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Nothing quite prepares you for Fes. The world’s only intact medieval city, Fes is a teeming warren of narrow lanes, blind alleys and fondouks where you’re too busy trying to keep up with what’s happening around you to reach for your camera and where getting lost is all part of the adventure. Nearby Meknes is another old imperial city, with grandiose architecture dating from the time of Sultan Moulay Ismaïl. Read more
...continued from Fes & Meknes page.
Descending into the medina of old Fes for the first time, it can be hard to believe that the sights are real. Was that boy carrying a hawk on his shoulder? Are those testicles in that butcher’s shop? Are those half-naked men really stamping up and down in a trough of blue dye in the boiling sun? When is the director going to shout ‘cut’?
In this hallucinatory world of donkeys, hooded figures and hole-in-the-wall shopkeepers, your senses go on high alert. One minute you get a whiff of cloves, or the scent of fresh mint; the next you’re overwhelmed by the stench of pigeon excrement from the tanneries. Here there are no motorbikes, no cars, none of the sounds of the modern world (unless you count the ever-present mobile ringtone). It is a vast, 24-hour a day, 7-day a week cavalcade from which you will emerge drained and exhilarated.
A short distance away, in the heart of Morocco’s wine-producing region, is the sleepy city of Meknes. Meknes was the capital of Morocco under the infamous 18th century sultan, Moulay Ismaïl. Slaves laboured night and day for 50 years to build an imperial showpiece to rival Versailles. Those that died on the job, it is rumoured, were entombed in the city walls.
As well as being an agreeable place to spend a day or two, Meknes makes a handy base for an excursion to the Roman ruins of Volubilis. Although much of the stone from Volubilis was carted off for the construction of Meknes, the arches, buildings and mosaics give you a good idea of what life was like in the Roman province of Mauretania Tingetiana.
Nothing quite prepares you for Fes.