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one night in Fes

One Night in Fes: Morrocco Memories

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Although most of the world is on my bucket list, Morocco wasn’t high on my list. I knew I wanted to visit but didn’t feel compelled to make Morocco a priority. Then, the stars aligned for Morocco when I had 10 vacation days from work and found a 30 euros flight from my local airport, Frankfurt. I ended up with one night in Fes, but I initially wanted more time.

Watching a local baker while on a private tour of Fes

I quickly realized how large Morocco actually is while booking this trip. I wanted to do all the things in the four dedicated days in Morocco, but realized I had to make compromises. One compromise was skipping the Instagram-famous blue city Chefchaouen. A second compromise was spending only one night in Fes. I was concerned it would be too little time to visit this city. Although one night in Fes is rushed, it was enough time to see and do all the things I wanted.

Feeling Welcomed at the Best Fes Hotel

I arrived in Fes and immediately felt the suffocating desert heat walking out of the plane. The sun beat down so much that I rummaged for my sunglasses for the short walk to the airport building from the plane.

Immigration took about 30 minutes and was painless. Soon my partner and I were picking up the rental car from Avis.

Terrace views from the hotel Dar Panoramic Fez

My partner referenced in this blog post and I are no longer together. Out of respect, I won’t use his name or show pictures of us together. I felt it important, though, to include him in this story so solo female travelers don’t seek advice from me about traveling through Morocco. I likely had a very different experience as a woman traveling with a male partner. If you have solo female travel questions, I suggest you check out other travelers’ Morocco stories! I hope my blog post can still give you advice and inspiration for other aspects of Morocco!

Parking Tip: All of my hotels in Morocco were in the city’s Medinas, which are pedestrian only. There’s always parking outside of the Medina, though. Sometimes you can find the parking locations on Google Maps, but sometimes you can’t. Parking lots usually cost around 20 Dirham (MAD) per night, but the price can vary based on location, business, and your negotiation ability. If in doubt, ask your accommodations for parking recommendations ahead of time. Otherwise, you can typically find parking easily by driving around the circumference of the Medina.

The beautiful entryway/courtyard of the hotel

I booked one night at Dar Panoramic Fez. It was a little confusing to find the hotel on the narrow, windy, and numerous Fes streets, but I eventually made it. The manager Yosef greeted me like a friend. He had messed me on Booking.com, where I had made the reservation, asking if I wanted to meet him in a central location so he could bring me to the hotel. Unfortunately, I didn’t see this message in time. Reach out to him before you fly if you want this complimentary service.

To be honest, I had low expectations for the hotels I booked in Morocco. I searched for the cheapest hotels that included AC, WiFi, and a good location. I was pleasantly surprised at every single stay, though!

The clay exteriors of Fes buildings leave much to desire, but as soon as you walk in you’re surrounded by beautiful tiles and peaceful courtyards. These tiles and interior courtyards aren’t for looks though–they help keep the building cool as a natural form of air conditioning. While I appreciated and used the AC in my room, the common areas were refreshingly cool.

Beautiful tiles in the hotel

There are numerous more expensive hotels available in Morocco, but I recommend opting for the smaller and extremely affordable hotels instead. I met the owner at every single hotel I stayed at, which is a pleasant reminder that you’re directly supporting a family and a small business. The owners guaranteed that I had the best service and experience.

Yosef at Dar Panoramic Fez was hands-down my favorite manager. He started my vacation in Morocco on a high. We sat and talked for an hour upon my arrival and our conversation felt like catching up with an old friend. Yosef scheduled me for a hammam that night and a private walking tour the next morning. Both times, I was picked up at my hotel and taken to the location to avoid getting lost in the Fes streets. It’s important to tip the person who picks you up, but this is still a great additional service typically offered in Fes while you’re still getting used to the Moroccan way.

Yosef’s mother prepared a delicious traditional Moroccan meal for my partner and me while we settled into our room and waited for the guide to pick us up for the hammam. I went to the hotel’s terrace to enjoy my first taste of chicken tagine and couscous, which I ate several more times during my Moroccan trip. The dinner came at a small additional cost, I think of 7 Euros.

Homemade dinner from Yosef’s mom

Money Tip: Some places accept Dirham and Euro. It’s best to pay in Dirham for souvenirs, tips, and local restaurants. Accommodations, tour guides, popular tourist activities, and more tourist-focused restaurants often accept Euro. Only large tourist-focused restaurants accept card as a form of payment. Carry enough cash for 1-2 days at a time with you because ATMs aren’t as frequently available as in Europe or the USA.

The next morning, Yosef’s brother greeted us and brought us breakfast prepared by his mother. You know a hotel is one-of-a-kind when the manager greets you at the door upon arrival and books your activities, the mother prepares your food, and the brother greets you each morning with breakfast in the courtyard.

Not only was the customer experience wonderful, but the room was also delightfully comfortable. Remember, I looked for the cheapest hotels I could find with only three requirements–AC, WiFi, and good location. My room was large, the bed comfortable, and the bathroom large and renovated. The space was beautifully decorated. The hotel was only about a 5-minute walk from a nearby parking location and a short walk to many popular activities. It was a pleasant surprise to have a nice hotel on a budget.

More beautiful Moroccan designs

Truly, I loved my stay at Dar Panoramic Fez and highly recommend you stay there. It’s rare for me to feel that a hotel made my travel experience as wonderful as it was, but this is certainly the case for Yosef and Dar Panoramic Fez.

Don’t book your accommodations for one night in Fes anywhere else!

Experiencing a Traditional Hammam in Fes

When I researched things to do across Morocco, hammam appeared multiple times. Hammam is a traditional Moroccan spa experience, so as a lover of spas, I knew I had to participate. I spent 60 euros for the complete experience–30 minutes in the spa and a 30-minute massage.

Unfortunately, I do not remember the name of the hammam and could not find it in a Google search. I booked it directly through my hotel, so if you also stay at Dar Panoramic Fez, I’m sure you’d go to the same place. Either way, my explanation below will be similar to other hammams!

Obsessed with the designs at the hammam

The spa hired a local man to pick my partner and me up from the hotel and bring us to the spa. I usually try to navigate and explore independently, but the streets of Fes are really complicated. Google Maps isn’t helpful inside the Medina because the alleys are so close that Google Maps can’t decipher them all as separate. It’s only a handful of Dirham for the guide to pick you up and drop you off again at the hotel, so I recommend opting for this additional service.

I was ushered into a changing room immediately upon arrival at the hammam. There are free lockers in the changing room to put your belongings in. A bathrobe and slippers are provided, as well as a single-use thong for women. Men wear their own pair of underwear.

Once changed, I was rushed into my private bath room. Timeliness seems important in Morocco, and I was about 10 or 15 minutes late for my scheduled appointment at the hammam, thus I was rushed from location to location. No issue on my end, though–it was definitely my fault that I was late and I was happy to be there! I recommend you aim to be more timely than I.

Moroccan chandeliers are something else

A woman, who only spoke Arabic and French (the two common languages in Morocco), took off my bathrobe and mimed for me to sit down on a white plastic stool. I had zero expectations and knew nothing about the hammam process. When my spa attendant picked up a bowl of hot and steaming water, I did not expect that water to be dumped all over my head…but that’s exactly what happened! The spa attendant dumped a bucket of water over my head and on my body several times.

When I was, I assume, suitably wet for the next step, the spa attendant pointed to a stone bed. I instinctively stood up and was assisted onto the slippery surface. Yes, assisted…I almost slipped right off! Once stabilized on the stone surface, she proceeded to scrub my body down head-to-toe with an exfoliant. After another rinse, the spa attendant covered my body thinly with what I think is a mud cream. She rinsed that off and then washed my body and hair with a store-bought shampoo. After a final rinse, I was done with the traditional hammam.

Overall, I would say the hammam was a cool experience and I’m happy I did it. The products this particular hammam used weren’t special or traditional. Perhaps other hammams use more traditional ingredients, but it seems overall hammam is for the process and experience rather than unique products. I recommend participating in a hammam spa experience, but keep in mind it’s for the experience and not necessarily a luxurious spa experience if you’re booking a cheaper hammam.

City gates

There are more expensive ones that I’m sure offer more luxury. Similar to the rest of the world, you get what you paid for. I probably had too high of expectations for the price I paid. I still enjoyed the experience though!

My partner and I put on our bathrobes again and were then led to a waiting area until the massage room was ready. Two young girls gave us our massages. Honestly, I recommend skipping the additional massage experience for moderately priced hammam spas. The massage felt like the two girls YouTubed “how to give a massage” and followed those techniques. Considering the massage nearly doubles the price of the hammam experience, save your money and get only the traditional hammam experience without a massage.

Fes trash service, courtesy of donkeys!

Private Tour of Fes: The Best Option with Only One Night in Fes

We only had one night in Fes, so the next morning my partner and I woke up early (early for a vacation, at least) and set off for an early morning tour of Fes.

Our guide picked us up directly at the hotel. The private tour only cost 20 euros per person and the tour lasted approximately two hours.

I grumbled a little in the morning that I had to wake up early for the tour, but Fes was reaching highs of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, even in May. Ultimately, the 7 am pick-up was worth the early rise because the streets were empty and the weather was still at a comfortable temperature.

We hit all the main spots, including the Leather Tanneries. This was a special request by me. The tour guide took note of what we both liked to see while traveling and customized the tour slightly for us. He took us to his friend’s leather shop with the best view of the tanneries!

Browsing the leather shop after viewing the tanneries

One Night in Fes

After our tour, it was back to the hotel to drive to Casablanca!

One night in Fes felt rushed, but it is a small city. You don’t need a lot of time there in general. Fes is a good starting point for multi-day Sahara Desert tours as well. If you have any questions about spending one night in Fes, leave a comment below and I’d be happy to help!

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