06/13/13
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Fez Food Tour

Ivan and I had breakfast at the riad at 9 am on June 13, 2013.  Lil Dave was already out to meet up with Abu for a tour of the medina and a banana tasting.

Ivan and I got a taxi to the Blue Gate.

The Blue Gate in Fez

We saw a Chinese lady there waiting for the food tour.  Shortly, Gail showed up later.

Gail was our guide for the Souk Tasting Trails food tour.  We went to a café inside the Blue Gate and met a young, posh girl from Oxford who was also part of the group.

We walked around the medina and Gail told us about the food.  She thinks it’s important to eat the local food to connect to a place.

We learned that fig and dates are mentioned in the Koran, so Muslims find it sacred.  They are stockpiling them right now for the upcoming Ramadan.  To break their fast, they eat dates since it has a high level of sugar which travels quickly to the liver.  We tried medjool dates which were tasty.

Muslims think that male meat is better than females.  You will see testicles attached to meat hanging outside a butcher to prove it’s male meat.

Hanging male meat

Isn’t that lovely?

Gail gave us something that looked like a little broom.  You tear off a piece of the dried flower of the agave and use it as a toothpick.

Ivan looks like a hick

Ivan stuck it in his mouth and he looked like a country bumpkin.

We saw uncooked stuffed camel spleen which didn’t look very appetizing.

Stuffed camel spleen

Gail really knew all about Moroccan food and life.

Our next tasting was celebratory candy like sesame and nougat candies.  The nougat candies are colorful with a variety of colors like green, white, pink, orange, yellow and brown.

We learned about olives and their antiseptic quality.  If a kid gets a cut on their finger, an olive is cut open and put around the finger.

Our group stopped to see the Mint Man who allowed photographs to be taken of him.

The Mint Man

He seemed like a nice guy.  Muslims can’t be too proud, so they don’t like getting photographed.  Some people will ask for money when you’re going to take a picture of them.

Holding some mint

We smelled mint and lemons at the mint place.

Blue barrel filled with honey

The group stopped at a honey souk where we got to try 7 different honeys in the back room where the honey was stored in big blue barrels.  A few of the honeys we tasted were eucalyptus, acacia, carob & grape, lavender and fig.  Some were gritty while others were silky smooth.  The flavors varied a lot from smoky to creamy to nutty.  I really liked the eucalyptus honey which tasted like caramel.

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Gail told us all about the benefits of honey like the fig honey is good for people with asthma.  Local honey is good for people suffering with allergies.  In the Koran, it says that bees should be free.

Gail also let us try smen which is fermented butter… it tasted like cheese and was so creamy and delectable.

The group visited the public bakery where anybody can bring their own dough to be baked in the big oven.

Taking out the bread from the old oven

Any whole bread that isn’t eaten is brought back to this bakery.  It will be re-toasted to be given to the poor or to the donkeys.  It’s good to know that it’s not going to waste.  Gail said that the bakeries know everything since they know if a family is expecting guests or if somebody is looking for a potential love match.  This oven is 400-500 years old.

We visited another public place which had an oven that was fueled by wood chips.  Gail has used this to make her tagines.  She says it can take 6 hours to make one.

Moroccan street food

At the end, Gail picked out street food for our group.  Our group sat down to eat bessara (fava bean soup) and the street food which consisted of fried aubergine, chips (french fries), fish, peppers and crumbed liver.

I highly recommend the Souk Tasting Trails food tour since you try a lot of Moroccan food and learn a little about the Muslim culture.

Ivan and I got a taxi back to the square and we walked back to our riad where we relaxed and I worked on the blog.

Later, Ivan and I went to Restaurant Dar Hatim for dinner.  We were picked up by the son who runs the restaurant and driven to the restaurant.  His wife and his mom cook the food.  The traditional house has beautiful wood artwork on the ceiling.  The wife served us – she was all smiles and very friendly.

Moroccan salads at Dar Hatim

The free salads (starters) came out – it was definitely the most Moroccan salads we’ve gotten at a restaurant.

Ivan and I had some mint tea.  Alcohol isn’t on the menu at Restaurant Dar Hatim, but you can bring your own.  We didn’t see any liquor stores in Fez.  Our food tour guide Gail said the owners at our riad could probably buy wine for us, but we forgot to ask.

Chicken Pastilla

Ivan and I shared a vegetable cous cous and a chicken pastilla which is the wife’s specialty.

The pastilla costs more than a cous cous which is weird since it’s a lot smaller. I think it’s because it’s a hard dish to make since you’re dealing with filo dough. The pastilla was tasty and sweet since it has cinnamon in it. It came with powdered sugar if you wanted to make it even sweeter.

Dinner at the lovely Dar Hatim

The wife took us upstairs to see a room that’s almost finished.  Her brother is the artist who paints the beautiful wood on the ceiling and makes wood tables.

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It was a great meal which came with so much food.  I highly recommend going to this restaurant to eat some quality food in a lovely traditional home.

Ivan couldn’t sleep for awhile probably since he had too much mint tea at dinner.

06/12/13
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Medina Market Tour

Breakfast was at 9 am on June 12, 2013.  It was American style breakfast today.  We got lots of bread and fruit.  Also, we enjoyed tea and scrambled eggs.

At 10 am, we were picked up by Najib.  He was going to be our guide for the Medina Market Tour.

It was a great tour through the winding narrow Medina streets of Fez.  We passed by lots of mosques and visited two tanneries (where they make leather and rugs).

Leather bags and cushions

We stopped at many stores where the owners were showing off their goods like cushions, leather goods, scarves and tablecloths.

Woman hand embroidering a tablecloth

I liked seeing the beautiful amariyas which the bride sits on and is carried to the wedding by four men.

White Amariya

Ivan was in search of fez from Fez.. but he didn’t know he’d find the first one in giant form!

A giant fez in Fez

When you go to see a tannerie, you’re given mint to cover the bad smell.  It really does help… I do love the smell of mint.

View from a tannery in Fez

We also got a great view of the city from the tanneries.  It’s cool to see all the stone vessels where the workers dye the leather in different dyes like saffron, henna and mint.  After the dying, the hides are placed on the roofs of the Medina to dry.

Stone vessels in the tannery

It was nice stopping at a school to see the children. A few of the kids were two years old.

Kids in their classroom in Fez

I took pictures of them and showed them their picture which they loved.

Najib showed us fez hats which were good quality costing 120 dirhams.  He said there were tourist ones for 20 dirhams which was definitely more reasonable.  Ivan was happy that he finally found a fez in Fez!

Our guide Najib with Ivan wearing his new fez

We stopped at Restaurant Nejjarine.  A lot of starters came out first which were different vegetable dishes.  Ivan got a vegetable and almond tangine while I got a chicken and lemon tagine.  We got fruit for dessert.  The food was good.  The Moroccans give you so much food when you visit a restaurant.  It’s really quite filling especially with the bread and rice.

We saw many cats during our tour.  Najib said it’s because there are mice in the medina.  There are lots of street cats who are very malnourished which is really sad.

Mosque in Fez

We walked around some more with our guide.  He asked if we wanted to take a taxi outside of the Medina.  We were too tired from walking around for five hours.

The tour was great since it’s very confusing navigating the streets of the Fez medina (old city).  We didn’t really understand our guide that much, but he certainly knew his way around and took us to some cool places.

We saw the newborn kitties again who were fast asleep in a box.

Four sleeping kitties in a box

Back at the hotel, we used the internet and I worked on the blog.  Ivan went out and got a chickpea sandwich which was quite tasty.

Lil Dave was back from hanging out with Abu and his friend Bart’s cousin named Muhammad.

We wanted to have dinner in the market, but we weren’t sure what everything was.  Not everybody spoke English, so it was hard to tell if the food had meat or not.

Ivan and I ended up at Restaurant Andalib which was the same restaurant as last night.

Terrace at Restaurant Andalib

Ivan and I shared harissa soup, seafood pastilla (which is a pie made out of filo dough) and vegetable cous cous.  It was a tasty meal again.

Seafood pastilla

We were the only ones in the restaurant again.

We walked around the shops since I didn’t have many clothes that were dark – my clothes were bright and made me stand out a bit.  All the women’s shirts were dressy.. I just wanted a t-shirt.  I bought a black England shirt which was actually for men, but it still looked good one me.

06/11/13
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Off to Fez

On June 11, 2013, we all woke up at 8:30 am.  There was breakfast by Denise which was fruit, cheese and boiled eggs.

Ivan and I packed everything up.

We walked to the post office to mail off a lot of postcards.

Everybody piled into a taxi at 11:30 am.  There was some traffic, but it moved along quickly.

The taxi dropped us off at our terminal at noon.  Denise and Ken were off to their terminal to head back to England.

Ivan went to ask the Last Minute line if we could go in that line.  Ivan told me I needed to go to the Visa Check line.

I waited in the Visa Check line and it went by slowly since there was only one person working at the desk.

I joined Ivan in the Last Minute queue and checked our bags in.

Security was really lax since they didn’t see Ivan’s toiletries which contained liquid.

We rushed to get a tuna & Spanish omelet sandwich and went to our gate.

Our plane left Barcelona and started going towards Fez, Morocco.  I worked on the blog on the plane ride while Ivan read Lee Mack’s book Mack the Life and slept.

The plane above Morocco

The plane got really bumpy at the end.  I think the pilot had too many sangrias.

People clapped when the plane landed probably since they were scared from the bumpiness at the end of the two hour flight.

We got picked up at the airport from the transfer Ivan set up through the hotel.  I had no idea what our taxi driver was saying since he was speaking French.  Ivan took French in school, but he doesn’t remember that much. I barely know any French.

We were met by Bernard outside of the Medina.  Porters took our big luggage and went off.  Bernard led us through the streets of the Medina to Dar Melody.  We saw four newborn kitties before reaching the hotel. They were so cute. We didn’t see any sign of the mother.

He told us that his wife would explain everything to us.  Laurence showed us things on the map.  I paid attention, but knew I’d probably forget most of the things she told us.  I could tell that I would get lost in the medina and there’s no GPS maps of it.  Thank goodness, Ivan is good with maps.  I have no sense of direction.

The dining room of Dar Melody from above

Dar Melody is beautiful inside.  We were taken to our room which was also quite pretty.  The shower was gorgeous.

Lovely tiled shower

What a lovely place!  We got Moroccan cookies to eat in our room.

Lil Dave went to meet up with a family member’s cousin (no relation to Lil Dave) named Abu for a monkey dinner.  Ivan already had plans for our dinner.  We tried to find the restaurant, but nobody seemed to know where it was.  Lawrence advised us against paying people to lead you to a destination.  Ivan did pay somebody since we were really clueless as to where it actually was… it was only €3.

We walked inside the Restaurant Andalib, but it wasn’t open until 7:30 pm.  We walked across the street and had sweet Moroccan mint tea.

At 7:35 pm, we walked back to Restaurant Andalib.  A lady asked if we wanted to sit on the terrace and we said yes.  We didn’t know there was a terrace.

The view was beautiful on the terrace.

Moroccan sunset

The meal comes with free starters and bread.  Ivan and I shared the harrissa soup which comes with dates and almond pastries.  You eat the dates and almond pastries while eating the great soup.

On the terrace of Restaurant Andalib

Our main dishes were vegetarian cous cous and a chicken tangine.  The food was quite tasty with a refreshing French white wine.

We were really stuffed and walked back to the hotel and used the free internet.

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