Where to even begin? I’ve tried to think of something positive to say about Fes, but sadly I’m at a loss. This is quite possibly one of the first cities I’ve been to on this trip that I wanted to leave immediately.
Fes was described to us as a classic Moroccan city, similar to Marrakech, but more local. Translation: No tourists come to Fes because the locals (mostly local teenagers) intimidate them and are aggressive and rude. In my opinion, Fes was the place that all the blogs were likely warning me about. Thankfully, I had my radar up and an idea of what to expect, but it still wasn’t enjoyable.
If you’re short on time, I would suggest skipping Fes altogether. Spend two nights in Chefchaouen and then take a bus to Fes and immediately a train to Marrakech.
The Old Town of Fes has over 9,000 alleys. If you don’t know where you’re going, you WILL get lost. And the young boys will scam you, tell you wrong directions, ask for money in exchange for their help, etc. If you still decide to stop in Fes, just be alert. Don’t be the stereotyped ignorant American.
Again, this is only my opinion and my experience. I’m sure a lot of people have had a positive visit to this city, so please make your own judgements.
Ok, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, here’s Fes…
We stayed at Riad Zamane in the Old City. The Riads are small family owned hotels/hostels. They usually are comprised of 10 rooms, with a courtyard in the middle where breakfast and tea is served.
Upon arrival, we decided to be brave and explore some of the alleys. Keep in mind, I’m with three well-traveled men; otherwise, I would have never gone out alone, as a woman, even during the day.
Once in the alleys, we saw signs to one of the main gates and decided to follow those, which would make finding our way back to the riad easier. As we walked past the younger boys, they immediately tried to scam us. Thankfully, the older men were very helpful, yelled at the boys to leave tourists alone, and honestly just wanted to talk to us about where we’re from, etc.
I felt a little anxious walking down the alleys, with people staring because I’m a blonde-haired woman, but once we got to the main market street, I felt much better. More people around. We had one local that showed us to a hidden leather store that was huge and beautiful. Great quality products too. Then he took us to the Moroccan oil store where the women gave us a demonstration. Basically, from what I gathered from her presentation, the oils cure everything from cancer to headaches to wrinkles, etc. We all continued to be on high alert on the walk back to the riad as we wanted to ensure we were inside before dark.
As you can see, it wasn’t quite the Moroccan experience we were hoping for. Perhaps the blogs put us off before we even arrived, perhaps we just got unlucky, but I would rather be safe than sorry.
Yes, nothing bad happened, but all it was to us was an uncomfortable situation, alleys, and a market. Nothing spectacular. Don’t waste your time with Fes and head straight to Marrakech.
- Third world
- Explore the alleys during the day. DO NOT go out at nighttime, especially alone.
- Go with a local guide, or know where you’re going and act confident.
- Be prepared to be hassled by the locals
- Try to avoid the boys with scars on their arms, neck, chest, shoulders, back, etc. The scars represent jail time served.
- Say “No Thank You” and be very polite. Treat them like people. That’s the best piece of advice I got about going to Moroccan and it worked very well. We never had any issues.
- Do your research before coming here!