Day 3: Meknes, Morocco

by - September 10, 2012

Fez Tanneries
If Fez has one tourist sight it is the tanneries, unchanged in their location or methods for over a millennium. We hadn’t had time to see them yesterday so we decided to squeeze them in this morning to get there before the lunchtime tourist rush. The only way to find them is to get to the correct area and trust a local to take you up to the terrace of one of the leather shops that surround the tanneries. For a bit of baksheesh (the tipping that defines Arab relations with tourists) you are given an explanation of the methods of the tanners who spend the day knee-deep in coloured chemicals. On arrival you are given a small bit of mint (“Moroccan Chanel no.5” as our guide jokingly called it) to cover the intense smell. It really is an incredible place and in its own way is beautiful with the array of colours, though is also terrible in the smell and awful working conditions. After our brief tour we had the inevitable leather shop experience that resulted in me and dad buying a bag and some belts, while mum ended up getting some perfume from the adjacent oil shop. In fairness to them, we have been told that the leather from the tanneries is among the best in the world and the price wasn’t too bad (we think).

This rounded up our visit to Fez and we picked up our bags and got a petit taxi (a small taxi that isn’t allowed beyond the city limits) to the station where we took a 40 minute train journey to the nearby town of Meknes. The train experience was reasonably painless and 1st class tickets cost about £3 each, despite a bit of confusion at the ticket office. The train itself was extremely comfortable, with large seats and air conditioning. We arrived in Meknes in the early afternoon and settled in at our hotel, the Riad d'Or.

Sunset over Meknes
Meknes is another of the four imperial cities - the others being Fez, Rabat and Marrakech. It is also the least visited by tourists as Fez has its enormous medina, Rabat is the capital and Marrakech is the famous tourist hotspot. As we walked around its medina, which is a smaller, more easily navigable version of the one in Fez, we were subjected to very little hassle and were free to wander in peace. We walked the entire length of the medina, through the main square and past mosques and markets to the northern gate, before coming back to the hotel again - the round trip took about an hour. It had been a busy day and after watching the sun go down from our beautiful rooftop terrace we descended back into the medina for dinner at a family restaurant called the ‘mille et une nuits’. I mean family restaurant in the truest sense of the word - it was somebody’s house where we sat in the small dining room while our food was cooked in their kitchen and the children played in the living room next door. Moroccan food doesn’t get much more genuine. We still had a lot more of Meknes to see tomorrow, along with some of the sights in the countryside.

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