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Morocco art & culture tours with Plan-It Fez: Drum-making workshop in the Medina! Palais Faraj hotel.

fashion blogger morocco door

Those majestic doors can be found nowhere else… We made it to Morocco!

I have to admit: I felt a bit of trepidation before arriving in Fez. I’d heard quite a few stories from travelers who felt uncomfortable in the markets, especially if they were women traveling solo.

It turned out that my experience was the exact opposite. I felt relaxed walking through the souks: nobody bothered my filmmakers and me, or called out comments harsher than “Nice hair!”

I now realize how lucky we were to have Plan-It Fez Tours with us. Thanks to our Arabic-speaking guide, we were able to meet artisans and discover the rich culture of the medina — without ever feeling lost, or at the mercy of touts.

fez morocco archway door

In this photo diary, I’ll expand more on what we did and saw in the Fes medina. And I’ll take you inside Palais Faraj, the most palatial hotel in the city.

old medina rooftops view

This view of the Old City gives you a sense of what it’s like to be in this labyrinthine market: it’s an Aladdin or 1001 Nights fantasy come to life.

Fez (or Fes) was the medieval capital of Morocco, and feels preserved in time. Spice markets, twisting narrow alleys surrounded by high walls, hidden prayer halls, and ornamental doorways add to the mysterious atmosphere.

fez medina blue gate, Bab Boujloud

It’s easy to get lost in the sprawling pathways, so use the Blue Gate (Bab Boujloud) as a landmark. The blue color on one side symbolizes Fez, and the green represents Islam. This area is surrounded by street food stalls and restaurants.

moroccan carpets, market vendors

From the Blue Gate, you can explore the many winding side streets — and maybe take a magic carpet for a ride. 

street art morocco, murals

Let’s go back to the safety question for a moment. I’ve spoken to travellers who had unpleasant experiences in Morocco: scammers would aggressively approach them, try to lead them to dead ends, and even yell or spit at them. My friends Cohica Travel wrote about the difficulties they encountered on their trip (which took place one month after ours).

fez fruit sellers, morocco

I was surprised to hear this, since we felt entirely at ease in Fez’s medina. We were able to browse shops at leisure, and not a single tout came up to us or pressured us into following him.

(If someone comes up to you and offers something, or wants to take you somewhere, just say no immediately and be firm.)

fez headscarves, scarves

Upon reflection, I realize what a difference it made to travel with Plan-It Fez ToursThe business is run by two women, and they specialize in private, custom trips that immerse you into Moroccan food, art and culture. 

Since we had our local guide with us, we never drifted into sketchy areas and the “unsavory characters” left us alone.

old city walls morocco fes

Plan-It Fez took away the stress of watching our backs at all times, meaning we could relax and learn about the rich heritage of the Medina. Their tours are customized for every client, so we got to explore at our own pace, and focus on the topics that interested us the most.

Having a driver and car also meant we didn’t need to worry about Moroccan public transportation, which travelers can find challenging (I’ve heard unpleasant tales of bus and train rides).

long black goth dress, egyptian eye

A note on dress code: Morocco is a Muslim country, and the local women generally wear headscarves and cover their arms and legs. Out of respect, I’d suggest wearing something that at least covers your limbs (I brought a light scarf for my shoulders). At the same time, don’t stress too much about wardrobe, since tourists in revealing outfits are a common sight here.

The weather is almost alway hot, so I recommend wearing a long maxi dress made of lightweight cotton fabric. My outfit is from Pretty Attitude, who also sent me the pentagram swimsuit that I wore in Iceland’s Blue Lagoon!

● Shop my favorite”Rock the Casbah” dresses below:

 

fez ceramics, painted bowls

Some people assume that a tour takes away from a local experience. That’s not at all the case, with Plan-It Fez. Through their private workshops, we got to meet Moroccan artists, bakers, beauty experts and more — and communicate with them, through our bilingual guide.

plan it fez tours, guides

If we had explored the Medina on our own, we would have never wandered into this workshop — let alone sit down, speak to the artisans, and join in their work!

fez drum making painting workshop

Our guide took us to try a unique activity: a drum-making workshop. We learned how to make traditional Moroccan drums from start to finish, beginning with painting the ceramic jugs in the Berber style…

morocco tannery, animal hides

… then scraping the hides and adding the leather “skin” on top, which is bound in place with needle and thread.

guided cultural tours morocco

Filmmaker Melissa and I are not the most “handy” people when it comes to tasks like these…. We had a lot of laughs while we attempted to paint the drum! 

fez medina tour guide

What an incredible feeling, to be crafting a musical instrument in the traditional method, right in this UNESCO heritage site.

painting art vases, morocco market

We learned how to draw blue decorative lines around the jar, using a manual pottery wheel and brush. 

plan it fez morocco tour group

Then, I used a brush to draw X shapes, circles, and other Berber designs. Don’t laugh! It’s harder than it looks to create an even thickness.

(My gold temporary tattoo is from Tattoo You. More designs found below, including a pack of 15 tattoos.)

moroccan children

A child peeked around the corner and watched me work. (Photos by Borderless Media.)

fez medina apartments

I looked up, and saw more children waving at me. They live in apartments that overlook the Medina.

moroccan blue white painted ceramics

My drum is a little shaky, but finished! Our guide suggested that we paint half of it in the traditional way, and half in our own style — so I added a certain Scottish Fold cat.

fez camel hide drum

Filmmaker Melissa completed the other drum, and the two were bound together with camel skin and leather ties. You also have the option of putting goat or fish skin over the drum, which creates different sounds. And of course, you get to take the instrument home with you.

morocco guitars, string instruments

We ended this happy day by playing drums with the musicians. One of them was a percussion marvel — we’ll soon release a video that shows off his skills!

So happy that we were able to experience music and life in the Medina, thanks to our guides Plan-It Fez. I now realize how easy they made it for us to meet artisans and explore the marketplace.

Palais Faraj, Fez 5 star hotel

Time to take a break from the hot weather, and relax back at our glorious Palais Faraj hotel.

I adore Moroccan art and architecture, and staying here felt like being in an enchanted Arabian palace. The front entrance alone is a work of art, with royal horseshoe arches and thousands of colored tiles. 

lavender ombre hair, light purple haircolor

My Egyptian eye and pyramid dress, from Pretty Attitude Clothing, adds to the magic and mystery.

You can shop for more spooky long dresses by clicking below:

luxury fez hotel, palais faraj suites

Palais Faraj is designed by Jean-Baptiste Barian, a famous architect and interior designer known for his Andalusian Arabic style.

moroccan henna on hands

The orange henna on my hands matches the giant double doors. I got henna for the first time in a beauty workshop organized by Plan-It Fez (I’ll show you the entire process, in an upcoming story).

palais faraj suite bedroom, interior

Every room at Palais Faraj is decadent, but nothing beats the Suite Royale, where the Rockefellers stayed. High ceilings, stucco lace, heavy drapes, and even a private terrace that overlooks the Medina.

zellige, moroccan tile pattern floor

The floors and walls are brilliant examples of Moroccan zellige, or terra cotta tiles that are painstakingly set in plaster to form mosaic patterns. 

top morocco luxury hotels

Everything in the hotel reflects the culture and history of Fez. At the same time, the amenities are ultra-modern and WiFi is free.

L'Amandier Palais Faraj, Fes restaurant

Every evening, we looked forward to dinner at L’Amandier Restaurant. As the sun set over the hilltops, we watched the old city light up while we dined on Fassi cuisine (the local flavors of Fez).

moroccan salads, appetizer

My new favorite appetizer: Moroccan salads. The waiter brought out this rainbow spread of vegetarian dishes, including eggplant and carrots in the highest quality honey. We loved this assortment so much that we immediately ordered it the next day.

L’Amandier is one of the top-rated restaurants in the city, and for good reason. The menu included Moroccan favorites such as couscous, tagines and pigeon pastillas, paired with local wines. Even if you aren’t staying at the hotel, it’s well worth coming here for dinner with a view.

landscape, old medina fes

Palais Faraj treated us to traditional massages and hammans (a steam and scrub, similar to a Turkish bath), which left me smiling.

fez rooftop bar, panorama view

One of my favorite moments: reflecting on life’s possibilities while relaxing at the Sky Bar. There are no words to describe drinking a cocktail made from fresh peaches, while taking in this 360 view of old Fez, and listening to Berber music… Perhaps the St Augustine quote puts it best. “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”

ancient moroccan market, architecture

Thank you to Palais Faraj Hotel and Plan-It Fez tours for opening up a new chapter in our lives!

fes morocco plates, artwork

Have you been to Morocco, or heard stories from travellers? How did your experiences compare with ours? 

goth fall fashion collage moodboard

PS: I couldn’t resist letting you know about Shopbop’s crazy annual sale. From now to Friday, you get 25% off everything with the code INTHEFAM25! Mosey over to Shopbop’s site to start shopping.

I picked out some of my favorite Gothic fall fashion for you. I’m all about dark lace dresses for holiday parties, and chunky black shoes.  Remember, it’s all on sale!

1) Off the shoulder lace dress with scalloped edges
2) Cameo Gothic dress with embroidered lace and transparent panels
3) For Love and Lemons dress with zig zag mesh panel
4) Rock star buckle boots
5) Black buckle creeper shoes

SHARE & COMMENT

45 Comments

  1. Posted October 11, 2015 at 3:15 am | Permalink

    Morocco is my dream place to be…..

    • Posted October 12, 2015 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

      It was a dream come true.

  2. Posted October 11, 2015 at 3:16 am | Permalink

    Eeeeeeeee
    I <3 <3 your dress.

    • Posted October 12, 2015 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

      By Pretty Attitude, love em

  3. Posted October 11, 2015 at 3:16 am | Permalink

    nice pictures

  4. Posted October 11, 2015 at 3:17 am | Permalink

    j’aime beaucoup maroc.
    cece

    • Posted October 12, 2015 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

      merci et moi aussi!

  5. Posted October 11, 2015 at 3:36 am | Permalink

    These pictures are breath taking.
    Arabian Nights.
    xx

  6. Posted October 11, 2015 at 4:01 am | Permalink

    Our great appreciation for the review about your stay experience on your blog

  7. Posted October 11, 2015 at 4:02 am | Permalink

    this combo is magical <3 love the bright purple hair! you are so pretty

    • Posted October 12, 2015 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

      I will keep it lavender!

  8. Posted October 11, 2015 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    check out tangier while u r there . it’s the best

    • Posted October 12, 2015 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

      We drove through it! Old city looked great. Surprising to see all the nightclubs in the new part.

  9. Posted October 11, 2015 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    o totally loved Morocco myself! I can’t wait to go back soon

    • Posted October 12, 2015 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

      I would go back any time.

  10. Posted October 11, 2015 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    cuteness ^_^

  11. Posted October 11, 2015 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    pretty doors
    awesome combo

  12. Posted October 12, 2015 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    thanks for chatting to us about your blog, travels and future goals

  13. Posted October 12, 2015 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    love that!

  14. Posted October 12, 2015 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    Best country I visit.

    XO

    • Posted October 12, 2015 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

      I loved Morocco, it’s one of my favorites too.

  15. Posted October 12, 2015 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    Stunning photos and dress is just perfect on you!

  16. Posted October 12, 2015 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    Lovely x

  17. Posted October 13, 2015 at 4:50 am | Permalink

    You’re such an all-around inspiring person! heart emoticon

  18. Posted October 13, 2015 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    I look at photos of Morocco and dream to travel. I will save up for it.

  19. Posted October 13, 2015 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    Dreaming of those Shopbop dresses now!!!!

  20. Posted October 14, 2015 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    Plan it fez looks perfect for me when I go to fez next summer.

    • Posted October 19, 2015 at 4:10 am | Permalink

      I highly recommend them!

  21. Posted October 15, 2015 at 3:39 am | Permalink

    Great pictures

  22. Posted October 15, 2015 at 3:39 am | Permalink

    I was just there! sorry i missed you

  23. Posted October 15, 2015 at 4:04 am | Permalink

    Amazing, amazing, I love everything!

    • Posted October 19, 2015 at 4:10 am | Permalink

      One of our best trips yet!

  24. Posted October 15, 2015 at 4:12 am | Permalink

    Yes!

  25. Posted October 15, 2015 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    This place is amazing!

  26. Posted October 15, 2015 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    TOO GOOD

  27. Posted October 20, 2015 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    beautiful :3 :)

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