Eventually he got the message and left us in peace.
We arrived at the campsite which was a very fancy place with amazing looking bungalows and a very large reception which was a different experience to the normal small dark room at the entrance to the campsite. We immediately thought, ouch this is going to be expensive! But we were pleased to see it was only 100dirham(£6.70) a night. And even better that we didn't need to pay separately for a hot shower as per the campsites in Tanger and Chefchaouen.
We set up camp when a lovely gentlemen called Wafi (the hotel manager) came over to see if we were doing OK and what our plans were in Fez. We told him our plan was to go into town the next day to see the Medina, the tanneries, etc. He said it's definitely worth taking a guide and that he would be happy to take us in for the day at 340dirham per couple including the mini bus. (That's £23 per couple). We agreed and would be ready at 9am in the morning ready to be collected from reception.
We arrived at reception at 8:30, with enough time for a coffee to set us up for a busy day in Fez. The mini bus arrived and we were off. Wafi had a wealth of knowledge as he taught us all about the history and gave us some explanations with regards to the woman in the Muslim faith. From a European sense it seems unfair and as if woman are looked down upon. According to him he said there is a great respect for woman as they are the bearer of a child, they should be looked after by a man. He kept saying behind every good man there is a great woman. He mentioned how each generation was becoming more and more European in their dress sense, with the older generation covering up everything and the younger less so. We had noticed this already driving down.
Our first stop was at the Royal Palace in Fez el-Jdid(new Fez), it became a place to protect and house Jew families during the war. It was a beautiful building with amazing mosaic tiles decorating the doors, a stunning example of modern restoration. We then headed off to a lovely view point of the city and the beginning of a very large grave yard. He was saying that when a husband dies, the wife is only able to visit the grave 3 days after he is buried. She is not able to see her husband being buried as she is a sensitive soul and it is too difficult for her(a woman) to deal with the loss. Very interesting.
The views were amazing and he spoke to us about the several large gates that were built with entry to different parts of the city. He pointed out where the tanneries were and the centre of the Medina.
Our next stop was the pottery and mosaic tile makers. We watched in awe as a gentlemen made a tagine pot without measuring the sizes of the pot and lid, but yet they fitted like a glove. Fantastic work. We wondered through the building taking in the unusual smells of Fez, until we came to a room where there were 5 men who were chipping away tiles to create desired shapes that would later be made into a beautiful pieces of art. We watched a guy making a table top upside down. How did he know the pattern off by heart? He had no design or template in front of him. The table top would take 1 month to complete. I left with a new found respect for mosaic designs, and immediately thought of the designs around the mosque's and other important buildings. It would have taken ages to complete.
We were faced with such beautiful pieces of art that it was therefore a must that we left with a souvenir; so Cat and myself ended up buying 4 cups each with beautiful designs on them for about £5 each.
We headed into the Medina, which was a maze of street stalls, people, donkeys, very small alleyways, beautiful architecture and of course not forgetting the cats. How did Wafi know where he was going? We would have gotten seriously lost without him.
We headed into a large room with large Rugs hanging from the walls all made by unfortunate woman who were either divorced or widowed without a man to take care of them. They would make these rugs and therefore make a living as this facility would make sure they were looked after by finding buyers for their art. We were offered sweet mint tea (the national drink of Morocco) while we were shown different designs of rugs and given some history on the trade. The guy from the facility was a smooth talker and soon began to make a hard sale on us. Cat and Charles declined just as much as I did, but he played the guilt trip card by saying the ladies needed money to look after their children, they would go homeless without our help. His focus was on me now. How was I going to get out of this!? After a while of telling him firmly we couldn't afford it as our trip had only begun and we were on a tight budget, he would only sell harder. He reduced one of the rugs (a beautiful bright turquoise blue, the colour of Fez) slowly from 4500dirhams (£300) to 1500dirhams (£100). Rob eventually said, 'we'll take it', as at some point this had to end, we needed to see more of Fez and he wasn't letting up.
I left feeling unhappy that we had been forced into a sale and spending money we just don't have to throw away. But I also know that once this trip is over it will forever be a beautiful reminder of Fez and our experiences in this crazy, stunning country.
Our next stop was the tanneries. But first Wafi needed to stop and pray in one of the mosques. We as non-Muslim were not able to enter so we waited outside. We watched as all the men took off their shoes and entered - men are to pray in a different location to woman as not to distract their prying eyes. They all knelt down, and placed their heads down to the ground with their bums in the air.
About 15min later he returned to us and off to the tanneries we went, with the smells getting stronger the closer we got. Unfortunately they were under construction so we couldn't see what they would look like normally, but we were shown a video as a demonstration. We were led down up to a shop with leather jackets, bags, belts, etc. Another hard sale was leading our way. This time I refused! The aim of the game was to not act interested, and we left with nothing. Phew!!!
Then it was off to the pashmina and oil stores.... This is what I wanted to get in Morocco! A gorgeous 100% pashmina scarf (220dirham = £15) and Moroccan/Argon oil (200dirham = £14) for my hair! So happy with both these items. Becky will be pleased to hear I'm looking after my hair 😄
After a jam packed day we needed a bite to eat, a late lunch. Wafi said he needed to go but would get someone to direct us to the best restaurant in town where the boys could even have a beer. Wafi introduced us and said he would make sure after lunch that we found the minibus. So off Wafi went and now we had to follow this new guide. He pointed to us to follow him and he was off like lightening!!! Weaving in and out of the people and donkeys, he was actually running. How were we to keep up? Cat did very well and kept on his tail while the rest of us got caught up in the traffic. What was the rush?? In the end I was in total hysterics. This was the strangest thing. We were running as if being chased! Weaving in and out of people. We finally arrived and we were all laughing at this sudden crazy chaotic event.
We climbed up a never ending flight of stairs until we got to the terrace overlooking Fez. We all took a deep breath and perched ourselves on a chair to catch our breathe. We received some menus and were shocked at the price. Very expensive. After rob and I had spent so much already we decided to share a meal. It was a four course meal to choose from, so cat and I chose the same while Charles chose another. With such a weird menu Cat tried her best to ask if it was per person or for the table. But he assured us not for the table.
The food arrived and oh my gosh, did it keep coming! Two would have been perfect for the table; what a relief Rob didn't order. We left feeling rather uncomfortable having eaten FAR FAR FAR too much. Almost felt like we should have rolled home. The bill came to 500dirhams, 250 per couple wasn't actually too bad at £17 for our mental amount of food we were given. These large values are sometimes very scary before we calculate what thay actually means to us.
We eventually got back to the mini bus where the driver was top notch. His English was very good as he asked us how our day was. He asked the guys whether they wanted beer. They hesitated as they thought it was a trick question, then with a simultaneous response.... "YES!" So he took us to a local supermarket that sold beer and wine. While driving back to the campsite the driving style of the locals all made us laugh. We spoke about how crazy the roads were and how different it was in England. He laughed with us seeing our point, but still had a "meh, this is Morocco, it's how it works" attitude. Just brilliant!
We got back to the campsite to find the 11 caravans had arrived. How were we going to distract the 4kids from the previous camp site? Charles hid in his car whilst Cat, Rob and myself tried to distract them. Eventually Cat had a brilliant idea and mentioned they should play hide and seek. Finally we could enjoy our evening in peace and Charles could come out of hiding.