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I'm an Aussie who likes wandering all over the world but keeps coming back home to paradise and my family. If you are reading this on one of my travel blogs, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you are reading the Diabetes and weight loss blog - I hope it helps in your battle with the beast. Cheers, Alan

Friday, July 25, 2014

Fes, Morocco: Trains., Hotels, Cabs and Cafés


Travel Date 1st - 3rd July 2013

I like train travel and always prefer it over air or bus when the time involved is not excessively longer and the price is reasonable. In Morocco the ONCF system met my needs very well. 

I used the train three times: Tangier to Fes, Fes to Meknes and Meknes to Casablanca. Fares were inexpensive, even in First Class, all the trains were clean and ran on time. The on-line system is good for planning but I chose to buy my tickets at the stations. That was never difficult.
Departing Tangier
Gare de Fes
The next few pictures were taken from the window en-route from Tangier to Fes. 

This trip shattered yet another preconception. In my ignorance I was expecting a dry and mainly desert land. Instead, in early summer the countryside was more green than brown; much like my own state of NSW in a good summer west of the range.

I realise Morocco is desert east of the Atlas Mountains, but I did not expect it to be this green west of them.

I moved from La Source Bleue to the Hotel Splendid, which did not live up to its name. They started badly by refusing to recognise my hotel.de web booking. Begrudgingly, the man on reception booked me in at full rate in a poorer room without breakfast.

Hours later the next manager on duty 'discovered' my web booking and agreed to honour the price including breakfast. He explained that they had only just started using hotel.de as a booking agency, but no apology. Next morning I found that wasn't much benefit because breakfast was all starch and juices. My friends on the diabetes forums will understand why I paid extra for an omelette after seeing this:

To be fair, the bed was OK and the air conditioner worked, so I slept well.

These pictures are of Fes beyond the medina.


This is the Royal Palace entrance. Unfortunately we were not allowed in because the occupants were 'at home.'

I received an education in Petit Taxis in Fes. One of the difficulties with the Hotel Splendid was getting a cab. The management will not call for one because 'they will not come'. All the hotel staff did was suggest which street a few blocks away to walk to for the opportunity to hail one. That was an interesting and time-consuming experience each time.

In Morocco the Petit Taxis can multiple hire, so it is worth hailing them even if they are occupied. Although the fare is on the meter, the full fare is charged for each hirer without deductions for time and distance spent on dropping the other occupants. The fares are so cheap it isn't really a problem and I had some interesting conversations with the passengers in mutually incomprehensible languages in some of the cabs. Later, when I departed the Hotel Splendid for the train it took me half an hour to obtain a cab which already had a woman and child in it. The driver refused to put my two bags in the boot. Instead he demanded I squash the bags in between the child and myself on a back seat barely big enough for two. Surprisingly, the boy seemed to think it was all good fun squeezing against the door. I got to the station on time, which was the most important thing, so I didn't really mind.

The day before I had been advised by my guide to take my laundry to a place near the station. To assist the cab driver when I returned to pick up my clean clothes in the afternoon I had a receipt from that laundry with the address in both French and Arabic. I hailed a cab a few blocks from the Hotel Splendid. He could not find the laundry despite the written address and started driving 'round and 'round the district in ever-diminishing circles, occasionally stopping to get guidance from the locals but appearing to ignore the answers. I eventually demanded he drop me at the nearest cab rank so I could find a competent driver – and then I realised we were passing the laundry at that instant, just before closing time! I picked up the over-priced (friend of the guide?) laundry and asked to be returned to the place where he picked me up. He got lost again trying to remember where that was. Eventually I directed him myself to the hotel. After all that the fare was still only 20 dirhams (~$2.50). I paid, but I was not happy. The money was irrelevant. He was the most incompetent cab-driver I have encountered in nearly fifty countries, noting that I was one myself in one of my previous lives.

One of my interests when I travel is comparing the different ways of building houses. I have seen these bricks used in many lands, but never at home. They are lightweight, strong and easy to lay. I'll expand on that in the nest post. I wonder why I've never seen them in Australia, the USA or UK?

As I had eaten tagine in the medina for lunch I had a meal very similar to Greek gyros or Turkish kebab at a fast food place for dinner. The meat is cooked on a rotating vertical spit, served on pita bread accompanied by a salad and tasty local sauce. I spent the evening wandering around the modern commercial and restaurant district near the Hotel. From mid-afternoon all of the pavement cafés were filled with men drinking coffee and smoking, similar to Spain, Portugal, Croatia, Bosnia and Greece. There were very few women in the cafés. The main difference between Morocco and the other countries was an absence of wine or beer in the cafés. There seemed to be very few people eating meals before 8 or 9 pm.

I originally intended spending another day in Fes, but I decided to move on to Meknes and Moulay Idriss next day, rather than do a day trip from Fes. I booked a Dar on the web, and left in the morning on the train.

Cheers, Alan

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