From the desert, we drove to Fez, the "Mecca of the West" or the "Athens of Africa," the cultural, religious and actual former capital of Morocco. But on the way, we made some more interesting stops, including feeding monkeys in the cedar forests of Azrou...which happened to be covered in literal feet of snow!! To go from the desert, to tree-topped mountains covered in snow and monkeys, to a massive old city in a day's time is a testament to the rich diversity of Morocco.
Below: saying "layhannike" (goodbye in Berber) to our tent village and squeezing some last-minute sand-boarding in.
Apparently monkeys love vanilla wafers because they were so friendly and would take them right out of your hand. This guy gave our girls several wafers and then lifted Tessa closer so she could reach. Such a fun experience in the Atlas Mountains.
Fez from above...it totally reminded us of Athens.
The mosque (rectangle pillar above) was a hallmark of every single village in Morocco. There were over 300 in Fez alone, by which we heard many calls to prayer during the day. I really admire the devotion of the Islamic people and appreciate it on a totally different level after spending so much time in a Muslim culture.
We stayed in a riad, a typical Moroccan house with an interior courtyard, that is now used as a hotel. Its really hard to describe the ornate homes in Fez- on the outside they were nothing special (see above), but on the inside they looked like little palaces, adorned with marble floors, tile-covered walls, a fountain, wood carvings, and intricately carved white plaster. They were just incredible to look at. Below is a typical geometric pattern of tile-work found in most riads and mosques. We visited an old ceramic factory while we were there and it was utterly amazing to see all of the steps and hard work that went into creating a design like the one below.
This is the courtyard of our riad (most are open to the sky- ours was not- and have built in drains for rainy days). We ate breakfast and dinner here and slept in the room with the door open and pictured below. Can we talk about how beautiful these rugs are too?!
Fez is believed to have one of the world's largest urban pedestrian zones. Winding alleyways ran like mazes through the medina, or old city. These alleys led to markets selling every kind of imaginable item- like the most gigantic Target of all time ;) filled with camel meat, nougat candies, dried fruits, handmade scarves, ceramics, metal works, clothing, leather goods unlike anything I've ever seen before.
Walking through these souks was a huge cultural experience that we loved...we spent the entire day on a walking tour with our local guide, Aziz. He told us about all of the elements of design used in a riad and a mosque that tie to the Muslim religion. It was all so interesting!
The 5 elements of Moroccan design are in this mosque: 1. tile 2. marble 3. plaster 4. wood and 5. a fountain (for cleansing before prayer)
These pictures are from our tour of the ceramic factory. Above was the first stage of making pottery and the final stage of cutting tiles for intricate patterns below. Most, if not all, of the people in this factory work here because their fathers worked also worked here- jobs are passed down from one generation to the next.
We bought some pretty salt and pepper shakers in their store, but they broke during the flight home. :( Grandma happened to buy an extra set, and she gifted it to us before she left.
This is probably after some stranger tried to pick Tessa up :) She was not having it at this point of our trip. How cool are these handmade copper pots for sale? The shop owners were banging them out all right here.
Camel meat for sale!
We visited more rug shops than I'd like to think about (I'm pretty sure Poppy could have done that all day long every day!). But, this one was the best. It was in an old gorgeous riad and the salesman was just as charming as they come! Yes, we bought a rug from him and its in our entry way right now!
The rug we took home is on the floor on the right.
We loved Fez so much...it was a cultural explosion unlike anything we've ever seen. The people of Fez were so nice and welcoming and they live in a beautiful city full of so much richness.