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Fez — The Dos and Don’ts

Join Ellie Gehlert as she guides you through Morocco’s mint tea maze

DO prepare to experience an entirely different culture. While the differences between Ireland and, say, continental Europe may seem large, this is much larger. Although rather liberal, Morocco is a Muslim country, so read up on customs, habits and manners so you can immerse yourself completely and get to know the place.

DON’T wear anything that doesn’t cover your knees, shoulders or cleavage, ladies. Fez gets very warm, but a light scarf over your tank top and those super hip harem pants you get at every corner make for a lofty and appropriate outfit, while showing respect for your host country’s culture at the same time.

DO be adventurous and get lost in the vibrant Medina, the fairytale old part of the city. It is said to be both the best preserved Medina and also the biggest urban car-free zone in the world. It is a mysterious maze of tiny alleys and pathways full of the tempting smells and colours of spices, clothing, food, carpets, beautiful leather accessories and traditional earthenware being sold. Orientation is near impossible, but you will end up at one of the main gates and find your way out, promise.

DON’T pay the price merchants initially tell you. Haggling over the prices like there’s no tomorrow is an essential part of the shopping culture in al-Medina Souq. You will invariably count every last dirham anyway given all the fascinating items to be brought home as a gift or souvenir.

DO buy your lunch at the Medina food market to experience the true taste of Morocco, instead of going to a restaurant. It offers a vast variety of local foods like spicy grilled kebab style meat sticks, freshly baked breads, about 3.4 zillion different kinds of olives, unbelievably pink and sweet candy and everything else you always wanted to try but never dared. And the amazing mint tea. Drink it. Always.

DON’T eat dairy products if you haven’t bought them in a proper supermarket with a proper refrigerator. European stomachs are different, and Morocco is a hot country with occasionally inconsistent cold chains. While meat usually is fresh, having probably been alive just about 30 minutes before its rendezvous with the grill, the same is not true for dairy products. Your safest bet is to triple-wash fresh fruit or eat peel-able vitamin sources, such as bananas and melons.

DO watch the bustling Medina leather tanneries from one of the public roof terraces; you’ll eventually stumble across one or smell them first. The craftsmanship is impressive and incredibly tough work and the products are of high quality and affordable prices.

DON’T look lost as this inevitably attracts fake tourist guides who then firmly insist on showing you around, it’s both illegal and expensive. Firmly refuse and book a tour at your accommodation or the tourist office instead.

DO pay close attention to the word balak. It is used to warn people of donkeys, which serve as the main means of transport in the narrow pathways of the Medina and can inadvertently break a toe or two.

DON’T miss out on visiting a Hamam, a traditional oriental bath house to escape from the Medina’s exhausting olfactory, acoustic and visual overflow. Relax and wash away the traveling grime in the gorgeously decorated and intricately mosaic tiled steam rooms. A truly refreshing experience.