Daily Archives: May 15, 2014

Fes (2) Medersa Bou Inania

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Walking East of the Kasbah En Nouar along the Talaa Kebira main passageway into the Medina led me to The Medersa Bou Inania. The religious and most extravagant monument created during the Merenid period was completed during the 14th Century.  The cost of producing such a beautiful monument were so great that on completion the Sultan Abou Inan threw the accounts into the river and declared that such ‘a thing of beauty is beyond reckoning’. It certainly is a sight to behold even now and has been partially restored to its former glory including a wooden ‘water clock’ of 13 windows with overhanging struts perched above the main entrance in the passageway and also pictured in my previous post. This monument is regarded as the ‘Taj Mahal’ of Morocco. Somehow I slipped, accidentally, into a prayer hall that was supposedly off limits to non-muslims and sneaked some shots. Oops!

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My 3 day stay in Fes did not all go as planned. I was keen to try out different foods. One less than palatable thing was a salted rancid butter. I bought a little and forced it down..with a little bread. This turned into a bit of a horrorshow experience. My guts turned into a portable water cannon and I was so faint with dehydration that I could barely stand. The salty sachets of medicine I got from the nearest pharmacy tasted horrible too. I lost my third day in Fes laying in bed and trying to get fit for the next stage of my bike ride. My fault I guess. I imagine that the rancid butter  I ate had been teeming with bacteria and given me food poisoning. Anne, at home, suggested that maybe I had contracted dysentery and it was not something that she would like brought back. As a nurse she is always so caring… However  I improved sufficiently to feel fine  (and stand without falling over) about cycling to Meknes.

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I left early and made my way to the gate Bab Mahrouk. Swallows filled the air and swooped low. The main walls have small holes in them and swallows use them for their nests.

Once again I felt a little sad to leave. It is difficult to leave such amazing, magical places. Despite the tummy complaint Fes had been a wonderful experience and most of the people I had met one way or another had been very friendly.

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Fes (Fez)

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I pulled an all nighter and, having arrived in Fes (Fez) El Bali at three in the morning, found my way to the Western gate of Bab Boujeloud. It is a focus for travellers and many of the budget hotels are nearby. Once again street cleaners were my friends. The well equipped municipal cleaning services are very efficient at clearing the streets of the previous days rubbish. I had wandered in to a Southern gate of the Medina and after asking directions was escorted to Bab Boujeloud by one of the cleaners. I found the well recommended Hotel Cascade just inside the gate and returned to sit next to a Cafe with some of the cleaning team managers. The Cafe opened very early and so was able to enjoy a badly needed coffee.

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The Hotel Cascade figures in every guide book as the ‘grandaddy’ of budget hotels with an excellent position to explore the medina and unmatched roof terrace with good views. With such publicity it is oversubscribed by backpackers.  Once open I peered in the doorway. The stairs are narrow and it looked quite unsuitable for carrying my bike. As it turned out there were no rooms available. Wearily I began the arduous task of finding somewhere suitable to ‘hang my coat’. Round and round I tramped. There are lots of Riads tucked away down passageways but the thought of forking out for some overblown boutique hotel kept me from making enquiries. Eventually I found myself at the gateway to the old Kasbah en Nouah a few minutes walk up from the Cascade Hotel. I was suddenly met with a flashing smile and an invitation to look at his ‘hotel’.. My knee-jerk reaction to such suggestions is usually a polite ‘no thanks’ but on this occasion I thought I would check it out. Through the 15th century gate and immediately on the left was the ‘Pension El Kasbah’. This man was the owner.. and his father had a small food shop opposite. It was delightful and cheap! Traditional Moroccan furnishings, fabulous hot shower, rooftop balcony and good facilities.  Initially I was offered a slightly pokey room without a window but then negotiated a lovely double on the first floor close to the wifi router. Lady luck had smiled on me and I had landed very nicely in Fes.

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Fes itself compares to Marrakech in terms of the Medina and its complex maze of passageways that provide a spectacular display of medieval buildings. However Fes predates Marrakech and enjoyed a ‘golden age’ of prosperity during the 13th to 15th centuries during which it became the ‘Baghdad of the West’. The Medina at Fes El Bali has UNESCO world heritage status and is cited as the worlds largest car free urban area. Personally I preferred Fes as a city over Marrakech and felt that it offered a better experience. Fes is set amongst hills and has many historical sites spread across the city as a whole. The old city Medina reminded me of Kathmandu and a magical step back in time. However Marrakech seemed better for shopping, traditional crafts, workshops and well positioned as a starting point for desert excursions or mountain trekking. I feel lucky to have had the privilege to visit both places..

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