As Fes is quite a maze of lanes, alleys and souks it is normal to feel frustrated on your first day and might want to hire a guide for the day. We opted not to as we found our way around; you will manage if you have a sense of adventure. However, it can be useful and the fee for a half day is usually 150dh and 250dh for a whole day - always clarify what a 'full' day means to them. Official guides carry laminated identity cards round their necks and can be found outside upmarket hotels or the youth hostel. Unofficial guides are likely to annoy people and follow them until they tempt them into their services, this is technically illegal and if you accept, they will usually walk a few metres in front of you so as not to get caught by the tourist police! Therefore you will not be getting your money's worth as they cannot tell you much about the place if they act as if they are not with you! Although, some may claim to be students and would be quite good if given the chance.
If you do hire a guide be sure to point out on a map the things you DO want to see and what you DON'T want to see because otherwise they will take you to all the shopping stalls of friends and relatives and get some commission if you buy anything!
If you do not hire a guide and you get lost, don't panic! There is always a passer-by and MANY kids who will gladly show you your way back to the hotel/riad or place of interest. Until you get used to the locals, they are harmless really, they just want to help out all the time... have some small change or sweets handy in your pocket as they will appreciate a little tip at the end.
Don't get lost!
There are some 3000 alleyways in the medina of Fes, so if you are not careful, it can be very easy to get lost.
I always carry a piece of paper on me with the name of the hotel we are staying in, written in English and the local language.
Beware of the smell!
Well, you can't really miss it! It envelopes you as soon as you start getting near the tanneries!
From my journal:
' Gary warned us the smell was going to be disgusting, but I really don't find it that bad. My father's farm is twice as bad as this! A lot of people do feel quite queezy though.'
Be aware that the passageways are very narrow throughout the medina, and make sure you leave room for other users.
From my journal:
'On our way out of the tanneries, two horses meet on a tight corner, causing total chaos!'
A couple of times while walking through the medina, I felt a small hand slipping into my pocket. The only bounty for the would-be pick pockets was a dirty tissue!
Make sure you do not have any money or valuables easily accassible, as pickpockets can, do and will operate in this area!
From my journal:
' "Ballack, Ballack" is what they shout when they want you to get out of the way of a donkey cart or similar. You just jump out of the way - left or right, whichever is nearest! If you stop and turn around to see what's coming, it'll be too late - you will have been "Ballacked!"
Child Work - Emotional Dange
It may happen that you end up on some crafts shops/"factories" where children (and I don't even mean teenagers) are at work, on the upper and somehow hidden floor. Usually they are girls.
They'll look at you with honest, humble smiles and you'll wish to take them out of there, forever. You'll wish to run away, fly away. With them, give them childhood, happyness, green gardens and a blue lake.
You'll have to be strong enough to accept you're on a foreign reality and that some things you just can change, because they've been maturing for centuries in local cultures.
Human Rights are not respected everywhere, and a person can't change the World alone.
Besides, usually it's the children's own fathers who make them work. The feeling is a mixture of impotence and rage, and that's why I called it a danger.
We had been warned that we would be hit by faux guides as soon as we reached Fes. What we didn't know is that they now work the trains into Fes. We got suckered into arranging with a guy who showed us around the medina for awhile (though he wasn't as knowledgeable as he had presented himself to be) but eventually we were taken to several stores where a VERY hard sell was put on us, worse than I had ever seen. We did buy some things but resented the pressure and the poor quality of our tour. The hard sell is really just a part of the Moroccan experience so it should be taken with humor. But I would recommend booking your guide through your hotel so at least there is some accountability.Related to:
- Historical Travel
Watch where you walk
Always look down at where you are placing your feet!
From my journal:
'The stones on the ground are covered in flithy slippery water.'
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