We we drove out of the campsite out guide came to meet us. He was very well dressed, in his late 40's and wore and official guide badge, so all our scepticism was misplaced and it wasn't a con.
Fez is the oldest of the imperial cities and is the symbolic heart of Morocco and th country's religious and cultural centre. The medina in Fez is one of the largest living cities in the world. Its narrow winding alleys and covered bazaars are crammed with all sorts of workshops, restaurants, markets and mosques. The medina can be totally bewildering although we were never hassled once, only by young children on the outside asking for money.
First we went up on high ground so we could have a view over the whole of Fez (pic) and it was magnificant. The old city surrounded by greenary and a beautiful backdrop of the Rif Mountains. From there we went to a ceramics factory where they make pottery and mosaic tiles which are used for floors, walls, table tops and drinking fourtains. it was fascinating to watch this ancient craft with everything done by hand from the potters wheel to the hand paining and ovens.
After that we toured the medina wandering the narrow streets which are completely traffic free, only people on foot and donkerys with their owners shouting ' balack, balack' (look out). The mosque inside the medina is being restored and occasionally we saw men working on the restoration. Two guys were squeezing through the crowds carrying some steel tresstles which must have caught someone because all of a sudden a massive argument broke out with lots of shouting and gesticulating. We stood watching and couldn't believe it when a fight broke out and one old guy headbutted another in the stomach like a goat!! Everyone just ignored them and went about their business, except us of course!!
After a delicious 4 course Moroccan lunch in a palace restaurant (pic) we went to the tanneries...the smell was horrendous, a mixture of rotting animal carcass, pigeon poo and many other discusting concoctions used in the cleaning and dyeing process. People were walking about with sprigs of mint held to their noses to avoid the stomach churning smell. There are huge vats of different coloured liquid into which the hide is dipped to make the differnet colours of leather. Red..poppy, yellow..saffron and so on all natural and no chemical dyes. Near naked men walk on top of the vats dipping the hides in and our of vats working throught the whole process.
At the end of the day we said goodby to our guide and it is unbelievable that the cost for the whole day was between £10/£15 but we think the guides get a bit of a backhander from the different placees we visited whenever we bought anything and also where we went for lunch.
After visiting the old town we decided to spend a day checking out the newer part of town which is still really an old fashioned place witth tree lined boulevards lined with cafes and pattiseries. We walked the 6k into town and just watched the world go by. We had a bit of lunch and it started to rain very heavily so we looked for a taxi to take us back to the campsite. Unfortunately it turned out the taxi drivers had gone on strike and we had to walk the whole way back in the rain freezing cold!!!
We left Fez early for our 300 mile drive to Marrakesh. We had just changed our plans slightly and are making a dash for warmer drier weather as we have checked on the internet and Marrakesh should be 22 degrees and sunny, much better than the 3 degrees we faceed this morning.
On the way we called at a town called Ifrane and upon entering had to blink as we couldn't believe we were still in Morocco. This alpine style resort built by the French in the 1930's is sometimes called the 'Geneva of Morocco and is apparently where wealthy Moroccans come to ski.
The drive to Marrakes was a lone one and we passed through many mountain villages, some having their weekly market. Literally hundreds of people appear from high up in the tiny villages on donkeys, carts, bikes or on foot either to sell their produce or buy what they haven't got. There is only one route from Fez to Marrakesh and people walk for miles and miles along the side of the road or are just sitting at the roadside waiting for a bus. We saw a lot of striking taxi drivers on the outskirs of the villages which obviously made life harder for the villagers who rely so much on these little taxis.