziz tells us that if we’re lucky we may see some Barbary macaque monkeys. We pull up to investigate, and it becomes clear that luck has nothing to do with it. There are half a dozen men selling sliced bananas to feed the monkeys who are, in consequence, extremely tame. A party of local tourists are shrieking in mixed delight and terror as the monkeys make ever bolder demands for food. We decline the opportunity, having always been taught that it’s bad for the animals, and not wise for the humans either if you want to avoid being robbed or attacked and bitten and given rabies. That said, the baby monkeys are quite sweet, which is more than can be said for their ugly parents who look on disinterestedly.
Another hour’s drive takes us to the outskirts of Fes where we hit the first heavy traffic of the holiday. We stop at a huge Carrefour to stock up on beer (yay!), water and a picnic lunch then head into the Fes medina. Aziz explains to us that there are 9,400 alleyways in the medina, almost
all of them impassable for anything bigger than a motorbike, so we have to drag the suitcases for five minutes or so to reach our hotel. We’re grateful at this moment that we booked through a travel agent, who knew to take location into consideration when selecting where to stay. A 20 minute walk would have been bad news! Every doorway looks much the same along the narrow alleys, and it comes as a surprise to find how large our riad is inside. It has a big central courtyard, with a small pool in the centre, and blue and white tiling on the floor and walls. The bedrooms are on the first floor, and the atrium rises all the way up to the roof terrace above.
Aziz warns us not to delve deep into the medina on our own as we are bound to get lost. Locals will offer help, but will then take us to their carpet shop/restaurant etc he tells us! Still, it’s only 3pm and we want to go for a walk. The hotel manager gives us a map and shows us which way to go for a short walk. We set off, taking photos at
key junctions to help us find our way back if necessary. In fact, it’s easy enough for that short distance, and we’re able to check out restaurants for dinner before returning to the hotel.
Scroll down for more photos.
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