I took a bus from Chefchaouen to Fez; a journey of about four hours through the gentle green Rif mountains. My last trip to Morocco – the one when I made the same journey down to Senegal – felt very dark and depressing. It had been slightly earlier in the year, damp, cold and I didn’t speak to any English speakers the entire time. I was wallowing in a depressed funk and it wasn’t till I reached the beaches of Abene that I truly relaxed and started enjoying myself.
This time feels very different. I’ve met and chatted to a fair few people – both Moroccans (they’re not all trying to sell me a carpet) and tourists. The sun is shining, I’m happy to be returning home and excited to be on the road. There was a friendly British couple on the bus and we ate together at the half way point – delicious kebabs at a table surrounded by hanging sheep carcasses.
Later on, I saw the sprawling city of Fez on the horizon and before long, we were careering though the wide open boulevards of the new town. I’d booked a night at a Riad in the old town and seem to have gotten navigation in strange places down pat, as I found it very easily. An ornate door in a blank high wall (four or five storeys) of a narrow alley. It didn’t look much, but it was like entering a tardis, opening to a central courtyard around which were ornate cushions and decorations, low sofas and young back packers lounging around. I was in a “two-bed dorm” with Simon from New York.
Fez had been my starting point on this long crazy trip all those years ago and I had recollections of lots of street restaurants near a large blue gate. Using my innate sense of direction I went out, turned right and confidently walked down some alleyways. Twenty minutes later, a boy showed me the right way, leading me all the way back past the hotel and down the correct route. I’d just needed pointing in the correct direction, which he took to mean “take me to the carpet shop, lets see some weaving, a visit to the tanneries and how about a couple of mosques and mausoleums?”
I’ve noted in my book that Fez is one of the oldest medieval Islamic cities in the world. There’s an area called “New Fez” which is 700 years old. The tanneries were built in the 11th century. The medina itself is a maze of narrow alleys running up hill sides, often covered over like tunnels and in many places propped up with wooden beams. I stopped for a bowl of soup from a store with dangling camel heads. It may well have been hump soup.