It’s an early morning, as Fes is a 5 hour journey and that’s not including the time we’ll spend on the side of the road trying to catch a ride. I’ve always loved hitch hiking (which I did frequently when I lived in Tasmania), but would never have considered doing this alone in Morocco; I admit having Cesc with me makes it feel much safer. We meet outside Najoua and Amin’s hotel at 8am to say our goodbyes, and we go on our way. I am beyond thankful I met them. They taught me so much about Moroccan culture and we had so much fun together. I encourage them to come to Barcelona for a visit!
Moroccan people have been so welcoming and friendly since the moment my plane landed, so I can’t imagine we’ll have much trouble finding someone who will pick us up. We grab a quick breakfast for 10dhm (free) each, and start down the road.
We have a littttttle trouble getting picked up. People don’t even stop to ask us where we’re going; they just offer a friendly wave and drive straight on. We start to think that maybe we should head back to Chaouen to catch a bus…but just as we decide to go back, a man pulls over and offers to drive us 10km in the right direction. He believes we’ll have more luck finding a ride to Fes from the location where he can drop us. Perfect, let’s do it.
We’ve started greeting people with a wave and then, “English, Francais, Español?” and letting them decide which language they’d prefer to speak. It’s fun, because Cesc takes over when it’s Spanish, I do the talking when it’s French, and if it’s English we can both converse. The men who pick us up only speak a little bit of Spanish, but it hardly matters because they’re blaring Arabic beats for the whole trip. Lovin’ it.
Once in the smaller “town”, which I would argue is actually just a gas station, we get back to thumbing on the side of the road. Here, cars pass more frequently, but our rejection rate is just as high. We see one young western couple with an empty car drive right by us without even making eye contact. Not even acknowledged. At least locals are polite enough to offer an apologetic wave. Whatever. Rude.
This doesn’t seem to be in the cards for us. I apologize because admittedly, hitch hiking was my idea and it’s failing miserably. We start walking back to the gas station in the hopes of finding a taxi driver with whom we can haggle for a good price to Fes or somewhere nearby with a bus station. On a last attempt, I throw up my thumb for a passing car, and it actually pulls over. It’s a young Spanish couple and we ask how far they can take us…turns out they are also headed to Fes. A damn miracle! We hop in the back seat with enthusiasm.
Obviously they’re lovely, and though I’d love to practice my Spanish, the three of them all speak a little too quickly for me to understand and/or be able to contribute much to the conversation. We end up speaking a lot in English. They discover they all have friends in common, which just further confirms for me how small the world is. Or I guess in this case, how small Spain is. New tally of Spanish friends in Morocco: 3, Spain: 0
Halfway to Fes we get pulled over for speeding. Apparently we were going 72 in a 60 zone. In Canada that means nothing, but okay. The ticket is only 150dhm (14€, $20cad) which sucks, but is hilarious compared to the $100+ you’d pay back home.
I can feel the heat creeping up as the day goes on and we move further South. The heat thus far has been nothing like I expected for Morocco. Honestly I’ve even been a little cold the last 3 nights, and only packed one light sweater. I had it in my head that I’d be overheating from start to finish, but the weather has been in the low 20s since I arrived. The North is, as I should have realized, a similar climate to that of southern Spain. Now, however, I’m going to be dealing with 30+ in Fes, Marrakesh, and of course when I visit the desert.
We arrive to Fes safe and sound. The Spanish couple have a hostel booked so we tag along to see if there are any open rooms. All the dorms are taken and they only have one double room left, which is slightly more expensive but we bargain the price down from 300 to 200mdh (18€, $26cad) so about 9€ each. Not ideal, as the dorms were 7€, but not terrible. Sure, it’s a little strange to share a bed with a boy I don’t know that well, but Cesc is chill af and it’s nice to have one room where we can safely leave all our stuff.
We are greeted with mint tea, take a few minutes to relax, and then head out into the medina. I can’t get enough of these medinas! It becomes clear that the shop keepers are a little more pushy here than they have been in Tangier and Chaouen. And by a little I mean a lot. The medina is also significantly larger than the other two I’ve seen, and I laugh when I think about “getting lost” in the media of Tangier. That was small fries compared to this.
After eating so many restaurant meals (when I vowed I’d stick to street food), we make a point of eating snacks along our way as we explore. We try lots of cool new things, and I don’t know the name of any of them, but I’ll say spicy chickpeas, fish samosa-like snacks, something like a chicken croquette, and another snail soup (or snail snoop, as I keep accidentally calling it). There are tons of hand made crafts in Fes, from rugs and leather goods to tagines and ornate metal lamps. Some of the shop displays are just fantastic, like endless hallways of ceramics or walls and ceilings filled with shoes.
I buy a pair of super rad Moroccan leather slippers, and try my hand at bargaining. I get the price down from 100 to 80. Not my best work but it always take me a while to get into the headspace of haggling. 8€ for a pair of leather shoes is nothing to complain about anyway. Just when I thought there couldn’t possible have squeezed any more shoes along the walls, the shop keeper climbs a ladder in the back corner and slips up into the attic at lightening speed. I can’t imagine how many more hundreds, potentially thousands of shoes they have here. Every size, every style, every colour, and then more.
As the sun starts to set and our feet have grown tired, we make our way back to the hostel. We’re “lost”, but manage to sort ourselves out eventually. Mostly because we ask people.
It’s a lazy evening but we go out once more for a mint tea and light dinner. We go to a street food stall which turns out to have some upstairs seating on a rooftop patio over looking the streets. It also turns out they have beer. Bonus.
We share some grilled turkey and beef skewers that come with bread (of course) and lentil dip. Do I really have to tell you that everything is delicious?