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September 2, 2019
Before I bought my flight to Morocco, I had only really heard of Marrakech and Casablanca thanks to the movie (which I haven’t even seen – ha!). Like I said in my last post, I had no idea what to expect besides some pretty Moroccan style décor. But after seeing some Instagram posts and videos from The Oliveira Bros, I knew I had to go to Fes. In my research, I found that Fes was where the oldest leather tannery in the world is. They do everything by hand there, which makes the quality incredibly beautiful.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Since Fes seemed to be the most cultural stop on our trip, we decided to stay in a riad in the old area of the oldest city in Morocco. We were right in the medina, which means there was a ton going on around us. Kettani Riad was absolutely gorgeous. It’s so much prettier in person than in photos! The staff was so beyond sweet and helpful. Shout out to my boy Younes, who literally never stops smiling. We loved seeing his happy face every day!
Our riad hooked us up with a guide to navigate the countless narrow alleyways of the medina. It is suggested to get a guide and I have to agree. If you’re walking the streets alone, not only will you most likely get lost, but you will be very bothered by all the people trying to sell stuff on the streets. The selling and negotiating (and scamming) culture is intense there. Everyone is trying to get as much money out of you as possible at all times. If you think someone is being nice, they just want your money. As long as you’re aware of that before you go, you should be fine. It’s annoying, but that’s just how it is there. The same thing happened with our guide. The price was supposed to be 400MAD, but by the end of the day, he charged us 800MAD because we ended up doing an 8-hour tour instead of 4 hours, even though no time was discussed at the beginning. The only reason it took so long was because he kept bringing us to his friends’ stores so they could try to get us to buy stuff.
Our first stop on the tour was a ceramics factory where all the gorgeous ceramic and tile products are handmade. We got a tour of the whole facility and saw people creating the beautiful pieces from start to finish. The tour was free, so I’d definitely recommend it! Next, we went to lunch at a restaurant in the medina. It was delicious! Probably my favorite tajine I had the whole time I was in Morocco.
Then I guess our guide decided that it was time to shop, because he then took us to a carpet store, a fabric and clothing store, and a “leather” store at the tannery. I have to say, the carpets were absolutely gorgeous, but insanely expensive. I’m talking like over $5000 US. Maybe when I hit the powerball.
We did get a couple little souvenirs at the clothing store, but the haggling was just unbearable. He went from 2000MAD (Moroccoan dirhams) to 1000MAD (about $100 USD). We almost did it but then decided to leave. The store owner then called our guide on the phone and went down to 800MAD and said he’d deliver it to our hotel. We went ahead and did it because what we got was super Moroccan and maybe a little Game of Thronesish. Definitely my favorite souvenir!
The same thing happened at the tannery store. When you’re shopping, they won’t tell you prices. They just say “no worries! I give you good price, global discount. You my sister, I give you best price.” Literally every single sales person said that exact thing to us. Like all over the country. That’s just how their culture is.
So then at the end once you’ve picked out everything you want, they give you the prices which are ridiculously high and you leave empty-handed having wasted everyone’s time. If you have a guide, the store owner will probably call him and decide to give you the original price you offered. They got nothin but time to waste over there I guess.
Seeing the tannery was so incredibly cool. It’s something I’ve wanted to do ever since I heard about it. There are a few things to keep in mind though. 1) It smells very very bad. Be prepared. Luckily the store we went to had mint you could use to cover the smell. 2) The “leather” items you can buy at the tannery are not leather. They feel like they’re from China and worth about 50 cents. At least that was the case at the store we went to. But they’re cheap and it’s a cute souvenir, so my mom, sister, and I all got a pair of shoes. That being said, do not pay more than 100MAD for a pair. That’s about $10 USD.
Fes was definitely the most culturally rich city we went to in Morocco and I’m so glad we decided to go during our limited time in the country. As long as you’re aware of how things work there, it’s a great time. I would have loved to stay longer so we could take our time, but two nights is enough to do pretty much everything in the medina. We ate dinner and breakfast at our riad every day as it is not suggested to roam the medina alone at night as a woman. I totally would have been comfortable doing that, but I have no problem being stern with telling people to leave me the F alone. I don’t think it’s dangerous at all; it’s just a bother to deal with people trying to sell you stuff. I’m so glad I went and I would totally go back!