In February 2014, John and I went to Morocco for a long weekend.
The airfare from New York to Rabat was too good to pass up.
After landing in Rabat Friday morning, we immediately hopped on the train and headed to Fès.
Fès is the third largest city of Morocco and has two old medinas, the larger of which is Fès el Bali.
We stayed at Riad Le Calife located in the middle of the medina.
It is conveniently located for exploring the medina and is just a short walk from R’CIF square.
We were served delicious Moroccan Mint Tea as soon as we arrived.
It was perfectly comforting after our long flight.
Riad Le Calife’s courtyard and rooms are equally comforting and inviting.
The riad has seven charming rooms to choose from and the staff offers gracious personalized service to all of their guests.
Before leaving home, we read that the best food in Morocco is served in people’s homes.
Dinner at Dar Hatim is exactly that.
The owner, Fouad, picked us up from our riad and drove us to his family home.
His lovely wife greeted us when we arrived. She does all of the cooking and went over the menu with us in great detail.
The Steamed Lamb and Pastilla Fassie were highly recommended by reviewers on Trip Advisor, so that’s what we ordered.
Moroccan salads and sides play a big role in Moroccan cuisine.
We couldn’t stop eating all of the flavorful vegetables and had to remind each other several times that we still had entrees to eat.
I’ll be honest, I was skeptical about the Steamed Lamb.
But I was quickly proven wrong. The meat was buttery and fell from the bone. The couscous that accompanied the lamb was out of this world, too!
The Pastilla Fassie was also a delight.
Pastilla is a sweet and salty pie with crisp layers of the crêpe-like dough, thinner than phyllo dough.
The filling was a savory chicken that was slow-cooked in broth and spices and then shredded. The top is finished with a crunchy layer of toasted almonds, cinnamon, and sugar.
Dessert was an assortment of fresh fruit:
It was a prefect ending to the meal.
Restaurant Dar Hatim was definitely the best meal of our weekend in Morocco!
Quick Note: They do not sell alcohol, but you can purchase a bottle of wine from a nearby Riad. Just let the family know when you arrive and they will go pick it up for you.
The next day we explored Fès.
We read that it is easy to navigate on your own.
Simply grab a map, find the gates, and get lost in the medina.
But we decided to hire a guide since we only had one full day to see everything.
On the train from Rabat to Fès we met a man who worked for the Ministry of Tourism in Morocco.
He called a friend and set up a one day sightseeing tour for us.
Our guide met us at the riad and the first place we went was the market.
As you know, I am a big fan of markets around the world.
That is where the local people are.
That is where the local people are making a living.
That is where the local people are shopping and interacting.
I could have stayed there the whole day.
Fès el Bali (Old Fes) is the oldest walled part of Fès and is believed to be the largest car-free urban area in the world.
UNESCO listed Fès el Bali as a world heritage site in 1981. They are providing the funds to refurbish 500 homes inside the old city walls.
We saw a lot of this sort of thing written on the walls:
Our guide explained that it was for elections. Some people are illiterate so every party has their own symbol for campaigning.
We then walked down the smallest street in Fès el Bali:
Before stopping at Cherratin Médersa.
The word Médersa is the Arabic term for a school, regardless of the denomination.
This Médersa must be a little difficult to find without a guide because it was empty when we were there.
I love that!
The woodworking and tile work were brilliant.
Our guide left us to roam the three story building.
It was a tiny glimpse into what life was like for a seminary student in the 17th century.
Our next stop was a government controlled carpet and rug cooperative.
Our guide led us upstairs to see how the rugs were made.
We even got a chance to try it:
But it is not as easy as it looks!
We then went back downstairs to the showroom where they gave us some Moroccan Mint Tea and showed us rug after rug after rug.
The rugs were beautiful, but since we weren’t in the market for one, we kindly thanked them and went on our way.
My favorite part of the day was visiting the Leather Souq and the oldest leather tannery in the world.
You can see all of those pictures HERE and find out why you shouldn’t decline the mint bouquet when you enter the souq.
Our next stop was the Royal Palace. The public is not allowed to enter the Palace, but it’s still an impressive sight from the outside.
The Royal Palace was built in the 17th century and is located right in the center of Fès el Jdid (New Fes).
Part of it still serves as the residence of the King of Morocco when he visits the area.
Our next stop was Borj Nord Fort, a 16th century fortress that towers above the city.
The views of the city were amazing from up there.
You’ll see stunning mosaic tile and ceramic creations all over Fès, so our guide took us to the pottery cooperative for a closer look at how they are made.
Our last stop of the day was the Marinid Tombs.
They date back to the Marinid Dynasty and may have housed royalty.
They are set on a high hill so you can see them from all over Fès.
This is also one of the places you will see hides drying from the tannery.
Donkeys take the skins up and down the hill.
This guy was quite vocal about it!
Most tourist visit the Marinid Tombs for a spectacular view of the ancient 1200 year old medina.
We covered a lot of ground in a short period of time, but it was a wonderful look inside Fès, past and present.
Our riad recommended Restaurant El Andalib for a late lunch.
John ordered a Mixture of Grilled Brochettes (skewers) with lamb, beef, chicken, and kefta.
Since I loved the Chicken Pastilla so much the night before, I decided to try the Seafood Pastilla for lunch.
It was a thin pastry filled with fish, shrimp, calamari, mushrooms, and vermicelli.
Pastilla is the food I miss the most from Morocco — both the chicken and the seafood.
The next day we said goodbye to Fès and took the train back to Rabat.
We stayed at Riad Kalaa.
The riad is located in the heart of the ancient medina and only 15 minutes from the airport.
We enjoyed Moroccan Mint Tea and cookies:
And then went out to explore the medina.
There is a busy street food area worth finding.
It is a concentration of restaurants and food stalls along a short road between Bab al-Bouiba and Suwika.
There was a large crowd of locals around this stall which usually means it’s a good find.
We pointed to order but had no idea what we were ordering.
Our dinner was tropical juice and the special of the day.
I have no idea what the special was, but it was delicious!
We went back to the courtyard in our riad and ordered a bottle of wine.
It was a wonderful way to end our weekend in Morocco.
Our long weekend only allowed for a quick taste of the country, but enough to know we would love to return.
The people are kind and gentle. There is a special energy there that’s hard to explain with words.
I look forward to the day we go back to experience more of it.