Fes, Sahara and Chefchaouen, what a trip!

I know people usually read blogs to find out what to see and do when you go to a particular destination. Before you get too far into this blog, I would like to give you a heads up that this blog post lists out what to see and do, but it’s a bit whingy.

It’s nothing to do with the place we visited, it’s more about the time of the year we chose, the amount of things that were giving us FOMO and the way we went about it. Even with the negative undertones, I promise it’s a good read.

It was Mrs FOMOist’s 30th in July. Since she’s one of the twins, the sister came to visit from Brisbane and insisted that we visit Morocco during the hottest time of the year. After much resistance, I gave into their collective charm and booked a trip to Fes.

Now the title of this blog is not “Confessions of a FOMOist” for no reason. If I am getting on a flight and going somewhere for 5 days, I want to see EVERYTHING! The jam-packed trip started with an early morning three-and-a-half-hour flight from London to Fes Saiss airport. We checked in at the Riad Noujoum Medina, dropped our bags off and rushed to the rooftop to get a quick aerial glance over the city we were going to call home for the next five days. Since it is going to be home, we decided we won’t spend any time there, you’ll see what I mean further down.

Without wasting any valuable time, we set off in search of whatever this city had to offer. We set off towards Chouara Tannery. Once we got to the starred location on the map, we were herded by suspiciously friendly gents to a “guaranteed no-purchase” shop to get the view of the tannery. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, the operations at the tannery were in the middle of packing up for the day, but it was still impressive to see the primitive operation. The stench from the tannery was on the edge of my tolerance and it was incredible that people would spend hours working there. After soaking up the atmosphere and taking the all-essential #instapics, we had the awkward no we don’t want to buy your extremely rare red leather jacket and dashed out.

Henna Souk, Fes
Henna Souk, Fes

On our way back from the tannery, we meandered through the Henna Souk. We love any markets anywhere so we were happy to get lost in the little lanes. We found parts of the souk were quite reminiscent of the Istanbul Spice Bazaar. It was at the Henna Souk where we discovered that Moroccans do really delicious coffee that I was hooked to for the rest of the trip. One thing that I did miss in Fes was the big wide open space like at Jemaa el Fna in Marrakesh. While Fes doesn’t have any shortage of rooftop cafes and restaurants, for us, we missed having a birds-eye view of a big open space bustling with people. After snaking through the little alleyways of Fes, we called it a night because we were getting picked up by our driver at 8.00am in the morning for our drive to the Sahara Desert.

We woke up early and went out in search of breakfast and coffee and soon realised, like India, Moroccans are not early risers. We managed to get a (much needed) strong coffee with some bread and some fruits to get us started. Got picked up promptly by Sayed at 8.00am and we were off! It all sounds great so far, right? It was, maybe for the first 2 – 3 hours. It was a total of 8 hours of driving to Merzouga where we got on the camels for an hour ride into the desert. So we went from sitting our asses in the car, to sitting on our asses atop a camel. The camel ride was fun for the first 15-minutes, after which my legs started cramping badly. Thankfully there was beautifully expansive Sahara Desert to keep me spellbound.

The Magnifique Sahara
The Magnifique Sahara

We arrived at our camp-site that was already set up and spent time eating, listening to the live performances by our guides and then we retired to our tents. Sleeping was another adventure, and not a good one, due to our own stupidity. The facilities inside the tent were AMAZING! There was a massive comfy bed and a bathroom with aa tap of running water, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SAHARA DESERT! The only issue, it was boiling hot. We should have done what the others did and pulled out mattresses outside the tent, but we are not that rebellious, we’re just idiots. After perspiring from areas of my body I didn’t know existed, we “woke up” early, got back on to the camels, to get back into the car, to drive back another 8 hours to Fes.

Mr and Mrs FOMOist in Chefchaouen
Mr and Mrs FOMOist in Chefchaouen

Now one would think an 8-hour drive on two consecutive days will mean you’d want to relax the next day? But no, we got picked up again the next morning at 8.20am by Sayed to take us to the super insta-worthy town of Chefchaouen. It was another 4+ hours’ drive oneway, so we spent half-a-day driving to Chefchaouen, take a few [stunning] pictures and drove back. If I am being perfectly honest, it wasn’t worth the drive. It takes a much better picture than it actually is. I am however aware that it might be the fatigue, but even in hindsight, unless it was enroute to your next destination, I wouldn’t recommend Chefchaouen as a destination.

Crazy kids of the Sahara
Crazy kids of the Sahara

Overall, I am blessed to have visited the Sahara Desert and explore so much of this beautiful country. I think I have myself to blame to cram so much into such little time. I am looking forward to going back to Morocco in milder temperatures and exploring further.

Parting words of wisdom:

  • If you want to experience #lushlife, there are plenty of fancy Riads to choose from. The one we stayed at after our first night was Riad Dar Bensouda. It was beautifully bursting with character, it was comfortable and flawless service.
  • We used Ourass Travels to book our tour. I cannot speak highly of them. It was our stupid requirement to cram so much in such little time. Sayed and the rest of the team at Ourass did EVERYTHING to make our trip as comfortable and fun as they could. They never took us to any “emporiums” to witness any “handicrafts”. Sayed made sure he took us to the most authentic and reasonably priced restaurants he could find. There were times when we were the only foreigners at a restaurant, eating beside locals.
  • If you are planning a trip to the Sahara Desert, you will have to start from a major city. Make sure that you’re not doing a round-trip, but a oneway trip. If I was to do our trip again, I would have started in Marrakesh, then gone to the Sahara and end our trip in Fes.
  • Please do not do what we did. Allow more time if you are going to cover ground, otherwise just spend time in one city and get lost in its windy streets.

5 thoughts on “Fes, Sahara and Chefchaouen, what a trip!

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