Date of visit: May 6 and 7, 2015
Finally, at the end of the day, we go to the final highlight, Fez. We stay here for 2 nights.
Airbnb to Riyadh for the second time this trip.
An hour’s drive east from the ancient city of Meknes brings you to Fez, one of the most popular tourist cities in Morocco. The highway from Meknes to Fez is the main road along the coast of northern Morocco, and heading west on the other side you will reach the capital Rabat and Casablanca. This is the route I will take on my return. The drive to Fez was smooth, the weather was good and it was comfortable. There were some traffic jams when we got off the highway and approached Fez, but I think we could move from the highway to the city center without much time, naturally, because it is a city.
We will stay here in Fez for two nights. I booked a riad on Airbnb. This is my third time on Airbnb and my second time in a riad since Marrakech. I received this message from the host right after I made the reservation.
Take care as you may meet hustlers on the bus, train or outside the airport. They often claim they are from the Tourist Office, are international business people, or that they work for the hostel or in the tannerie etc. Politely answer “La, shockrun” [No, thankyou] and ignore them.
We advise not to mention Riad Meski to them, as some hustlers will call their friends to wait for you at the other end, and pose as staff from Riad Meski then take you to another guesthouse.
However, I had already experienced this kind of touting here and there, so I was getting used to it by now. However, you should not be careless.
We’re meeting at the Gissar Gate.
The host designated the “Bab Guissa” gate in the north of Fez el Bali (the old city of Fez) as the meeting place. Actually, we had assumed from the beginning that we would meet here. Of course, cars are not allowed in Fez el Bali, so we had to find a parking spot somewhere outside. So we found an area where we could find a parking lot from the satellite photo on Google Maps, and then looked for a riad that we could walk to.
It’s a rough image, but there was indeed a large parking lot when I went here. When I randomly walked in, there were some attendants, and they looked kind of suspicious, so I was a little nervous, but they seemed to be legitimate people, so I was guided by them and parked in an appropriate space. I paid the parking fee for two days on the spot, which was 40 DH, so I knew it was cheap.
After parking, I retrieved my luggage and called my host, who said he would pick me up at the Guissa Gate in less than 10 minutes.
While I was waiting in the parking lot for my host to arrive, various touts approached me as my host had said. They asked me where the hotel was, if I could introduce them, and so on, but I either ignored them as my host had told me to do, or said that I had already arranged a hotel and was meeting them here, so I had nothing to do. But they were still very persistent. One after another, they came up to me and started talking to me. How many people are there?
After 10 minutes of waiting while repeating this, the host finally appeared. He was a young guy who looked a bit like a rocker, but the clothes and accessories he wore were glittering and sometimes looked expensive, so he was very different from the people who had come by so far.
A gorgeous riad suddenly appears from a bleak alleyway
According to our host, the riad is about 5 minutes away from the Giza Gate here. We follow his guide to the riad.
Fez el Bali is a maze in itself. If you don’t memorize your way around, you won’t even be able to reach the parking lot safely. Even though I’m good at memorizing streets and directions, I was still a little baffled by this labyrinth. Moreover, the alleyways were bleak and far from clean to be honest. Garbage was strewn everywhere, and there were many donkeys coming and going, so their excrement was everywhere. In such a situation, even a pair of Uniqlo jeans or a t-shirt looks glamorous, and if you have a DSLR camera hanging on your wrist, you will obviously feel uncomfortable. But then again, this is a big tourist city, so maybe the locals are used to this kind of scene…
Then, as we entered an increasingly suspicious and dark alleyway, our host said, “This is my riad. It was a dark and dirty alleyway that at first I doubted if it was true.
However, as soon as we opened the door and entered the building, we had a view of the very gorgeous riad in front of us.
So beautiful! Much more luxurious than the riad we stayed in Marrakech. First, we were shown to our room to put our luggage down. The rooms face the lobby (the central room of the riad with the atrium). All the rooms face this lobby, and there were several other guests besides us. It seems that there are several rooms not only on the grand floor (first floor) but also on the upper floors.
The decor of the room was great. The ceiling is nice and wide.
However, the water system was a little bad. There was a bit of sewage smell. Well, this can be said to be average considering the circumstances of the city and country. I guess it depends on your travel experience, but if you’re staying for a few days, I don’t think you’ll mind.
You will then check in at the lobby. We hand in our passports and the host records the status of the guests. We sat down on the soft sofa and had a cup of mint tea while waiting.
After completing the formalities, I asked, “What are you guys doing for dinner tonight? If we are going to eat here, what would you like? The food is homemade by my mother.” I was told. Since I was going to stay here for two nights, I requested to have my mother’s homemade meal since it was a great opportunity. I ordered an appetizer, beef tajine, and a pie dish called pastiriya. Dinner was at 8pm.
Then we toured this riad for a while. I heard that the view from the terrace was good, so I headed there.
On the way up, we took pictures of the lobby from above and climbed more stairs to the top.
Then to the terrace. This is the view. This is the view of Fez El Bali. Can you feel the miscellaneous and labyrinthine atmosphere even a little?
After this, we will leave Riyadh and go out to the city. I’ll report about it next time.
Dinner in Riyadh
After walking around Fez el Bali, we went back to the riad and relaxed a bit in the room before finally having dinner.
Riyadh at night is also very beautiful.
We will have dinner in such a situation.
The dish was an assortment of standard Moroccan appetizers.
The couple then shared the two mains, Beef and Green Peas Tagine and Pastilla.
Both were hearty and tasted great. It was a little too much, though.
After dinner, I took a shower and went to bed, looking at the photos I took and soaking in the memories. Tomorrow we will have a full day of sightseeing in Fez.
More on this day’s walking around the city, and the next day’s sightseeing, next time! (To be continued)