FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Fès el-Bali, Morocco

May 27, 2014
2014 / June 2014

Fès was everything I’d expected of Morocco and more. It actually consists of three cities in one: Fès el-Jedid houses the royal palace and Jewish quarter, and Ville Nouvelle represents the modern part of town, but Fès el-Bali is the historic medina.

Thought to be the largest car-free urban area in the world and home to more than 200,000 inhabitants, Fès el-Bali was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1981. People jam the narrow streets lined with shops and stalls. Tiny alleyways lead to remarkable discoveries, and you periodically find yourself flattened against a fruit stand or jumping into a spice or leather shop to avoid being run over by donkey carts piled high with carpets, earthenware water jugs or sacks of onions.

If it weren’t for the ubiquitous cellphone, and teenagers and tourists in Western dress, you could have time-traveled back centuries. Here you can unearth the best handicrafts, not to mention get hopelessly lost in its labyrinth of alleys.

Café Clock may not be easy to find, but it’s a happening place. You can order a great cappuccino, have a reasonably priced meal, attend a cultural program or hang out on the rooftop terrace soaking up the sun and drinking in great views of the medina and the city.

For shoppers, Fès el-Bali is the place to buy carpets, leather goods, jewelry and textiles. You’d better hone your bargaining skills, though, because the merchants here were born bargaining, and they are expert at it. “I am giving you a shocking price,” a carpet salesman told my friend. She continued haggling and did wind up knocking something off the price, but there was no question who the real winner was.

Staying at a riad in the medina is a wonderful way to immerse oneself in the culture. A riad is basically a house built around a courtyard, usually with a fountain in the middle. Enjoy the hospitality and the authentic hammam at Riad Laaroussa, a beautifully resorted 17th-century palace. La Maison Bleue is an elegant upscale riad in a 19th-century house. The hotel’s restaurant serves traditional Moroccan four-course, fixed-price dinners in sumptuously exotic surroundings. This is a great place to try a tajine, a slow-cooked stew of meat or poultry cooked in a heavy clay pot with a knobbed lid.

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