Fes (or Fez) is, without a doubt, the city with the richest history in Morocco. Along with Damascus, Baghdad, Cordoba and Istanbul, it was one of the main cities of the Arab-Muslim civilization.
The traces of this rich past are still present: a preserved and authentic medina, many religious monuments, a city still deeply rooted in tradition… Many buildings in the medina of Fes testify to the past greatness of the city.
The smells, the chaos, the confusion, the colors envelop the tourists during the visit of the city. Fes has numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites, ancient palaces and ancient traditions that make the visit very suggestive, among the sounds of the call to prayer of the hundreds of mosques.
What to see in Fes
The medina of Fez is the old city, in Arabic, this part of the city is called Fes el Bali. UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Medina of Fez has remained almost intact since its inception at the end of the eighth century. The historic heart of the city is the medina, which collects the main historic buildings.
There are hammams, bread ovens, numerous artisans, many mosques, religious schools (madrasas), caravanserai (foundouk in Arabic) or mausoleums (zaouia). The visit of the medina is carried out exclusively on foot. The medina of Fez is the largest urban and pedestrian area in the world.
The medina of Fes is surrounded by a 15 km long wall. Enter from the top of the market, from what is famously known as Bab Boujaloud thanks to the huge and beautiful door to the historic center. All the streets have names, but they are not used, so it is not recommended to enter the streets without a guide.
Medersa Bou Inania
One of the most famous madrasas in Morocco which after 10 years of renovations is now able to be visited by all and allows you to admire the fine arts and traditional designs so famous of the Moorish style.
Al- Qarawiyyin Mosque and University
Located in the captivating labyrinth of the medina, the Al-Qarawiyyin Mosque and University sits at the bottom of the steep hill that starts from Bab Boujaloud. For over 1200 years, Al-Qarawiyyin has been a spiritual and educational center of the Muslim world and was one of the most distinguished universities of the medieval period.
Today it functions as a mosque, a spectacular piece of architecture, the view of which can be admired by non-Muslims from the surrounding restaurants, and by Muslims from the inside.
Its library, restored in recent years, houses a collection of 4.000 rare books and ancient Arabic manuscripts written by famous scholars of the region. UNESCO defined it as the oldest university in the world, so definitely worth a visit.
It is recommended to go with a registered guide rather than random passersby, but it is certainly worth a visit. Fes is famous for its clothing and textiles and the tannery is a demonstration of where it all comes from.
With a strong smell and intriguing colorful views, the tannery tells the story of creating everything from bags to clothes, and even bags. Next, you will no doubt be shown a variety of products created by this tannery and its wonderful resources.
Mellah (Jewish quarter)
Another place famous for its shops, as well as its history is the Jewish quarter of Fes. With a different style of architecture than the old medina, the Mellah is a great sign of the once vibrant history of Judaism in the city.
House of the gold market and some of the best antique furniture shops, the Jewish quarter is hidden near the gates of the Royal Palace. A fantastic place to find the strange, unusual and often very old treasures, the Mellah is a great alternative to the old shops in the medina.
Shopping aside, this part of the city is also home to one beautiful synagogue with a collection of objects depicting Moroccan Jewish life, as well as a Jewish cemetery.
It's the largest mountain overlooking Fes. Take a daring little hike up the mountain to admire the true reach and beauty of the city. Fes is a huge city, but its size cannot be appreciated from the inside. Only from the top of Mount Zalagh can one truly see how big this historic city is.
The Jnan Sbil gardens and the Batha museum
These two fantastic spots are located ten minutes walk from each other and are a recommended combination.
Il Museo Dar Batha it's a nice Andalusian style riad built in the late 19th century by Sultan Moulay Hassan I. It was previously used for visiting royalty in Fes, while nowadays it is a museum of impressive artifacts, from clothing to pottery. It is very easy to reach and excellent for learning a little about the history of the city.
A few steps from the museum, i giardini Jnan Sbil they are a nice place to relax: a serene lake and orange, lemon and pomegranate trees adorn this oasis of peace in the heart of a big city. They were once used as imperial gardens and opened to the public in the 20th century.
The surroundings of Fes: Meknes and Volubilis
La city of Meknes, located about 60 km from Fez, can be reached by train in half an hour. You can visit its medina, which is very quiet compared to that of Fes. but very charming. You can go up to the roof of the madrasa and enjoy a magnificent view over the city.
La el Hedim square is the entrance to the medina. Bab Mansour it is the largest gate in the city. Don't miss the mausoleo di Moulay Ismaïl, which, unlike the mausoleums in Fes, is also open to non-Muslim travelers.
Finally, Volubilis it is a unique site in Morocco which is worth a visit. Volubilis is a quite vast and very interesting Roman archaeological site with superb surrounding landscapes.