Cranking Up the Heat in Fes

After the best of buffet breakfasts at the Four Seasons in Casablanca, (a perfect blend of Moroccan and Western goodies), Julian P. and the Jetex team took care of us again, picking us up at the hotel, feeding us sweets (again!) and providing yet another cup of that delicious tea...and then a ridiculously beautiful selection of French pastries, presented by Julian P. as we left.  Thank you Jetex Casablanca for your unforgettable service. We hope to see you again.

And then, to Fes! (or Fez).

Oh, Fes!

After the short flight, we disembarked the HondaJet to be engulfed in a wave of unadulterated heat! The temperature as we arrived was 113 degrees! I don’t think I have felt that before, not even peach picking in the Okanagan in August or during Hamsin in Israel! Breathing in felt like we were taking hot liquid into our lungs...yet it was perfectly dry (which did mean we got a little relief in the shade). VIP Jet helped us smoothly through the process of arrival, and the airport is brightly brand new...only open for the last two weeks.

We wanted to stay somewhere more traditionally Moroccan in Fes, and in the actual Medina (old city). It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the oldest intact medieval Arab city in the world. It may be ancient, but it is alive with energy, and home to over 80,000 within its walls.

We were driven almost to the door of the riad (a kind of dwelling place now used as a hotel) but had to walk the rest of the way up a few stairs and through the wall lined street. We were hot, sweaty, and thirsty, but immediately met at the door with lemonade, cookies and a place to sit. Palais Amani is beautiful. It is 3 stories tall, rooms all built around a central courtyard filled with trees, flowers, birds, and benches. Our room was lovely, with stained glass doors and windows, a bedroom and sitting room. Our only challenge in Fes was the heat (did I mention that already?), and would advise, if you ever plan a trip to Fes to watch the temperature highs in the month you plan to go.

We had a bit of a rest, then headed down in our robes to a small collection of rooms with arched ceilings, tiled walls and floors, and the sounds of water everywhere. Two kind ladies took Julian and me in hand for our first hammam. Although a traditional hammam is usually a kind of public bath, more private hammams are available here, especially for tourists. Starting with a kind of scrub on feet and hands, a conditioning clay was put into our hair,  and then we were led to a water room. We were washed by a bucket, smothered in oil, and left to rest on comfortable, cushioned benches. After some time, it was time to wash down again, this time the buckets of water were cast over our heads and in our faces. After another rest time, we headed to long wonderful showers, wrapped up in our robes, and sent back to our room for another wee nap.

Dinner was in the Palais Amani restaurant, and Travis, Julian and I enjoyed more traditional Moroccan food (tagine tonight) before heading to the land of Moroccan dreams.

While we were at dinner the courtyard suddenly escalated in a volume of a sound I can’t do justice to. It took a few minutes to realize that the trees were filled with hundreds of birds, each calling was like they were celebrating the sunset. After 15 minutes or so, the sound calmed, and the sun set. Later, I woke up around 4:30 or so, and I couldn’t quite figure out what woke me...until I recognized a slow crescendo of that same sound. It sounded like jubilation. At the first sliver of dawn, the birds were back in just as many numbers, paying homage to the light. I quietly opened the door to our room,  crept out in the cool of the almost morning, and padded down the hall in barefoot to a spot where I could just make out the fluttering of wings in the trees. I put my arms on the railing and my chin on my arms, entranced....for a very long time. It was a magic moment for me. Finally, the ruckus calmed again, and I almost skipped back to the room, elated. As I did, I wondered how many others had skipped down this old marble floor before me, after listening to the birds who came to call.