Atlas Mountain Monkeys

Visiting the Monkeys

We had a late flight out of Fes on our final day in Morocco, which left time for one more tour.  We decided to get out of the city and see some of the countryside.  We drove out to the Atlas mountains and saw a couple villages along the way.  But the real highlight was the forest where we were able to stop and feed monkeys!

Quick photo stop before the forest.

We bought some bread in the morning and just tore off little pieces to hand to them.  They were very gentle (for the most part) and would take it right out of your hands!

This guy was holding onto B’s leg until she gave him what he wanted!
K feeding a baby.

We took a bunch of videos too, but of course I can’t get them to load on here!  If someone knows how to help me, let me know!  Anyway it was one of the most fun things we’ve done over here.  I’ve never been able to get so close to a wild animal before.  However, I must say that the movie Outbreak went through my mind a few times.  Nonetheless, it was such a fun day and a truly extraordinary experience!

Highlights of Fes

The morning was started with another lovely breakfast at the Riad.  Then we were again picked up by our guide for the day.  He took us around to show us more of the Medina.

Another beautiful gate.

We also stopped for a group picture here, and while we were all standing there I felt someone playing with my hair.  I turned to Hubby and asked if he was touching my hair and he said no, so I turned and asked the girls on my other side if they were playing with it and they said no too.  So now I’m freaked out, some random person was touching my hair.  I start looking around to see who is touching me and another lady walks by laughing and smiling.  Again, not sure if she was being friendly or what her intention was, but it definitely freaked me out.  At this point I was wishing I wore my hair up.

Another area of the Medina.
Giant basket full of live snails.
Camel meat for sale, not sure if I should laugh or cry.
Lots of olives.
Dying silk thread.
Shop full of tea pots.
Look out for that donkey!
Entrance to the mosque.
Part of the university that we were allowed to go into.
Tiles with writing from the Qur’an.
Hard to get a picture without all the other tourists.

Our next stop was a carpet shop that was really more like a carpet palace.  The building was huge and very beautiful.  We got to go upstairs and see three women hand-knotting a rug.  It was crazy to watch them be able to tie these knots so quickly to make very intricate patterns.  After that neat experience, things started to get interesting.  Now it was time for the hard sales pitches to come out.

Now we are sat down for some tea while the main salesman starts explaining all the different types of rugs and patterns.  They proceeded to roll out at least 30 different carpets on top of each other.

Then they decided to split us up.  Hubby and I were taken upstairs to “browse” and B was taken to another room, while R and K were left in the main room.  They start asking us which ones we like and giving us the prices (which were hugely inflated).  We aren’t really biting at anything so they start to ask us for our “best price”  which of course they scoff at.  This back and forth continues on and on.  And eventually starts to turn a little hostile.  The main guy was starting to act offended because he’s giving us a good price “for the baby” and we still aren’t happy.  We were being very polite and trying to figure out what we were going to do, but that guy made us both very uncomfortable.  Eventually we got them down to a price we thought was reasonable and bought a carpet that’s now sitting in the baby’s room.  I love the rug, but I don’t know that I’d ever want to go back to that shop again.  Not a fan of the high pressure, awkward, force-you-into-buying-something method.

Next up we went to a shop where they were weaving scarves and tapestries.  This shop had so many gorgeous things and was nothing like the last  one in terms of pressure, but I was still kind of flustered from the carpet shop that I couldn’t decide on anything and walked away empty handed.

The shop owner decided to teach Hubby how to properly wear a scarf.

Ready for a camel ride through the Sahara.

 Then my husband decided I needed the same lesson.

You think it’s a good look?

 Our final stop was the leather tanneries.

All the different leather goods available for purchase.

All in all, a very fun and educational day.  I knew there was going to be some bartering involved if we wanted to purchase things, but I was definitely not expecting it to be as aggressive as it was.  The carpet shop was the worst.  The people selling leather weren’t as bad, but whenever you ask the price, instead of answering they ask you what you want to pay.  I found it to be very frustrating, but now I know how it is, and I would be better prepared to go back to a place like that now.  I really enjoyed having a guide both days.  It made me feel much more comfortable and if we had been by ourselves I’m not sure if we would’ve found much of anything.  The Medina is very hard to get around if you don’t know where you’re going.  We had one more day left in Morocco and it was a completely new experience for all of us!

A Moroccan Thanksgiving

Our Thanksgiving in 2012 was not traditional but it was amazing.  We flew to Fes, Morocco on Thanksgiving Day for an exotic weekend in North Africa.  Unfortunately we were short one person because B’s husband M was unable to make it back in time for our trip due to some work complications.  But B was bound and determined to visit Morocco so she soldiered on and still made the trip with us. And we are so happy she did because she was the one who set everything up, and without her the trip wouldn’t have been the same!

Arriving in Fes.

We were picked up at the airport and driven into the Medina (old city).  The cars can only drive a little ways into the Medina, so we were met by a worker from our Riad, who guided us through the crowded,  winding, and small streets up to where we were staying.  Already by this point I was on overload.  Everything was so different than any place I’ve been, and my eyes were wide just trying to take in everything around me.

Our Riad (hotel) was gorgeous.  The owners Yasmine and Alex were so welcoming and friendly.  We were greeted with hot towels and were led up to our rooms for a few minutes before sitting down to our Thanksgiving dinner.  This meal was truly a feast, and it wasn’t a special meal for Thanksgiving, it is just a typical meal that is served at the Riad nightly.  In total I believe it was 4-5 courses of delicious Moroccan food.  I had never eaten Moroccan food before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I definitely didn’t miss the turkey and stuffing.

Our second course, a puff pastry filled with chicken, carrots and cabbage-amazing!
R and Hubby enjoying the main course.
Best dessert ever!  Filo dough with ice cream, cinnamon, nuts, etc.  it was kind of like sopapillas

As after any good Thanksgiving meal, we were stuffed.  So it was off to bed to get some sleep before our first big day in the Medina.

Little Fes left on our bed.

 Hubby and I were up early the next morning.  I woke up around 5 AM to the prayer calls going out over the city.  Even though it woke me up, it was kind of exciting to listen to because I had never heard them before.  It’s like one of those things you see on TV or movies, and then when you experience it in real life it’s pretty fascinating.

Our rooftop terrace overlooking Fes.
The tower and the green pyramid are mosques, I didn’t know this but green is the holy color of Islam, so if you see a green building or roof it’s probably a mosque.
Time for breakfast!

 We had a really fun tour lined up for our first day.  We were met by our guide Fatima at the Riad.  She took us into the Medina for some shopping in the market.  We were able to choose some Moroccan dishes to make, shop for the ingredients, cook it all, and then eat the feast we had made!

The Blue Gate, entrance to the market.

Shopping in the market.

This was an entrance to the University, really beautiful!
This shop was interesting, we were taking in all the things hanging from the ceiling.
Fatima explaining that these little dishes are used for holding spices and/or jellies for the table.
Beautiful pottery.

Picking out some things to take home.

By this point, our shopping was complete and we were ready to head back to Fatima’s riad for some cooking.  Shopping in the market was fun, but very different than what we’re used to.  We ended up picking out a chicken dish to make.  Well, instead of having the meat already butchered and ready to take home, they have just a bunch of live chickens.  You pick which chicken you want and he butchers it for you on the spot.  This was a little too much for the ladies to watch, so we all had to walk away and plug our ears.  But for the people who shop this market everyday, it’s normal and doesn’t bother them.  At another point when we were just walking through, a lady give me a little smack on my arm as she was passing me.  It wasn’t an accidental bump, it was an intentional little hit.  When I looked back at her she was kind of smiling so I wasn’t sure what to think of it.  I’m pretty sure it had something to do with my hair color, or overall coloring.  We all stuck out I think, but I did even more so than the others. She didn’t hurt me or anything but she definitely got my attention!

At the Riad where we did our cooking.
We’re ready to cook!
Moroccan teapots, the tea they serve here is delightful!
Intricate carvings.
Sitting down for Moroccan tea before we get to work.
All of our produce laid out and ready.

 We cooked all kinds of things, and learned some new techniques.  We learned not to boil cous cous, it should be steamed instead.  This meal took us a few hours to prepare, but it was well worth it!  And we all got a small recipe book to take home that has all these recipes and more in it.

The final products.
Ready to eat!

 After we stuffed ourselves (again) Fatima led us back to our Riad.  We stayed there the rest of the night, relaxing on the rooftop terrace drinking Moroccan tea.

It was a bit chilly.

We had another full day lined up, so it was early to bed to get ready for our guided tour of Fes.