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The Imperial Cities of Morocco

Meknes, Fez and Marrakech, the charm of the Medinas.

Morocco has thousands of wonderful facets. There are so many routes to, but one of the most interesting is undoubtedly visiting the Imperial Cities. The first on our itinerary was Meknes: a beautiful palace, many artisans and a large Medina. Inside the Medina, there are typical family run restaurants, where, if you are not in a hurry, you can enjoy a delicious tajine. The Medinas are like labyrinths, and in the Medina of Fez it is impossible not to get lost. Every time I thought I would remember where the riad I was staying in was, I realized I wasn’t even close to it, and every time I went out, I endend up having to hire a guide to show me where the riad was! 

The centre of Fez is a maze of markets, shops, fountains, and riads. It is not unusual to come across donkeys running fast back and forth carrying goods or precarious wooden supports that hold up entire areas of the Medina. Many of the alleys are dark, but the interiors of the riads are very colourful, with carpets, draperies, cushions, canopy beds, chandeliers and mosaics. Even the fountains in the Medina are very colourful.

The Medina of Fez never sleeps, it’s always full of people, at least in the central area, just like the square of Marrakech. At the entrance of the Medina is the square of Djeema el-Fna, surrounded by restaurants, with a large one in the centre and around a wonderful fruit market, mainly of dried dates (absolutely delicious), all carefully positioned on pretty green carts. 

In the square various artists and entertainers gather, for example women drawing henna tattoos, snake charmers, monkeys and their owners. You just can’t get bored in Marrakech. One must buy a pair of typical handmade leather slippers (made in all different colours), saffron and dates. The imperial palaces are an interesting contrast to the Medinas, so full of large empty spaces and decorated with beautiful mosaics and carved wood. 

Moving around Morocco renting a car, is simple and cheap; the streets are all pretty good and the drivers are very disciplined, they also like helping those who are behind, putting indicators on the outside if it’s not good to overtake or on the inside if the road’s free. The only part a little less enjoyable is the road between Ouarzazate and Marrakech, since it crosses the Atlas Mountains, in some places it’s a little narrow, but along the way it’s fun to buy coloured crystals and fossils found locally.

Morocco is a must to visit … next stop: the desert with Bedouins and Touaregs.

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