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Entries in Fez (4)

Wednesday
Apr112012

Views of Fez

It's a crazy, hectic week for me this week, there's lots of disruption (welcome though I might add) with the boys on school/college holidays and my 7 year old twin nieces are over today.  I've also been filling my spare time with plan drawings for my KLC coursework and a date night (dinner and cinema) with hubby before he goes off to LA tomorrow too.

 

So no more posts from me until Monday, but I wanted to leave you with my favourite photos from our trip to Fez.  I can't believe it's nearly two weeks ago since we set off for this amazing country, how time flies.

Check out the ornate architecture of the Palais, the wood and plaster carvings and mosaic surfaces.  Plus the Tannery vats and the man working the leather skins into handbag handles, plus a couple of images from the food market. 

Have a great week x

 

 

 

Thursday
Apr052012

The art of haggling

Slippers for the whole family

Agreeing a suitable price to pay for an item in the souks is an eye opener, a huge learning curve, it's pretty tiring but a lot of fun.  Believe me when I say that these artisans have their negotiating skills down to slick perfection, which is no surprise given that they've spent centuries dealing with naive western tourists like moi, handing down their craft, knowledge and schpeel through the generations, from grandfather to son to grandson. Haggling is their favourite pastime for sure.

Like a Cobra, ready to pounce on and devour its next meal, these traders get you in their sights and mercifully deliver their products key selling points with real pride, until you are almost on your knees.  They absolutely know what buttons to press.

It's an impressive sight to see and hear.  It's done without agression or irritation, but with confidence, passion, efficiency and a cheeky swagger.  You cannot help but admire these guys for their standards and their love of their product and for the chase and of course ultimately the basic need for them to support their families.

Needless to say, we came away from the Medina with two rugs, a throw, two pouffes, a handbag and slippers for the whole family.  We had to pay for extra bag allowance with Ryanair in order to get the lot home.

I now consider myself a bit of a pro.  So, are my top bartering tips, in no particular order:

1. Plan first and get a fix on what you intend to purchase before you enter the souk.  It's so easy to be distracted by other items when you get there, so restricting yourself in the first place eliminates too many rash purchases.  We visited the Tanneries for a pouffe and left with two of them plus a handbag and slippers.

2. Decide how much money you are willing to spend on an item.  Artisans are great at the upsell.  They have many versions of products, from the dirt cheap (and lacking in quality) to their very best stuff that's been worked on for hours and weeks and is made of silk, blah blah blah... you get the drift here.  Whatever your budget is, add another 10-20%, because you'll always go for a better quality product or be seduced by how great said particular item will look in your living room.

3. As I said, bartering is an art form. Set your stall out early (pardon the pun).  If you are not intending to purchase something, say so, right from the beginning and keep reiterating this. The guys will still try to convince you otherwise, but you'll at least feel good about making your point clear.

4. I'm convinced that the starting price of an item directly correlates to the trader's perceived wealth of the buyer.  Unlike us, I advise you to not enter a souk with a set of the latest camera equipment around your neck (yes, hubby) or expensive jewellery on show.  If you want to pay less, go in simply dressed and without any personal objects.  It's obvious really.

5. If you are going to make a purchase, YOU MUST HAGGLE.  It's a mandatory sport and in my experience, can take anything from 5 minutes to an hour, depending on each parties persistence.  For example, we purchased our rugs from a trader that is in a cooperative, so is managed closely by the government.  He was a salesman first and a tour guide second.  Trained to give you the low down about the berber tribeswomen, their history and culture and the process for getting the rugs to market, all over a nice cup of hot mint tea and a comfy seat for hubby. He only delivers authentic quality products, at a certain price point, for the good of the community and particularly the berber people.   So he did his job well, we spent more money than we intended but we left with some beautiful items and a warm feeling that we'd contributed to their society.

6. Again, based on experience, as a general rule you can expect to eventually pay around 50% of an item's starting price.

To summarise, the Fez people are friendly folk with the objective of making a living.  Once you know what to look out for, you'll have a wicked time playing the game.

Without further ado, are some photos of my purchases (especially for Erin):

Kilim rug

Goat skin and Camel skin pouffes from the Tanneries

Traditional hand knotted rug

 

 Silk and cotton throw

 

Leather handbag from the Tanneries

 I cannot pick a favourite purchase, they are all lovely for their individual reasons.  What's your most favourite holiday/trip purchase? Do tell.

 

Tuesday
Apr032012

Go visit : Palais Amani

Arriving at night in a city I've never been to is usually a freaky yet fascinating experience. After a rather long wait at customs considering there were only two planes on the tarmac, we were met by our chirpy and friendly driver-come-travel-guide Abdul and during the walk down to the car, a panoramic view of Fez opened up before us, nestled down in all its warm glow, below a deep green mountainous backdrop.

Fez is an ancient city dating back to the 8th century and it's the cultural and historical capital of Morocco.  We chose to stay right in the heart of the oldest part in the medina and our 25 minute journey there allowed us to take in the Ville Nouveau (new town) and the frantic and edgy metropolis before a bumpy, jumpy ride to the edge of the medina itself.

The photographs you see in magazines and on travel shows give you some indication of what to expect when you get here, but the reality is vastly amplified - a combination of crumbling stone walls at least 30 metres high and tiny narrow streets create the immediate feeling of compression and constriction.  Add in the immense sound, the overpowering smell... well, more about that another time.

Palais Amani is a stones throw from the edge of the ancient medina. The tall wooden inctricately etched entrance doors of the Palais are thrown open to a truly stunning mosaic courtyard garden known as a Riad, filled with fruit trees, flowers and herbs and the heady scent of orange blossom fills the warm air. It's a vivid yet welcome contrast to the frenzy going on outside.  In fact, there is no outside noise to be heard within the four walls, only birds roosting in the fruit trees and the regular siren call to prayer.

We were met by the bubbly Kriselda with a glass of mint tea and Moroccan biscuits and after consuming the lot, took a guided tour around the property.  It took 5 years for the French owner and his partner to restore this beautiful property and turn it into a boutique hotel.  It has 14 luxury rooms, a hammam, restaurant, bar and outside shower area and terrace on the roof, and of course, the jewel that is the Riad.  The showers were added because pools are not allowed due to Fez being a UNESCO protected city.  All the rooms look out on to the Riad, which is a pretty sight first thing in the morning.

The Palais is stunning, with its authentic yet contemporary decor, cosy rooms and fabulous hospitality.  You could spend a couple of days just chilling here, without going out into the Medina.  Our meal in the restaurant on the first night was delicious, lots of lightly spiced vegetables and meat, a birthday cake (yes, another!) and a bottle of Moroccan white wine, which we were initially dubious about but was really good.

I find spending the first night in a unfamiliar hotel room to be a little bit unsettling, especially an ancient one. I woke at around 2am and it was pitch black, I got up and peered through the curtains to find the all lights in the Riad were turned off.  You could literally see nothing, not a star, nada. More than a little spooked, I jumped back into bed and shut my eyes tight until the morning.

 

Monday
Apr022012

Moroccan inspiration

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So I'm back from a fabulous weekend in Fez and it's a day of playing catch up.  I'm feeling full of inspiration, stimulated by vibrant colours and sounds, touchy feely textures and overpowering smells all running wild in my head this morning.  I want to share with you some of my images that I think will inspire you too. Fez is an a-m-a-z-i-n-g place, if you've not been, you must go.

More details tomorrow. Have a great Monday x