Morocco: Things to see and do in the old medina of Fez
The royal city of Fez is found north of the Atlas and quickly became one amongst the foremost popular destinations in Morocco. Not entirely undeservedly so, because Fez features a beautiful old city stuffed with surprises. The ocher medina may be a labyrinth of streets where time seems to own stood still. Streets are just wide enough for a donkey with a cart and around every corner, a brand new surprise awaits within the style of a mosque, market, or museum. Getting lost here is inevitable, but it seems to be the most effective thanks to getting to grasp this special place and its lovely inhabitants. Wondering what to try to do in Fez? during this blog, I share my tips and suggestions for the most effective things to try and do within the heart of this Moroccan City of Kings.
TIPS FOR FEZ
1. GET LOST IN THE MEDINA FEZ
The medina of Fez (called Fès el-Bali) is the largest in all of Morocco and encompasses 1200 years of history. It is the largest car-free center in the world and consists of an intricate network of narrow alleys. Here the tapping of donkey hooves echoes in the streets and getting lost is the order of the day. The medina consists of two main streets, Talaa Kebira and Talaa Seghira, but as soon as you turn into a side street you are guaranteed to get lost. Take plenty of time to get to know the ingenious street pattern, on your own or accompanied by a guide. In most riads and hotels you can book a tour, but if you just ask directions on the street you will eventually get there too.
2. VISITING THE KORAN SCHOOLS FEZ
The Koranic schools of Fez are among the most photographed spots in the city. Medersa Bou Inania is very similar in architectural style and details to the famous Koranic school in Marrakech but is a lot smaller and generally quieter as well. Here you can admire the beautiful carvings and detailed mosaics at your leisure. Theological education used to be taught here and this medersa was one of the best schools in the city. A little further on you will also find Fez’s second Koranic school: Medersa el-Attarine. This Koranic school belongs to the nearby Kairaouine Mosque and has been in existence since the year 1325.
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3. PEEK INSIDE THE KAIRAOUINE MOSQUE
The Kairaouine Mosque is among the largest mosques in all of Africa. The house of worship stands in the middle of the Medina and was built in 859. For centuries, the mosque has been considered one of the most important spiritual and intellectual centers of the Arab world, accommodating about 20,000 worshippers. The inside is said to be incredibly beautiful, with beautiful fountains, marble colonnades, and unique details. As a non-Muslim, you are not allowed inside, but in front of the large gate, you can peek inside.
4. BAB BOU JELOUD FEZ
In the west of the medina is Bab Bou Jeloud, the main gateway to the medina of Fez. Bab Bou Jeloud is a beautiful gateway with blue-purple tiles and gives a nice view through to the richly decorated minaret of the Medersa Bou Inania. If you enter the medina through this gate, you find yourself directly on a square full of restaurants. Here you can eat excellent Moroccan food for a small price. A large bowl of couscous with vegetables or tagine usually costs no more than 40 dirhams. A good place to eat cheaply. Choose a table on the street side to witness the hustle and bustle of the streets.
5. NEJJARINE MUSEUM OF WOODEN ARTS AND CRAFTS
The Nejjarine Museum of Wooden Arts and Crafts is housed in a beautifully restored fundus, a place where itinerant nomads traditionally could sell their wares. A beautiful building with interesting exhibits on Moroccan arts and crafts.
6. VISIT THE TANNERIES OF FEZ
Walking through the streets of Fez you will constantly be approached by men who want to take you to the tanneries. The tanneries of Fez are world-famous and must be seen during your visit to the city. Ignore all the people who want to take you there, because it will cost you money. It is better to follow the signs and go by the smell. The leather district consists of leather stores with terraces from where you have a good view of the work below you. In general, you can take a look for free and salesmen are happy to tell you more about the production process for a small tip. In Fez, you will find leather of excellent quality, but do not feel obliged to buy anything in the stores.
7. BATHA MUSEUM
Very few people visit the Batha Museum, and that’s quite a pity. The museum’s collection consists of traditional Moroccan handicrafts and you can admire antique ceramics, wood carvings, and textiles, among other things. I myself was particularly impressed by the building itself. The museum is located in a 19th-century palace with a beautiful Andalusian-style garden. A good place to take a break.
8. EATING AT CAFE CLOCK
My favorite spot in all of Fez is the rooftop terrace of Café Clock. It is a rather western café with an original menu and fun activities on the program. For example, there are sports broadcasts, concerts and you can take cooking classes. It is a very nice place to escape the hustle and bustle of the streets and the roof terrace is a great place to sit. I often went here at the end of the day to have a drink, eat and read. The menu includes sandwiches and dishes with falafel, but also a camel burger. A nice change from all the tagines and couscous.
9. THE CAMEL BUTCHER
Camel meat, that is. The market at the beginning of the medina is bustling with people and animals. Here you can buy fruits, vegetables, spices, and meat, and the most infamous seller is the camel butcher. You will recognize his stall by the giant camel’s head hanging from a hook in front of the counter here.