Chefchaouen-Fes (160 miles approx.)

Day 7

Chefchaouen is a great base from which to tour the Rif Mountains.  However,  the imperial city of Fes was beckoning, so  we headed out on foot to the dirt car-park where we had left our bikes in the care of a local man overnight, praying that nothing would have been stolen.  Yes, well…the inevitable had happened.  The Landrover in which our leader had stored all his maps had been broken into.  He was going to have to guide us through the rest of the trip using his memory.  As for the only Welsh guy in our group…his clothes had  been stolen.  It was a trip to the Police Station for him, with instructions to catch up with us later in the day.

 Leaving the town in convoy, we rattled through the potholes until we bumped onto the tarmac that was the main road.  We were to discover that the excellent trunk roads in Morocco often deteriorated into oases of potholes on entering towns.  As the bikers flew along the blacktop we noticed huge fields of vivid green.  On stopping for a mint tea and loo break, I commented on all the grass in the area.   As the word”grass” flew from my lips, I realised what I had said.  There in front of our very eyes were acres upon acres of hashish, being grown quite openly.  Along the roadside verges young children were waving hands full of hashish, begging us to purchase it.  However,  we had been warned that while it may be legal to grow and purchase the weed in Morocco, it was certainly illegal to be found smoking the dope. None of us relished the thought of spending time in a Moroccan lock-up.

Mile after mile

was devoured as we passed through the Rif Mountains.  There were superb views of the highest mountain, Tidirhine at 8,058 feet.  We eased our way through the town of Ketima, “The hash Capital” of Morocco, while we enjoyed the wild beauty of the mountains, before finally, heading down into the city of Fes.

Fes:  The Imperial city of Fes

Nothing could prepare us for the first sight of the

ancient city of Fes, a World heritage Site. It can only be explored on foot and we had a local man to guide us through it’s narrow streets and what is, allegedly, the largest soukh in the world.  The smells  in the soukh ranged from fragrant spices to the unspeakable odours and vapours of the tanning area, the latter causing our eyes to water and our throats to constrict.  Men were trampling the hides in huge open vats, the whole site seemingly a throwback to mediaeval times.   To our western eyes it resembled a scene from Hades.

There were the inevitable carpet stalls and an army of young boys, marching after us pleading with us to buy their goods.  The only way we could persuade these youngsters to leave us in peace was for my husband to scold them in strong French.  They understood what he meant!

There were many artisans in the soukh, plying their ancient skills and crafts. This is a fascinating city, combining the old with the very new, the “Ville Nouvelle.” Ancient walls vie with a modern commercial centre. Overlooking it are the Rif and Atlas mountains. We were told that there is some preservation being undertaken and that the importance of not destroying the atmoshere, ambience and aesthetics of the city is a priority, not least because the present king of Morocco, Mohammed VI, married one of the daughters of Fes, Salma Bennani!

Naomi Flashman

 

 

 

 

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