We left our quiet campsite set among the palm trees and headed north in the direction of Fez, knowing that it would be too far to reach that day. The drive was slow going which is normal for Morocco but with plenty of interesting sights along the way. By mid afternoon we had reached the outskirts of Azrou where in the forest live macacques, or barbary apes. They are fairly tame as people over the years have fed them so that they can take photos. After enjoying their antics for a while we decided to stay at a campsite on the other side of Azrou. The place has been described by others as the Disneyland of campsites. It is behind a large pseudo medieval castle, built by an oil sheik. The hotel was closed and the campsite was also quiet as apart from us there was only one other vehicle. Great views and a quiet place, it was what we needed after a long days drive, nearly 300 kilometers. A bonus is that in the morning the campsite manager brought us a french stick, gratis.
Monday 2nd of September. It was an 80 kilometer drive to Fez and our campsite for a couple of nights. Before arriving at the campsite we did some shopping as we need to do often with a struggling fridge. We had chosen Diamant Vert as it has much better reviews than the other campsite in Fez. At the reception desk while signing in we heard the recognizable twang of an Australian accent. Robin was also checking in, he was on a motorbike and had ridden from Japan. (Not over the water of course). During the course of the day we caught up exchanging travel tales. It was to be a quiet day as we plan to visit Fez the next day. Robin is in the photo above at his campsite.
Robin joined us for the outing into Fez. We caught a taxi to the blue gate and it wasn’t long before we were approached by a young lad who wanted to guide us through the medina. We agreed on the following conditions, no carpet shops, no herbalists, no art and craft shops, we said we were not here to buy stuff. Robin was feeling hungry and asked our guide to direct us to a good local restaurant. A terrace restaurant overlooking the city with a set menu that included Pastilla Poulet, a chicken pie dish that Fez is renowned for. After our meal our guide then took us to see the tannery, here you walk up four flights of stairs through a leatherwork shop, view the tannery and walk back down through the shop again. We were lucky that there was no hard sell. Our guide then proceeded to show us the entrance to a herbal shop, contrary to our agreement. Guides get kickbacks for directing tourists to shop where they can spend money. As we were not shopping or even interested in going into shops our guide soon lost interest and we parted company after giving him a small amount for his troubles. The rest of the day we managed to see the sights by ourselves getting lost only once.
Meeting an old friend
We were sitting on the street in front of a cafe having a drink when we spotted a man doing a dance in the cafe. When he emerged from the cafe he stopped and said to me” I remember you yesterday with a tour group”. When I said that I was not in Fez yesterday he said “now I remember, it was on Mars 2000 years ago”. He then in perfect english went on about how nice our planet is with all the animals, and how he thought Venus was a nice planet. It was good to catch up with an old friend that I had not seen in 2000 years. About a half an hour later as I was walking down another street I was tapped on the shoulder and the same man said “I remember you” to which I replied “yes it was Mars 2000 years ago”. I gave my old friend a hug and bid him farewell. Not sure who was the craziest me or him!!
Taxi ride from hell
After an interesting day in Fez it was time to catch a taxi back to the campsite. We negotiated a price with a man in a minivan and we squeezed in, the driver heading off before the side door was even closed. Very hard to describe how crazy the driver was. At one stage Robin asked if he was f##ked in the head. Driving fast, going through red lights and with near misses with cars, scooters and pedestrians. Should have taken a video. We did get back to the campsite in one piece but with shattered nerves. We had a quiet evening after a busy day.
Reflections on Fez
It had been 6 years since we were in Fez last and I am pleased to say we have noticed some improvements. The first thing is the lack on scooters in the medina area. With the streets being so narrow it was a nightmare trying to navigate the streets with noisy scooters passing at a fast rate last time. It was so different this time and a lot quieter. The second thing I noticed was the stall holders not being as aggressive with every tourist that passed by. Last time they were so annoying that it was not pleasant walking the streets. I think they must have learned that it was putting many people off shopping. The third thing that we noticed was that the streets are much cleaner. It was like a cleanup campaign had been held. With these three changes it was a far more enjoyable time spent in Fez and I did meet up with my friend from Mars.