Morocco – En Route from Chefchaouen to Fes

En route from Chefchaouen to Fes, we spent some time familiarizing ourselves with our new guide, Driss & his sidekick (our driver), Ahmed.  They would accompany us over the next few weeks as we worked our way across Morocco & by the end of our time together, through hugs & tears, we would reluctantly say our goodbyes to these two wonderful young men.

Our dynamic duo, Driss & Ahmed, loading a luggage. A task they would complete over & over!!!

Our dynamic duo, Driss & Ahmed, loading a luggage. A task they would complete over & over!!!

In the beginning stages of any relationship, there is the getting to know you phase.  A phase where the parties involved politely ask questions & determine boundaries, if any, that need to be respected.

Keeping in mind, we are 4 moms with children around the same age as these young men, these poor guys didn’t stand a chance!

The walls quickly came down, sharing details of each others lives, openly discussing issues ranging from cultural differences to relationships & love.

We felt such admiration & respect for these “boys”, adopting them into our hearts & knowing that we would never forget our time together.

As we made our way towards Fes, Driss announced that we needed Moroccan names, something that seems to be a bit of a tradition.  We were affectionately dubbed as Zara, Fatima, Ayesha & Khadija, otherwise know as Hashish.

As 50+-year-old women, it took us a number of attempts to remember our names, but for the life of us, we could not remember Khadija. Too embarrassed to ask Driss for the 1000th time what her name was, we decided to come up with our own version & one that was easier to remember.  Thus, Khadija became Hashish.

Given that we had just come from the Hashish capital, it seemed only appropriate!  Countless times over our trip, our travel mate would be introduced as Hashish.  Whether it was a shop owner or the boys’ families, fits of laughter ensued each time she was introduced, followed by an explanation as to how we arrived at that name. Even more fun was was when Driss or Ahmed could be heard calling for Hashish at any random place trying to round us up!

Arriving in Fes, we settled in to our riad.  A riad is similar to a small hotel or inn, comprised of rooms around a central courtyard, but with no exterior windows.

It was explained to us that riads were built like this in order to give people privacy, in particular women, while also providing protection from the Moroccan weather. The central courtyard/garden benefits from the shade of the surrounding walls, keeping the occupants cool in the extreme heat during the day.  Intricately decorated in ceramic tile & wood, they are a beautiful place to sit & relax.

The central courtyard of the riad we stayed in while in Fes

The central courtyard of the riad we stayed in while in Fes

Fes is an interesting city, the oldest in Morocco, & holds one of the largest medinas in the world.  Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1981, with over 9000 small alleys & thousands of souks, it is best to hire a local guide to help you navigate this walled city. Rough Tours had made these arrangements for us, our local guide was a lovely young woman named Farida.

Hashish, Farida (our local Fes guide), Zara & Fatima

Hashish, Farida (our local Fes guide), Zara & Fatima

Having spent most of her life inside the medina, Farida shared a wealth of information about the city she calls home as well as the culture of the people who live there.  She spent the day with us, taking us on a fascinating journey through small little alley ways, some barely wide enough to fit a single person.

Without her guidance, I am certain it would have taken days for us to find our way back to our riad!

One of the many, many alley ways inside the Medina

One of the many, many alley ways inside the Medina

The medina is filled with souks, containing pretty much anything you could imagine.  Here are a few examples.

Fresh snails

Fresh snails

Camel head anyone?

Camel head anyone?

The Nougat Man! MMMM!!!

The Nougat Man! MMMM!!!

Colourful Spices

Colourful Spices

In addition to visiting the various souks within the Medina, we had the chance to tour a few cooperatives, the first one being the ceramic cooperative.  Like many forms of handiwork, learning the trade of hand-made pottery seems to be a dying art.  The cooperative provides students an opportunity to learn the various stages it takes to make a piece of pottery, using the methods that have been practiced for generations.  The work is intricate & absolutely stunning.


Master potterer at work.

A small sample of the finished pieces. How does one begin to choose?

A small sample of the finished pieces. How does one begin to choose?

A visit to Fes would not be complete without visiting the tanneries.  It is an experience that leaves you feeling like you have just taken a step back in time.  Medieval times.  We stood with our aghast as we watched men standing waist deep in vats of dye, working the leather hides to achieve the desired colour.

The dye vats.

The dye vats.

A gentleman hard at work in the red dye

A gentleman hard at work in the red dye

If this weren’t enough to leave us gobsmacked, our attention was then drawn to the vats filled with a white substance.  Our guide explained that these vats are filled with a mixture of pigeon poop, cow urine & acids, collected by locals & delivered to the tannery where they are paid by the kilo.  It is used to break down the hides, making them more supple & more absorbent for the dye.

Note the pigeon poop vats in white.

Note the pigeon poop vats in white.


And you thought your job was tough!

Lastly, here is a picture of a Moroccan door.  It is easily identified as a Moroccan house because it has a door within a door & two knockers.  Any ideas why?


Moroccan Door

Thanks for joining me.  Next up in Morocco…The Most Incredible Day!



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23 Responses to Morocco – En Route from Chefchaouen to Fes

  1. sueslaght says:

    Lynn I want to get on a plane immediately for Morocco! The name hashish has me giggling. So many astounding experiences! The camel head??!! The vats with the man to give perspective. Astounding! How any zillion pigeons are required for that kind of poop production? As far as the knocker less door no idea. Can’t wait for the answer and the next post!

    • Lynn says:

      As always, I so appreciate your comments Sue! Morocco is a destination that was such a learning experience for us. A place & culture like no other we have visited in our travels. One of the reasons I love to travel with this group is that we are all able to enjoy the experience for what it is, regardless of how different it may be from what we are used to at home. This is key when visiting places like Morocco. Knowing what I know of your travels, I am certain you be up for it!

      • sueslaght says:

        Lynn I think you have me pegged right on. Your description reminds me of our trip to Turkey where one has to enjoy going with the flow. If something would go askew our guide would shrug her shoulders and say ” It’s Turkey”
        Making such a trip with equally flexible people is paramount to the success and enjoyment. Sounds like you have found that in your friends. Wonderful!

    • Lynn says:

      Sue, I forgot to answer about the door! See answer in reply to Jo:)

  2. Paul says:

    The pics and the story are incredible. Thank you so much.

  3. joannesisco says:

    Wow! Wow! Wow! The pictures are stunning and the commentary is so interesting. I love leather – the feel, the smell, the crinkly noise it makes – but I may never look at it quite the same way again!!
    I want to go to Morocco more now than ever!

    • Lynn says:

      We felt exactly the same way Joanne. When we first looked upon the vats, we were mesmerized & horrified all at the time. As we stood there with our jaws dropped open, one of the girls said, “I don’t think I will ever buy leather again!”

  4. What an incredible journey! I so admire you and your friends for this magnificent excursion. You’ve done a beautiful job sharing the details with us!
    Now, did I miss it somehow? What was the name you were dubbed with? 🙂

    • Lynn says:

      I am so lucky to have such a fabulous group to travel with Robyn. We began a number of years ago & so enjoyed travelling together. So much so that we decided to try to plan a trip together every couple of years for as long as our health & finances will allow us!

      Thank you for popping in & for your lovely comments. They are truly appreciated.

      Allow me to introduce my Moroccan self. I am Ayesha:) Cheers!

  5. educatingeloise says:

    Great story, Lynn.
    I was in Morocco in 2009 and your pictures bring back memories. Fes is an amazing place. Unless all riads look the same on the inside, I believe we may have stayed in the same riad.
    I ordered lamb cutlets at the hotel for my evening meal, but judging by the size of the cutlets, I think it may have been camel.

    I have yet to write an article on my trip to Morocco. You have inspired me to start writing.

    • Lynn says:

      A warm welcome to you Eloise! Thank you so much for reading & taking the time to comment:)

      Morocco is a place that was unique in our travels to date, my biggest challenge in writing about our experience is in deciding what to edit as there are so many things to cover!

      The Riad we stayed in when in Fes was called Riad Ahlam, one that the tour company we travelled with uses frequently when guests are in Fes.

      Oh dear, camel? I am not very adventurous when it comes to meat. I usually go for veggie dishes or chicken! LOL

      Did you do a tour while in Morocco or did you travel on your own?

      • educatingeloise says:

        I was a volunteer at an orphanage in Rabat and enjoyed a home stay experience. I then travelled by myself to Fes, Casablanca and Marrakesh. So there are two different experiences for me to write about. I should have gone on a tour to the Sahara.

        I stayed at La Maison Bleue in Fes, but it looks very similar to your hotel.

      • Lynn says:

        I am sure that must have been an incredible experience, I hope to read about soon:)

  6. That camel head looks… delicious. Mm mmm.

  7. restlessjo says:

    I’ve always , always , always wanted to stay in a riad and that one looks beautiful, Lynn!
    On the other hand, nobody has answered your question about the 2 knockers and I’m desperate to know. I’ve never come across that before. Please tell! 🙂

    • Lynn says:

      We stayed in a few different Riads Jo. They were all very beautiful & so very different. I will try to post a few pictures of a few more on our journey in my future posts.

      Right…the doors! Thanks for reminding me!

      It was explained to us that you can tell a true Moroccan door because there is a smaller one inside the larger one. You will note, they both have a knocker. They were built this way so that family would use the smaller door. If you are a guest, you use the larger one. The door knockers have different sounding knocks so that when someone arrives at your home, the people living there know whether it is family or a guest at their door. Years ago, this was also a signal for the women in the house, letting them know whether they need to cover their faces with a veil before answering the door. ie: if it was family, they were not expected to veil, however if it was a guest, they were. We thought it was very interesting!

      Thanks for popping by!

  8. Cheryl Marsh says:

    :):) Too funny, and incredible journies.. great chronicles, tx Lynn!

    Cheryl Marsh

    Date: Thu, 22 May 2014 01:14:59 +0000

  9. Pingback: Morocco – Unwinding by the Sea in Essaouira | Life After 50

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