It is 9.30pm here in Rabat and just under an hour ago, I walked into my house, fairly drenched but oh so happy to be back in the comfort of a real home with a super comfy bed and a warm, loving family! However, having said that, I think I had one of the most memorable weekends with some new (and very good) friends from Quebec!
We may have only met a couple of days ago, but it didn’t take long for me to mix with 7 friendly and very lovely girls! Having officially met at the volunteer outing on Thursday, I soon learned that almost all of them spoke little (but fantastic basic) English. I also realized that you don’t need to be speaking the same language to build a beautiful friendship and a sense of camaraderie.
I will admit that I have had a foreign language overload in the past week, where I often try to communicate my thoughts via a combination of Arabic, French, and English words. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but most times it does….or most times, I find someone who can translate for me 😉 Be as it may, the job gets done, the message is conveyed and understood by all in the end.
Anyway, back to my magical weekend at Fez! From the moment we arrived in Fez, I knew that I’d be photographing as much of this city as possible. And oh boy, did I take ALL THE PHOTOS – probably close to 900.
More importantly, I was able to get to know each of the 7 lovely ladies that I was spending my weekend with, and we have now developed a bond over little things. They have taught me a great deal of adventure, risk-taking, and maintaining a happy-go-lucky attitude throughout our trip! They also taught me a great deal of French and (I hope) I have imparted a similar knowledge of the English language to them! I’m sure we will find out more when we head to the city of Chefchaouen together next weekend!
Now, if you have been regularly following my blog, I’m sure you’ll be aware of the intense loathing towards the public transport here (particularly the cabs) in Rabat. Well, Fez was a whole different experience – it is so handy to have companions who speak the language of the land and are able to find some means of transport to get us from Point A to Point B – no matter how crazy the way to Point B may be!
CASE IN POINT: we were starving, but didn’t want to walk through a (very) crowded Medina. So, we decided to go to the local supermarket – Carrefour – which was 10 minutes away by car, or 40 minutes by walking. Having had a huge day, we decided to cab it.
- cabs only take 3 people at a time and we were 8
- the ones that were willing to take us in their cab wanted to charge us 3x the regular fare
So, what do you do when *no one* wants to take you down the road for a bit of moolah? Why, you stop a scooter truck thingi named Batman and be some fantastically excited (and scared as bat shit) backpackers. We totally got a ride in the Batmobile, because we went at 100 km/hr (without a friggin doubt)! It was so spontaneous and so out of character for me to be involved in this adventure, but my god! It was the best adrenalin rush e.v.e.r. We ended up treating ourselves to some good ol’ food from Pizza Hut and even had dessert – yoghurt and crepes. How very un-Moroccan, but so well-deserved after our long and crazy day of exploring this new and unique little city!
Another thing I found with my 2-day trip to Fez – you can never have too much money on you, because you *will* want to buy ALL THE THINGS. Whether you *need* them or not, however – that’s up to debate. Regardless, the medina is -the- place to go and get your traveler’s fix for souvenirs.
There will need to be a lot of haggling, but it’ll be so good and so worth it if you succeed. Bonus points if:
- you’re a group of backpackers – massive discounts $$$
- you speak French/Arabic – fit in like a true local
- you’re friendly and stern/firm as appropriate – so that people know that you’re easy going, but also that you’re one heck of a badass mofo who has a strong personality
I took with me about $1000 and yes, most of it has been spent! Imma break it down for you, so you get some perspective on how friggin amazing (and economical) this trip was:
- 127 dirham (x2) for a train ticket in 1st class – I’d recommend the extra $$ if you have a trip that’s more than an hour long and/or if you have a heavy backpack/suitcase, otherwise you’d be standing in a very cramped up cabin and it wouldn’t be comfortable
- 100 dirham for a tourist ride, where the driver takes you to 5-6 popular tourist spots, stops wherever and whenever you need to take a photo, use the restroom, have lunch and/or snacks, etc. We were lucky enough to have a very lovable old man who drove us to a number of different locations and even provided us with the historical/cultural background of each of these locations
- 120-150 dirham on food, drink, snacks – depending on how fancy you wanna go with dining, whether you want traditional Moroccan food or Western food. Water, on average can cost between 6-10 dirham, so I would highly recommend bringing your own water bottle and drinking the tap water (it’s safe to do so, unless you have a super sensitive stomach)
- 200-400 dirham on shopping – again, depending on how much you’re willing to spend, whether you’re buying stuff for yourself or for friends and family. I bought 2x pashmina, 1x Moroccan pattern box, 1x Moroccan rug (small), and 2x wristbands. I’m probably forgetting things, but it’s 10:15pm and I’m half-asleep 😛
- 50-100 dirham for public transport – the more passengers, the better. Plus, you can negotiate on the price per person before or during the ride. Just sweet talk the cab drivers a bit, and if that doesn’t work – haggle!
- 200 dirham on accommodation, but if you’re clever enough to book in advance, then you’ll pay a bit of it when you book online or through an agent. We stayed at a hostel in a 12-bed dorm room. It was…interesting, to say the least.
Essentials that you’ll need for a weekend getaway (this is more for my knowledge, because there was SO MUCH that I forgot to pack and ended up needing to borrow/compromise/adapt accordingly):
- 1x set of night clothes/PJs
- 1x pair of thongs to wear around the room and/or out if it’s summer
- 2x sets of underwear
- 2x sets of clothes – 2x tops + 2x pants/leggings
- 1x jacket (it got so cold at night and when it rained, I was reaching the hypothermia stage – 0/10, would not recommend being this underprepared)
- 1x dry shampoo, because FUCK having to wash your hair when there’s only 1 bathroom to share among 12 people
- 1x facial cleaning wipes
- 1x towel (can you believe I forgot to pack this?! One of the main reasons why last minute packing and I aren’t a good combo!)
- 1x water bottle
- 1x compact kit of makeup and/or toiletries (tooth brush, tooth paste, shampoo, body wash)
- 1x plastic bag for the clothes that need washing)
- Chargers – ALL THE CHARGERS – for your phone/mp3 device
- Battery pack for your iPhones because their battery is the absolute worst (not to mention unreliable beyond belief!)
- 1x small purse / fanny pack to securely carry your wallet/credit card/money/phone – I wouldn’t recommend taking a backpack only because the medina is infamous for pickpockets getting into your bags when they’re on your back
- A fantastic sense of adventure and humour 🙂
A word of caution to all female travelers – whether you’re traveling solo or in a group of other women, be aware that you will be subject to catcalling. Don’t let it get to you (I know this is a lot harder to do than say, but believe in yo’self, girl(s)!) and remember to travel with someone, preferably another woman, or anyone who’s a local or can speak fluent English / Arabic. If you’re a backpacker, make friends with the other backpackers at your accommodation and plan trips to the super market or medina (for example), so that you have someone to explore this foreign (but gorgeous) city of Fez!
I honestly don’t think I would have even thought of going to Fez or any other city here in Morocco if it wasn’t for the group! They helped me in so many ways – communicated with the shopkeepers for me, helped me get to places by making deals with the cab drivers, helped me get a train ticket (because most instructions are in French or Arabic), allowed me to score a discount when we bulk-bought stuff from one shop (rugs, pashminas), helped me overcome my homesickness by inviting me to their group with open arms, and generally provided for one of the best weekends I’ve had away from home! 🙂