Must do – The Riads, age old mansions converted to boutique hotels are a sight to see. Intricately carved and ingrained marble with meticulously painted cedar beams are a hallmark within each room as they bring back to life the obvious splendor and opulence of long gone residents. One must stay in these Riads to get a sense of that glorious history. I expected all this though; what surprised me was its glittering and heady nightlife ending only once the sun began peeking over the horizon. And the open mindedness, hearty laughter and welcoming smiles were a hallmark that stayed with us through our journey.
Fez – is a place to get lost in. The most imperial of all Morocco’s cities welcomes its guests to experience an altogether unique art of living. It is nothing less than a living open-air heritage museum. Fez has guarded its splendor over the centuries, and kept its ancient stones vibrantly alive and its medina is as unique and authentic as it was over 1200 years ago.
A melting pot of so many succeeding cultures, Fez absorbed the very best from each, inheriting Arab nobility, Andalusian sophistication, Jewish ingenuity, and Berber tenacity. Its glorious past, its marvelously preserved material heritage, and the timeless aristocracy that lies at its heart are all part of the fascination that is Fez.
Must do – It is the magnificent profusion of its labyrinthine markets that are an irresistible and open invitation to discovery. We spent hours crisscrossing the narrow crowded lanes, pushing past handcarts and peeking into store windows as we meandered. The medina’s oldest tannery was an unforgettable sight, or should I say odor. Most of us gagged in spite of the fragrant mint handed out to neutralize the smell. Men toiled below in large tanks filled with animal skins as they were cleaned, cured and dyed. The gallery view immediately reminded me of a large Roman coliseum with all the feverish activity below. Buying a leather tote will never be the same.
Must do – in centuries gone by caravans crisscrossed the lofty dunes, today convoys of 4WDs churn up huge dust clouds as they race across the hammada in time for sundowners. Next morning we woke up in the dark braving the early dawn chill and clambered onto camel saddles. For the beasts and our escorts it looked like a walk in the park as they sang in their native Berber tongue leading us up to a high east-facing ridge. There we watched as the most glorious of all stars rose over the distant horizon creating a dazzling spectacle of colors on the dunes all around us. The star spangled skies and desert excursions are well worth this oasis stop.