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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Fes & Meknes: Unexpected Fun for Kids, Chouara Tannery & Train to Meknes

Updated: Jan 26, 2021

After Omar dropped us off in Fes, we were greeted by the workers from our Riad for the next 3 nights - Riad Dar Faracha Fes Chambres D'hotes, which is located in the old Medina of Fes. They put our bags in the cart and we weaved in and out of little streets of the Old Medina. When we actually got to the road where our Riad was located, the one narrow walkway became so narrow that when walking straight through there was probably only about 5 inches between an adult and the side of the walls! Because the Medina is so old they have also put in wooden supports so that the walkways aren’t compromised from the shifting of the buildings.

We checked in and got settled into our room. Then we headed out to find dinner. Right as we arrived at the restaurant, all of a sudden I didn’t feel well. Unfortunately, I think I had caught some type of stomach bug. Alex and the kids ate their dinner and then we headed back to the Riad for bed. Unfortunately most of that night wasn’t very restful for me.

First Full Day in Fes - Seffarina Square & Old Medina

October 6, 2019

Needless to say, in the morning I still wasn’t feeling the best. Alex and the kids had breakfast in the Riad, and then Connor stayed with me to watch some iPad while Alex and Clara headed to the Carrefour for some supplies. By the time they had gotten back, I was feeling a little better - at least like I could leave the room for a bit. So we set out to explore more of the Medina and found Seffarina Square, which is the oldest square in the Medina. We ended up having lunch at a rooftop terrace and it was full of sound - there were street performers in the square below as well as metalsmiths who were working and pounding on their tubs for the tanneries and other cooking goods.

Bab Bou Jeloud - Blue Gate

After a break in the Riad in the mid afternoon, we headed out for the evening and stopped at the famous gate Bab Bou Jeloud (‘Blue Gate’) and then ended up at a nice Park between the Bab Bou Jeloud and the Royal Palace. As Sundays are the main day off from school for the kids, there were lots of families out for a walk and it was definitely a nice break from the busy, and sometimes dirty, Medina. The kids enjoyed it as well, even playing a little bit of hide and seek behind the large palm trees. As we exited we found a cafe across the street called the “Garden Cafe”, which had a large food selection. It wasn't too busy either, so we didn’t have to be as hard on the kids about being quiet. They even played some music from back home that the kids danced to and by the end of it our daughter had declared it was her favourite restaurant on the trip.

Fun Treat for the Kids

We headed back toward Bab Bou Jeloud gate. The park had closed while we were eating dinner, so a lot of the families had relocated over to the square where there were all sorts of activities happening. There were even some kids rides and a performer. The kids definitely wanted to do the kids rides so we thought it would be just the kid-type fun they were in need of, plus it was extremely affordable. For the carousel type rides it was 5 dirhams per 5 minutes, which was basically $.50/kid/ride!!! That kept them busy for a bit and then they got popcorn for basically $.20/bag and were happy little campers!!

Fes' Chouara Tannery

October 7, 2019

The next morning we headed to Chouara Tannery the most famous and largest tannery in the world. Our experience in Marrakech was that people would try to charge you to view the tannery, so we came prepared. You can basically only view the tannery from above, and we had read that one of the best places to view it was Cafe #10 so we headed in that direction. When we got there a man showed us up to the balcony and showed us the small tannery pots on one side that he said were for goat skins and then the large tannery pots on the other side which I believe were from cattle and camels. However as we started viewing the tannery from the terrace and taking photos, he told us that it would be 20 dirhams per person. When Alex said the sign said it was free, he then said that it was 20 dirhams to take photos. Alex then started to gather us all up to leave, when he changed his tune and said, “It is ok, you can stay for free.”

The tannery didn’t smell as much as the one in Marrakech, but it was full of activity. There were men dipping hides into each of the different coloured pots. Then as they would pull the hides out, and if they achieved the desired colour, they would load them on a donkey that would be taken out of the tannery to deliver to different places to further dry. There were some hides that were drying along the top level of the tannery. As we ventured out later, we saw someone laying out the hides along the sidewalk to dry and then a man with his 3 donkeys climbing up the hill in town with hides on their backs. As you walked through the ‘cafe’ you could see all the different leather products that were made from the hides and tons of different colours! There were purses, wallets, shoes, leather jackets, bags and so much more!

Train to Meknes

We decided to take the train to Meknes to explore that city for the day. The train ride was super cheap - only 99 dirhams (about $10 USD) for the thee of us to get first class tickets (under age 4 was free) for the 40 minute train ride - but it gave us the Moroccan train experience. The trains were pretty nice, but both our train there and back to Fes at the end of the day, were delayed by about 20 minutes.

Meknes was definitely less touristy than Fes. It was some of the cheapest food we had on the trip thus far and the taxi rates were cheaper too. The people seemed very friendly, as we tended to get more smiles from the locals here. We met a tourist agent on the train and he advised to get off at the second train stop in Meknes because it was closer to the Medina and the taxi drivers are less aggressive. We arrived at the train station and walked up a street to find a snack cafe for lunch. However, we then had a hard time finding a taxi to take us to the Medina. They had small taxis and grande taxis, but supposedly the small ones can only take 3 people, so a few of them turned us away. However, on the walk we found a McDonalds and stopped there for some coffees and for the kids to have a hamburger, as they didn’t eat much at the place we stopped for lunch. However, they had a great play area outside in their courtyard so the kids enjoyed the time they got to play in that.

Meknes Old Medina

We then headed to the Medina and found Bab Mansour gate and El Hedim Square, which is right across from it. The square was pretty busy, even though it was just the afternoon. There were a couple of snake charmers, henna artists and even a man just hanging out with his sheep, but supposedly it is very lively in the evenings. We headed into the Medina to explore the markets, thinking that maybe we could get most of our shopping done here and the prices might be cheaper because it’s not such a tourist hot spot. However, because it was NOT a tourist hotspot market, the items being sold at the market were pretty much geared toward the locals. We found knock-off clothing and shoes, cleaning products, toys, underwear and more, but not a lot of souvenir type items.

Madrasa Bou Inania - Ancient Islamic School

We also came upon Madrasa Bou Inania, which is an old Islamic school that was founded in 1341. It was 60 dirhams per adult and 40 dirhams (I believe) for kids, so we opted to have Alex and the kids sit that one out and I went to explore. There was a large prayer hall, as well as little rooms around the outside of it, which I believe were little classrooms; unfortunately there was no signage, so I had to do a little more research after I got home. The inside of the prayer hall is a great example of Islamic art, and it was very impressive the type of detail that went into the carving of the wooden and marble pieces. They also had a rooftop patio that you could access to see the Medina rooftops below. I later discovered that I had originally meant to go to Madrasa Bou Inania in Fes, which there are actually two named the exact same, but just in different cities. However, we didn't end up having time to visit the one in Fes, so was happy to have stumbled upon this one.

More Exploration of the Old Town

We then tried to find Bork Belkari Tower, but when we got to the spot the wooden doors were closed for the museum, so not sure if they were closed for the day or not. We then went through a gate of the what ended up being the Old Town and had to trek our way through some construction; impressively, our son slept through it all as his stroller wobbled and rocked over the rough terrain. We even stopped along the way to feed some stray cats some of the hamburger that had fallen on the ground earlier in the afternoon.

We ended up on the other end of the Old Town near the gate near the Royal Palace. Public can’t visit the Royal Palace and there are some ruins of horse stables, which we didn’t have time for, but we did stumble upon school getting out for the day and the hustle and bustle of that. Regardless of where you’re at in the world, children definitely are the same. There were groups of kids laughing and running through the streets, parents and younger siblings picking up older kids, and kids wanting to stop at the little shops for a treat.

We caught a taxi back to the train station and then waited for our train back to Fes - the kids helped kill the time by playing a Train Station version of hide and seek. :-)

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