MOROCCO ROAD TRIP IV: DADES, MERZOUGA, FES

[This post has not been edited nor proofread. Please pardon errors.]

There is nothing better than hot mint tea at dusk when it’s seven degrees. Being from a tropical paradise, my main goal after getting out of the heated car was to find heat again. At the hotel, we were welcomed by a man dressed in traditional Berber clothing. I introduced myself; he smiled and said, “I know!” OHMYGOD, I never thought my books reached this side of the world! Seriously though, we arrived past five in the afternoon and one-half of the guest list that day. The kasbah’s name is Kasbah Azalay. It is built in the desert, the reason why I booked it in the first place. We wouldn’t have time for a Saharan bivouac; a luxury tent didn’t seem like a smart option since we only had a night to spend in the Sahara; a regular tent was too rock and roll for us as well so booking a hotel where we can see what we came in Merzouga for seemed like the best option. Kasbah Azalay was indeed a great find. I’m not sure how to get here through public transportation, but Google Maps will inevitably bring you here if you’re driving a car. There are no concrete roads around this part anymore, but one won’t need a 4 x 4 to get to the hotel.

Kasbah Azalay has its own parking. The structure is quite lovely, especially the pool. Everywhere you look, you will see sand. The dunes can be seen from here. They seemed too near but we were told it will take at least forty-five minutes to get there via quad bike (100 euros or P5,000 for the tour). We had our tea with the wonderful Berber man on the rooftop, overlooking the desert.

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The rooms were huge and clean. The man helped us check in. We were booked in the rooms beside the pool. We were told that during the summer the heat can be unforgiving, ergo, the pool. We headed straight out to take photos and relax in the living area. It was spacious. Wi-fi was good here, unlike in the rooms. There was a fireplace. Elton and I requested for a pot of tea, which was immediately served. Tea is always free in Morocco. Tea is always good in Morocco. I read an article about tea making and it said that it requires a few techniques. I guess it’s true `cause I can never make tea as good as theirs but one has to wonder why since it’s basically just boiled leaves. Moroccans are tea masters.

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The kasbah is a bit far from stores or restaurants but it wasn’t a problem. They serve good Moroccan dinner. Most importantly, they serve rice! They have set menus that are quite simple but filling and tasty. We had saffron rice (khobz for Elton) and beef in tomato sauce topped with eggs. For dessert, fresh apples, bananas, and oranges with cinnamon.

With stomachs almost bursting, it was time to rest. We didn’t even talk much. I got ready for bed and as soon as Elton’s back hit the sheets, he was out. So was I. I woke up early the following day to see the famous Saharan sunrise. It was beautiful. Camels were everywhere. Everything was copper, as oppose to gray before nightfall.

I woke Elton up and we had breakfast before checking out. We were halfway our trip. It was going to be a seven-hour journey to Fes. I was looking forward to it, having greatly enjoyed being on the road.

As always, Morocco did not disappoint. We passed by Efroud, Errachidia, Azrou, and many other towns. This was where it got real for me. SNOW!!! SKIING!!! OMG!!! It was such a wonderful first time for me to see people skiing by the road. Elton commented, that part of Morocco was very “European.” The houses were. There were places where people camped by bonfires. It was quite fascinating for me to see.

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We reached Fes around seven in the evening. We followed Google Maps but couldn’t find our hotel so we called them up and were told that they will send someone over to pick us up. I was getting nervous. If I booked a hotel like the one I booked in Marrakesh, I was afraid it will flip Elton’s bitch switch. In my head, I was weighing the options if the hotel turned out horrible—where shall I book? What will I tell Elton? Should I raise my eyebrows at him before he spoke to force him to keep his thoughts deep, deep inside? I looked at him. He was silent, tired, stomach still upset, while we’re waiting inside the car.

After a few minutes, a nice-looking young man arrived, showing his ID. He was from Dar Mansoura. He took us to the parking area, which was outside the Blue Gate (Bab Bou Jeloud). Parking was easy and cost 20 dirhams/night. Not bad.

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The hotel was located inside the medina, near the Blue Gate—basically one of the entry points to the medina. We passed by a couple of restaurants and stores—leather shops, meat shops, sweets and pastry shops, you name it. The hotel was located not too deep in the medina. It was beautifuland oddly quiet.

Elton seemed pleased. It was not too far from the parking area, and the receptionist was helpful and friendly. Mint tea was served. There were only five or six rooms in this place, all big. After checking in, we headed out to have dinner. We saw a restaurant that offers 50 dirhams (5 euros or P250) for a kebab meal. As we were eating, the waiter said he will give it to us for only 35 dirhams, and asked for us to be kind enough to leave him a handsome tip. We did. Later, we found out that food is not spared from haggling. Of course, I tried my best and got those 60-dirham plates for 25 dirhams `cause haggling is one art my mother taught me well. Elton accuses me of being cheap, I just roll my eyes and try not to remind him that he needed my haggling expertise a few times in Morocco. Again, never be too ashamed to say the price you want to pay. Less than 50% of the total price is ideal.

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Kebab plate, can go as low as 25 dirhams. So haggle, haggle, haggle

We headed back to the hotel and freshened up. Tired as I was, I wanted to have a little chat with Elton about our itinerary for the next day but as soon as I closed my eyes I fell fast asleep. The next morning, I knew what Elton did as I was sleeping and I was right. He took a video of me snoring from exhaustion. Ah, I shall get my revenge!

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