We spent most of our time in and around Fes. The train ride took 7+ hours from Marrakesh to Fes. We were Harry Potter stylin' (again) on the train. It wasn't nearly as nice as the Hogwarts Express however, and occasionally we had to share our car with random people. I got yelled at in French once by a women who was angry that I put my feet up on the seat. I should've thought about it more with the differences in cultures, we're pretty sure I insulted her. So I think whatever it was she yelled at me was probably deserved. She said it so fast and stern I couldn't pick up anything. I also blame getting up at 3:30am for my lack of thinking. Besides that, the train ride was uneventful. I slept some, listened to music and played DS. I managed not to use the bathroom on the train at all! (which we tried to avoid as much as possible - using bathrooms. The end result was that the 4 of us pretty much dehydrated ourselves silly. But if you saw the bathrooms and smelled the things we smelled, I'm pretty sure you would too!)
Once we arrived in Fes we cabbed to the Medina. Luckily at this city, they send someone from the hostel to meet you and bring you back. That way, no one will harass you and it was greatly appreciated. We instantly liked Fes waaaaay better than Marrakesh. It was cleaner (except for donkey droppings all over the place), the people were much less harassing, still a lot of people and bikes on the roads but NO motorcycles. It is amazing how much more relaxing and enjoyable Fes was just because of not having one mode of transportation continually buzzing around you. It had rained the entire first day, which was our trip on the train and getting settled into Fes. It was decided that once we got to the hostel and got settled in our rooms, that I was going to stay at the hostel while Eric, Janine and Brie went to explore Fes. My left knee was feeling really painful this day and really needed a rest. I wasn't going to be missing out on a lot since we were planning on hiring a guide a few days later. Of course our room was on the 3rd floor, and going down stairs was entirely painful, it took me a few minutes usually, but slowbot always made it down!
So Eric, Janine and Brie went to explore Fes, in the rain. I did homework (seriously, I did. I brought some reading along for my classes) and then took a very nice nap. The 3 returned after a few hours and brought snacks! They found delicious pastries on the street, and cornbread cut in half slathered in honey and cheese - it was amazing. I would eat this everyday for breakfast while we were in Fes. Warm, fresh baked bread mind you, oh yes. That night we found a local "club" more like a bar. But the 4 of us were sooo happy to go. It was clean, warm, they actually had alcohol, food and a European flare. We each felt a little like we were back at home, and after a long day of traveling and being in the rain, we were happy to have that little bit of comfort. We spent the rest of the night in Eric's room; relaxing, filling out postcards, listening to music, watching tv and I made it rain Durhams (Moroccan monies).
We claimed a grand taxi for all of Thursday to explore the area around Fes. Our driver took us first to Meknes, then to Moulay Idriss and finally with the gorgeous setting sun and end of our day trip, Volubilis. Meknes was a bit more modern and filled with people. We saw a giant gate to a mosque and explored a museum. This museum was slightly better than the ones we saw in Marrakesh. I believe they did however use thumbtacks, THUMBTACKS, to pin a very old hand written Koran to a billboard. Yah. Heartbreaking! We didn't spent much time in Meknes because we really wanted to get to Volubilis before dark. Moulay Idriss is a small town built kind of in a mountain and 5km (less than 5 miles!) from Volubilis. We hired a guide to take us on a tour of Moulay Idriss, where they really had the most amazing view. The only downside, we had to climb up a lot of stairs, a lot of stairs. Remember my knee? Right. Going back down was a slow process for me. Janine was sweet to be my human crutch and help me walk down the hundreds of stairs, and Eric and Brie had amazing patience for my slowbot-ness. And of course documented it, they love me. The guide offered to get me a donkey (although I'm sure he wasn't serious) and told me not to worry because Volubilis was very flat, hah. He bought us some fresh oranges from one of their markets to take with us when we left. And finally, the place we were all waiting for, Volubilis.
What IS Volubilis? Well, it's ancient Roman ruins. A brief description: It is a North African archaeological site, located near Fès in the Jebel Zerhoun Plain of Morocco. Under the Mauretanian king JubaII in the 1st century bc and the 1st century ad, Volubilis became a flourishing centre of late Hellenistic culture. Annexed to Rome about ad 44, it was made a municipium (a community that exercised partial rights of Roman citizenship) as a reward for supporting Rome during the revolt of Aedmon, and it became the chief inland city of the Roman province of Mauretania Tingitana... in other words, these ruins are OLD. And amazing. We really couldn't have asked for a more perfect day. It was sunny and the warmest we'd felt yet (mid 60s). We hired a tour guide who told us the history of the mosaics and the ruins, and made jokes. He was pretty funny, catering to us crazy Americans. We were able to get the best pictures with the sun shining and the sun set. Our drive back to Fes was in the dark, but we'd had a very long and amazing day. Once we were back in Fes, we decided to head out for dinner and went to Cafe Clock, so Eric could eat a camel burger. It was giant and he let me taste some, and it tasted a lot like venison. Cafe Clock is very European, so it was clean and the food was amazing. We spent a few hours that night enjoying the food and warmth, and finished the night on the roof top admiring the view of Fes at night and enjoying delicious desserts with mint tea. We also made friends with a stray cat (there were many cats everywhere) and named it after the only Moroccan word we learned which was cactus (don't ask me to spell it in Arabic, because I can't)
On Friday we arranged for a tour of Fes, our last full day. Our tour guide Aziz strolled by the hostel with his American fiance (who was entertaining. She was really demanding and always calling Aziz and yelling why wasn't he done touring and with her instead!) and we arranged to meet up once we'd gotten some breakfast. A girl who was staying in our hostel from Finland (I think..) and now I can't even remember her name, awful! Joined us for part of the tour. It was her first day and our last, so she quickly got bored of our antics and Eric's desire for shopping. I feel like this day was a whirlwind. We walked a lot, and I did my best to keep up, and saw a lot. Aziz made sure to show us the real Fes, and we met a lot of people. Eric bought 4 teapots from this one guy, who kept offering us tea and snacks, which were pretty good. Aziz's aunt hosts international students in her home, and he brought us to her house for a deliciously amazing home cooked lunch. We bought all kinds of things on our tour of Fes, blankets, ceramics, leather bags and of course the tea pots. We saw a tannery, which smelled AWFUL. There were mint leaves that Brie found that didn't even help mask the disgusting smell (even when inserted directly into nose). Our trip to see ceramics was one of my favorite parts of the day. We got to see the entire process for the pottery they make in Fes, which is the best in Morocco. Once we were in the ceramic shop it was really difficult to decide what to buy! There were soo many gorgeous pieces. It was a really really long day, and Brie and I were glad when the tour was over. We were hungry and tired, desired warmth and dry clothes. It was always raining! We went to Cafe Clock again that night to enjoy some food and relax. We decided that instead of waking up early to catch the train to Tangier, we would sleep in a little and take our time, have a delicious breakfast, say goodbye to Fes and gear up for our final destination in Morocco.
For many more pictures from our adventures at/around Fes, Brie has them all posted in 3 albums here!