Monday, June 18, 2018

Fez Tourism Numbers Continue to Grow

A total of 386,453 overnight stays were recorded at the end of April 2018, compared to 309,166 during the same period of the previous year, according to data from the Observatoire du tourisme. The occupancy rate was 41%, compared to 35% in January-April 2017

In April alone, 126,290 overnight stays were recorded, compared to 113,212 in April 2017, an increase of 12%. The occupancy rate was 54%, against 50% in the same month of 2017. The average length of stay during this period, it was 1.8 days, a rate identical to that achieved during the same period of the year 2017.

At the national level, the total nights spent in tourist accommodation establishments classified, at the end of April 2018, an increase of + 10% compared to the same period of 2017 (+ 13% for non-resident tourists and + 4% for residents).

The two tourist attractions Marrakech and Agadir alone generated 61% of total overnight stays at the end of April 2018. These two cities recorded an increase of + 12% and + 8% respectively.

Other destinations also performed well with Tangier and Rabat showing a double-digit increases of + 12% and + 13% respectively.


Changes to Expat Visas In Morocco

It appears that the days of doing a "visa run" every three months in order to remain in Morocco may well be over. The regulations now state, quite clearly, that in any twelve month period a visa is only good for a total of six months 

Foreigner visiting Morocco means persons of foreign nationality having their habitual residence abroad and whose length of stay in Morocco does not exceed six (06) months in a period of twelve (12) years. ) months. Moroccan Government website

In the past it was possible to exit Morocco at the end of a three month visa and then return to Morocco and receive a new three month visa. The most popular "visa run" destinations were Spain or the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.

Recently stories have circulated on social media of expats making a visa run and being refused entry back into the country as they have spent more than six months in Morocco.

Arriving in Morocco
Upon arrival at the airport you should receive a stamp in your passport. Make sure that you acquire this stamp as there have been reported situations where a stamp was not placed on a traveler’s passport and consequently, it made it difficult to leave Morocco without proof of entry.
Extended Stay or Permanent Relocation to Morocco
If you are already in Morocco and want to permanently relocate, or you are an exchange student, you must go to the local Moroccan police station in the district you reside. There you can contact the Bureau des Etrangers, an immigration authority, and apply for a residency permit. Applying for an extended visa can be a timely process so what some travellers do is take a trip outside of Morocco for one or two days before their three months are up. However, be aware that in a few cases people tried this and were denied re-entry until they contacted the nearest Moroccan embassy to re-apply.


Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Lone Woman Playing a Man’s Game

Brietta Hague reports on an ancient and little known Moroccan sport - Mata - and the lone woman who has chosen to compete

Photo credit: Angels Melange

A hundred horsemen are preparing for battle. Six tribes from Northern Morocco have gathered in the village of Zniyed for a game that dates back 800 years.

Mata is a display of manhood as much as it is a game. Tribesmen, riding bareback, fight for possession of a female idol, using force if they have to. In past years, some have even used knives.

Traditionally, the rider who crosses the finish line with the idol won the hand of the most beautiful woman in his tribe.

But today the men no longer take a woman as a prize, they compete against one - Zohra Sidki - the only woman to have taken the field for Mata.

Zohra Sidki

Before the race, riders head to pay their respects at the mountain-top tomb of Moulay Abdeslam, the saint who first started Mata.

The Sufi saint is said to have brought the game home from central Asia in the 13th century.

During his travels, he witnessed “buzkashi” — an Afghan sport still popular today where riders vie to put a goat or calf corpse into a goal.

Buzkashi itself was brought across the central steppe to Persia by Mongol hordes.

The sport took hold in north Africa and mixed with local beliefs, becoming something uniquely Moroccan.

When the saint’s direct descendants, the Baraka family, revived the game, they faced a common cultural conundrum: how to honour a historic tradition steeped in patriarchal attitudes that many now find unacceptable.

See Brietta Hague's full report here: Mata Festival 


Friday, June 15, 2018

World Cup Heartbreak For Morocco

Cafe space throughout the Fez Medina was at a premium for the world cup clash between Morocco and Iran. Patrons spilled out onto the pavement where hastily rigged televisions provided less than perfect viewing conditions. 

For much of the match it seemed that Morocco's domination would result in a goal, or at least a draw.

Aziz Bouhaddouz scores own goal in stoppage time

However, two substitutes brought about Morocco's downfall. First came Sofyan Amrabat, who gave away a stupid free-kick in stoppage time. The kick led to Aziz Bouhaddouz heading the ball into his own goal.

There was silence in the cafes as the patrons got up and left. Heartbreak for Morocco. With games to come against Portugal and then Spain, it appears that Morocco's World Cup is already over.

Iran’s Mehdi Taremi reacts to Morocco's own goal


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Eid al Fitr and Daylight Saving

Morocco will celebrate the end of Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr on Friday, June 15. Daylight saving will return on Sunday

Eid al-Fitr 2018 in Morocco will begin in the evening of Thursday, June 14 and ends in the evening of Saturday, June 16.

Daylight saving time 2018 in Morocco returns at 2:00 AM on Sunday, 17 June 2018. At 02:00:00 clocks are turned forward 1 hour to Sunday, 17 June 03:00:00 local daylight time instead

The next major event will be Eid al-Adha on Wednesday, August 22.


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Fez - First impressions - Lauren Crabbe

Photo-journalist Lauren Crabbe is a guest of The View From Fez and recently went on her first tour around the Medina of Fez with one of the few female guides. Lauren reports back

I’ve been fascinated with the idea of travelling to Morocco for nearly two-thirds of my life. When I started seriously researching and planning my trip, one of the first concepts that caught my interest was that of djinns – spirits of Arabic lore that help or hinder daily life.

The word djinn can also translate as “hidden from sight”, a meaning I couldn’t help but correlate to my initial wanderings of the famous Fez Medina.

Djinns were present in every zigzagging alleyway, threading their way around the people. They’re the padlocks on doors, the coloured streets with no names I’ll probably never be able to find again, the furtive glances from beneath hijabs and rounded eyes of the children holding their mothers’ hands, full of question.

They’re the subtle cues embedded in ancient architecture, the tricks of the tradespeople performed behind closed curtains, the many intricacies one will miss if they make the mistake of not looking up.

There’s a lot I could presume about Fez…but sense there’s more truth in what goes unsaid. In the space around what’s right before my eyes. In secrets I haven’t yet earned the right to hear. The kind of place you visit time and time again, only to realise you know less about it than when you started.

But still; I’ve got to try. So I enlisted the service of Fatima Zahra Hanafi, one of Fez’s precious few female tour guides. It was inspiring to be shown around the Medina by a female guide who turned out to be anything but reserved. Disarmingly confident, she immediately quizzed about my preferences and primary interests regarding Fez, and I felt reassured this would not be a typical assembly line tour.

Lauren and Fatima Zahra

I should have expected no less for a city in which everything is handmade and meaningful. Nothing is superfluous. The cobalt shade adorning the zellij on the Blue Gate – signifying welcome. The protruding poles from the sides of minarets, which – to an outsider might represent shoddy construction – point in the direction of Mecca. The meandering lanes of shopfronts bursting with artisanal goods, an interactive exhibition of skill and legacy.

Many lanes house a particular trade with its own sensory hallmark. Fatima Zahra Hanafi steered me through them with casual dexterity and constant reminders to use my nose and ears. No sight, sound or scent went unappreciated. The musk of cedar from the woodworkers; the sour tang and brightly coloured puddles made by the dyers; the copper cacophony of metalworkers; the salty, pungent punch from the fishmongers. Filling in the gaps were crisscrossing tripwires of mint, leather, roasted nuts, caramelised sugar, and donkey droppings.

We wandered for hours, past herb carts and tottering horses and skittish cats and offerings of chewy nougat that wrapped around my molars. Fatima Zahra was rarely silent and always patient, encouraging my painstaking photography and pointing out fleeting details every few minutes that were invisible to my untrained eyes.

The travelling repairman with an iron in his hand. A low-set wooden barricade that begs passers-by to bow their heads in respect for Allah. Slots in the doors of mosques for inserting coins and asking God for forgiveness or good luck. An ancient clock in the side of a building, like a deconstructed sundial, that nobody knows how to read or how it once worked.

The famous water clock

These obscurities lend just a little clarity to Fez’s mystery, and are what Fatima Zahra seemed determined to highlight alongside established crowd pleasers like the tanneries and carpet shops.

One such obscurity I’d researched ahead of time, and a detour she was happy to incorporate, was a look inside one of Fez’s bakehouses: communal ovens where families take their trays of dough and have sent back to them as perfectly cooked bread and biscuits.

The bakers – similar to the dabbawallas of Mumbai – have a well-oiled system that remains enigmatic to outsiders. They can tell, just by looking at the dough, which family sent it, and have it delivered back to the family’s house when they’re done. Of course, this system can never be shared, as I learned when I had Fatima Zahra try and find out for me. It’s a secret, she explained.

The bakehouses embody what is simultaneously enchanting and intimidating about Fez. They’ll lure you close with trays of tantalising goods, carried by exquisitely clad women. They’ll exhale hot, toasty plumes into the streets that stop you in your tracks. They’ll sometimes let you taste or take a picture of the magic – sometimes not.

But they’ll never reveal their secret formula.

I’m impressed by Fez’s strong virtues of community and devotion. I’m captivated with its inexplicable retention of time, ever present in the souks and centuries-old sandstone. I’m charmed by the few jovial local interactions I’ve had, facilitated by Fatima Zahra Hanafi – perhaps with those who’ve sensed I’m not a threat (or are willing to put up with my appalling French and Darija). And I’m looking forward to more. With time.


Photo credit: Lauren Crabbe

Lauren is an Australian photo-journalist who is joining The View From Fez team to cover the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music

Fatima Zahra Hanafi is a registered tour guide. She can be contacted at