If you’re visiting Morocco, the wonders of the city of Fès should not be missed.
Fès (or Fez), the third largest city in Morocco, holds a special place in my heart. It’s the city where my parents grew up, my grandparents still reside, and the backdrop for countless childhood memories. I remember visiting my relatives every fortnight and enjoying long walks in the fascinating labyrinth that is the city’s famous old medina.
As Morocco’s cultural capital and handicraft center, Fès is one of the country’s most special and beautiful cities. The hidden and obvious treasures of this UNESCO World Heritage site will take your breath away.
As someone who deeply admires and appreciates Fès, I would undoubtedly recommend doing the following when you’re in town.
1. Discover the old medina
When in Fès, exploring the old town is a must. Entering the medina feels like stepping into a time capsule. Stroll the narrow serpentine alleys and enjoy the colorful displays of traditional Moroccan shoes called “Belgha”, leather clothing and pottery. It feels like a live museum, with artisans handcrafting bronze plates, and sculpting zellig tile. Generally, we refer to the medina as “Fes el bali”.
Belgha for sale in the medina in Fès
2. Have a mint bouquet on hand while visiting the Chouara tannery
The Chouara tanneries in the heart of Fès’ medina are among the world’s oldest. Don’t let the odor keep you from enjoying your access to the traditional practice for dying animal skin. A piece of advice: The smells grow increasingly more pungent, and you will need to cover your nose or sniff a mint bouquet, which you can buy for a few dirhams at the entrance.
A tannery in Fès
3. Try to visit the Bou Jeloud Gardens (Jardin Jnane Sbil)
These century-old imperial gardens offer a breath of fresh air away from crowds of the medina. Extensive renovations have resuscitated the beauty of this beautiful respite; locals generally come to enjoy leisurely promenades around the central fountains and fruit trees. Entry to this peaceful oasis filled with beautiful plants is free.
4. Watch the sunset from the Merinid tombs
These fourteenth-century ruins of monumental marble tombs are situated north of the Medina, the perfect backdrop for a panoramic view of the ancient medina, letting you truly appreciate Fès’ size and beauty. You can take a taxi from the city to the tombs for few dirhams, but don’t linger after sunset.
The Marinid Tombs are the perfect place to catch the sunset
5. Sample some good eats at the R’Cif Market
Food lovers won’t want to miss the R’Cif market in the medina, where you’ll always find the freshest fruit, vegetables, meat and more.
Dried fruit at the market in Fès
6. See the oldest university on earth: University of Al Quaraouiyine
The University of Al Quaraouiyine is located inside the old medina of Fès. The Guinness Book World Records and UNESCO consider Al Quaraouiyine to be the world’s oldest, continually operating university. Founded in 859 A.D. by a woman, the university library houses a collection of 4,000 rare books and ancient Arabic manuscripts. Admire the university’s simple yet beautiful design, decorated with Andalusian art and colorful zellij.
University of Al Quaraouiyine
7. Stand in front of the royal palace
Although the palace itself is closed to the public, you can still snap some amazing photos of this iconic structure from the behind the imposing yet beautiful gates that stand guard. Fine zellij and carved cedar wood surround the towering bronze doors. At night, the walls are alight with a golden glow and appear magical.
The Royal Palace of Fès
Whether you are an art lover or just an all-around travel enthusiast, you will enjoy the city’s charming atmosphere by discovering the alleys of the medina, getting lost in the souks, admiring the small details of the mosques and walking along the city’s fortifications. Discovery after discovery will enchant you, and you’ll enjoy the charm and beauty of Fès so much that you will return for a second visit.