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Into Africa

Out of Europe for now

28 °C

Last day in Paris today, we spent ages getting ready, only ended up with time for a short walk along Rue Moufftard to think what might have been. Into the Metro and the RER out to CDG. It is really good to have a rail link direct to the airport – be good to see in Melbourne.
Tried to send our suitcase to Madrid so we would not have to haul it around Morocco, but no luck in the short time available. Got into the Easyjet queue, got to the front and got sent to another queue. Through that, ages in the passport queue as easyjet obviously don’t pay for many inspectors. Then another queue - this time for the security. By the time we have queued for 2 hours, it is time to get on board – you won’t get on easy jet if you only arrive with one hour to spare. Inside the plane is good, enough leg room for the 3 hour flight and new and clean.
In Africa! Through Moroccan customs etc. And into a taxi after fixing the price. Like most taxis, it was an old Mercedes which sounded a lot older. The airport is a fair way from Casablanca, so we had time for a chat with the driver. I had thought the traffic in Paris was chaotic, but Casa was in another league. There were no rules and the lights more of a suggestion than anything else. Pedestrians were picking the busiest parts of the streets to cross and into this was a mix of motorcycles, bikes and pushcarts. Still, there were a couple of new Porsche 911s being driven around, apparently without a scratch.
We did get a good tour of the town as driver did not know where our hotel was. We got out at the Hassan II mosque, a huge structure, which most people told us was the highlight of Casa.
Hassan II mosque

Hassan II mosque

Finally at the hotel, a great old place from the 30s when apparently Casa was at its height. Get settled in, then hit the streets to look for food. The hotel gives us a map, but asks us to return it when we return as it is their only one. Dinner is a tourist restaurant, but the do make a juicy lamb tagine and have great orange juice. We all loved the mint tea.Dinner at Restaurant Al Ryad

Dinner at Restaurant Al Ryad

A short wander about and pick up some cash from the ATM. Looks like cash is the way to go in Morocco. Back to the hotel and sleep. Up late the next day, to find not much left of breakfast. The orange juice is Tang and all else rubbish. Pack and taxi to the Station, our train is departing in 3 minutes! Rush to get the tickets and on to the platform...to wait for the train which is over 40 minutes late.
In the train (1st class!) we have a compartment to ourselves for a while until a local gets in. His name is Abdul and he is very interested in us and where we come from. We have a good chat over the next few hours, and he sets us up with his friend Mohammed who is guide in Fes... The trip takes about 4 hours and we get to see affair bit of the industrial suburbs between Casa and Fes, including millions (without exaggeration) of satellite dishes.
Satellite dishes everywhere

Satellite dishes everywhere

We are also surprised by how green it is in the countryside . At Fes, we are met at the station by a taxi (80DH). We are met outside the Medina walls by our host Ibrahim, who guides us through the medina streets to Riad Tafilalet. Fortunately the Riad is close to the ciy walls and not too hard to find from the outside at least. Pay off the porters who cart all our bags across (40DH). We have time for a quick mint tea and settle in before we meet Mohammed.
Mohammed and his driver Nor pick us up and we start the tour. There are some good panoramas of Fes, and a lot of history to take in. It became the royal city of Morocco over 1100 years ago, it was on the crossing of 2 important trade routes, the Medina is the biggest in Morocco, and more besides. We are taken to see how the Zeljig mosaic tiles are cut up and put together. All the individual pieces are carved out of larger tiles by striking them out with a hammer, no matter how complex the pieces. Then they spread them all out on the floor and make the whole pattern in reverse. G especially enjoyed watching the potter spinning the Tajine pots, and the owner offered to take him on as a trainee, as long as we promised to come back in eight years to pick him up.
Fez Medina

Fez Medina

After admiring all their wares, we headed off to the Jewish quarter. This was an area on the edge of the Medina where the king centuries ago had moved back his own gates and given the land to the Jews after they had been expelled by the Spaniards. The architecture of the area is very different to the traditional houses. The Moroccan places are built around a central courtyard whose purpose is to catch light and rain for the house. The jewish houses were the design they brought with them from Andalusia with balconies and external windows.
At the Kings gate, Fes

At the Kings gate, Fes

We get our photo taken at the palace gates. The King is in town at the moment so there are a lot of soldiers around the palace. They are in the presentation version of their service uniforms and the royal guard is in a striking red number. None of them seem to have any bullets in their guns from quick examination. From here we head to the Zagora restaurant at Mohammed’s recommendation – which is okay but nothing special. Back to the medina gate, pay off the driver Nor, and successfully find our way back to the Riad.

Posted by lostagain 02:06 Archived in Morocco Tagged armchair_travel

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