Fes, Morocco

Fes and el Bali gate, Morocco

Fes (also known as Fez) seen from the El Bali castle viewpoint.

Visiting Fes

Fes is the oldest imperial city in Morocco with the world’s oldest university (Qarawiyyin University), largest medina (old quarter) and souk (market), magnificent old walls and gates, and all this practically unchanged since medieval times. The old city is called the medina and you have to get lost in this maze of tiny streets to really feel the Fez reality.

Get Lost

Actually you don’t need to get lost in the city as it has a system of marked routes throughout. e. g. the green route leads you to Andalusian palaces and gardens, the orange to walls and fortifications. We’re told there’s also a star mark system guiding between main sights in the medina but we never saw them.
If you find yourself lost in the maze of the medina, you can find your way out by heading downhill which will eventually lead to the Place R’cif, a bus and taxi point where you can find transport back to your accommodation or elsewhwere.
If desperate hire a boy for almost nothing as a guide back to your hotel or sight. The medina has been designated a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Things to do in Fes

Fes, Bab Boujeloud, the Blue Gate, Morocco

Bab Boujeloud, the Blue Gate.

• Traditionally an exploration of the medina should start at the Bab Boujlloud Gate and include a visit to one of the famously elaborate, carved and mosaic medersas (religious schools) such as 14thC Bou Inania.

• Sights that are no entry to non-muslims but offer spectacular exterior décor are the Moulay Idriss II shrine , the tomb of Fez’s founder, the Qaraouyine library-mosque and the al-Tijani mosque.

• The tranquil Merenid Tombs adjacent to the Merenid Hotel, give panoramic views over Fez. Alternatively head up into the hills around Fez where there are two accessible forts and terrific views.

Quartier des Tanneurs

Fez leather vats, Morocco

Another big Fes attraction is leather production in Quartier des Tanneurs, starting with interesting but odourous vats. . .

The old town tanneries still use medieval leather-making techniques. Visit early though as once the sun hits the tannery the smell can become overpowering. It’s probably best to hire a young guide for a pittance as the tannery workers are not very welcoming to stangers snapping them!
The tanners’ quarter is found beside the Andalusian quarter and near the ancient Dar Batha Palace museum that displays and explains the arts and traditions of Fès along with concerts during the Festival of World Sacred Music every June.

Fes Guides

If you want a guide then it’s advisable to arrange one through your hotel or the Fés tourist office (best value) before going into the medina. This is more expensive initially but will guarantee you full and credible information on this fascinating city and will definitely save you time and money as well. Regular street guides are only superficially informed and extract most of their revenue from shopkeeper commissions, thus making your shopping more expensive.

Fes Shopping

Fez colourful shoe shop, Morocco

. . . . shoes, mad shoes. Shoes for now or made to order within a day or two.

Fes lighting shop, Morocco

Shopping for exotica in the labyrinthine souk is another big Fes attraction, but beware navigation. Either hire a guide or enjoy being lost.

An elaborately decorated mosque embedded in Fez’ souk.

Fes, hooded man in beautiful mosque, Morocco