The Medina of Fès was the most jaw-dropping site we had seen so far! The enormous honeycomb of white-washed stucco buildings under cerulean skies is the kind of vision we had all been waiting for! Over 9,000 alleys wind their way through the souk which still lies behind medieval gated walls. Enclosed within the walls are also 350 active mosques and the call of the muezzins blend with the polyglot conversations of the tourists and the natives. The largest car-free urban zone in the world we were , of course on foot.
Good thing we had an awesome guide who led us through the labyrinth! The souk has many markets within markets, and we giddily wandered through the meat market (Camel meat on display!), the spice market, the clothing market, the copper market, the pottery market and of course the leather market. We visited the Chouara Tannery and from its balcony, we marveled at the enormous vats of dyes on the rooftops below. I bought a red handbag and Ray bought a cool leather duffle bag. What an amazing place! When evening came, we had an pretty touristy dinner but we did get the requisite belly-dancing event checked off the list.
No rest for the weary however! The next morning we were off bright and early to travel into the middle Atlas mountains. We wound our way through dense cedar forests, past German style villages and across snow fields. We were stunned. Seriously. I knew there were mountains in Morocco, but somehow I didn’t expect the trees or the snow! And then, just as suddenly, the landscape became dryer and dryer. Soon the majestic dunes of the Sahara were before us. Palm trees enclosed small white stucco villages and camels were, well, everywhere! Our van wound its way through parked camels to The Nasser Palace, our kasbah-style hotel In Merzouga right on the edge of the desert. Ray found a bottle of wine and we sat outside on our balcony and invited our fellow travelers to have an apéro with us. Dreamily, we watched the sunset over the desert and the stars appear.
The next morning we were up and out early once again. This time we hopped into jeeps and headed into the sand. The driver delighted in racing up and down the dunes with African music blaring on the car radio! Ray, in particular was enthralled by the music and shazammed it so we could listen to it at home. And we still do!
At one point, we got out of the jeep and climbed a mighty dune and slid down the other side. Kind of like kids in snow, we stumbled and giggled all the way. It was hard work! But the fun was not over. Next we visited the village of Khamliya and heard a performance of local Gnaouan music, and then on to an enclave of Nomadic Berbers, one of whom invited us to tea in her tent. This was a particular poignant stop as we sat through the ritual with Mustapha, who is himself Berber. But soon we would be on the road again headed towards the jeweled city of Marrakesh.