What is the perfect getaway anyway? For me, it’s spending a couple of days in a new environment. Leaving the old and familiar to take in new and exciting smells, tastes, sights and sounds. It’s getting a sensory overload, bringing you a renewed ‘joie de vivre’. It’s returning home relaxed, energized and inspired. I found it all during my December getaway to Fez, Morocco. Four days in Fez was all I needed to overcome the winter gloom creeping over my mood and to get the necessary strength to tackle the cold days awaiting in Europe.
There is nothing sunshine, Moroccan cuisine, a good dose of exotic culture and quality time with a loved one can’t fix!
Here’s how I experienced the perfect getaway in Fez.
Dump the city map
There is only one way to experience the old medina of Fez and that’s by getting lost in it. Just wander and enjoy not knowing where you’re going. Every corner feels like an important discovery especially since there are hardly any tourists during the winter.
Shop or window shop
Fez has some gorgeous locally produced goods. High quality leather goods, silver jewellery, nougat, lamps, precious stones, argan oil from the South… The shop keepers are ferocious and cunning, so bring up your most assertive alter ego and operate your best bargaining skills.
Spend the night in a riad
The traditional Moroccan house (riad) really transports you to another world with its exotic grandeur. Riads are characterized by their (usually well decorated) inner garden/courtyard. When used as guest houses, you can be sure they are furnished in the most refined possible way, using local handicrafts. It’s the place to be for a relaxing “1001 nights” experience. Although many riads are luxurious and expensive, plenty of them offer budget/mid-range options.
If you can’t afford to stay in a riad…
Have drinks in a fancy Riad
If you can’t afford to spend the night, splurge for a drink! Dress up, get a drink and make the night count. Not something you do in everyday life.
Pronounced Bastila, the sweet and savoury meat pie has Andalusian-Arab origins. Slow cooked pigeon meat- although chicken is more commonly used nowadays- seasoned with a wide array of spices among which cinnamon, cardamon and black pepper. The meat mixture is wrapped in a blanket of phyllo dough, baked and finally topped with crushed almonds and icing sugar. Very unusual, one to try!
Marvel at the golden gates of the Royal Palace
Or at least at its doors. The palace is not open for public, so you’re likely to be standing in front of closed gates. I found them beautiful, others found it a lame sight as you can not see the inside of the palace. I say, leave that to your imagination and check out the golden gates. They’re at least worth a photo stop, if you ask me.
Visit a tannery
It’s fascinating to find out about the origin of your beautiful leather bag/shoes/insert almost anything. Visit the tannery, ask a few questions and learn all about the leather making process. It’s easy to get there: follow the arrows and follow your nose. As soon as you start smelling leather and piss, you’ll know you’ve reached your destination. Small tips for the guard or the worker explaining his craft are well appreciated, not to say expected.
Learn to cook a tajine dish
Tajine dishes can be quite simple to make and easy to learn. All you need are fresh ingredients and the right spices. A secret recipe helps too. I got mine from a Moroccan CouchSurfer at a house party somewhere in the heart of the Medina. Alternatively, there are plenty of official cooking courses to attend in Fez. Recreating the dish once you’re back home, takes you back to your getaway within seconds.
Get out of town
Walking around in Fez can take up a lot of your energy. Exchange the bustle of the city for a more peaceful setting in the partly excavated Roman city of Volubilis. Just 70 km away from Fez, you can find yourself in the middle of a stunning UNESCO sight, full of ancient ruins. Either take a taxi (1 hour) or catch the train heading to Meknès. It’s worth the trouble even for people who have a tendency to fall a sleep at archaeological sights!