Fez, Maroc

The 8 essential things to do in Fez.

Last update : 26/05/2024 15:38

Fès, also spelled Fez, is a city located in northern inland Morocco. It is one of the country's oldest and most historic cities, known for its well-preserved medieval architecture and vibrant cultural heritage. Here are some key points about Fès:

  1. Historical Significance: Fès is renowned for its rich history and is considered one of Morocco's four imperial cities, along with Marrakech, Meknes, and Rabat. The city has been a center of political, cultural, and religious importance throughout its long history.

  2. Medina of Fès: The heart of Fès is the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Medina (old city), which is one of the world's largest car-free urban areas. The Medina of Fès is a labyrinth of narrow, winding streets, bustling markets, and historic buildings.

  3. Al-Qarawiyyin University: Founded in 859 AD, Al-Qarawiyyin University in Fès is considered the oldest continuously operating educational institution in the world according to the Guinness World Records. It has played a significant role in Islamic scholarship and knowledge.

  4. Historic Architecture: Fès is known for its well-preserved medieval architecture, including the Bou Inania Madrasa, the Al-Attarine Madrasa, and the tanneries where traditional leather goods are produced.

  5. Craftsmanship and Markets: The city is famous for its traditional craftsmanship, including the production of ceramics, leather goods, textiles, and metalwork. The markets, or souks, in Fès offer a wide variety of goods and are a vibrant hub of activity.

  6. Fès el-Bali and Fès el-Jdid: The old city is often divided into two main parts: Fès el-Bali (the old medina) and Fès el-Jdid (the new medina). Fès el-Bali is the historic core, while Fès el-Jdid was added in the 13th century.

  7. Cultural Festivals: Fès hosts various cultural festivals, including the Fès Festival of World Sacred Music, which attracts artists and performers from around the world. The festival promotes intercultural dialogue and understanding through music and arts.

Visiting Fès provides a unique opportunity to experience the rich cultural heritage of Morocco and explore the winding streets and historical sites that have been part of the city's story for centuries.

1 - Medina of Fez el-Bali

Medina of Fez el-Bali, Fez, Morocco

The Medina of Fès el-Bali is the historic heart of Fès and one of the best-preserved medieval medinas in the world. Here are some key points about this fascinating place:

  1. UNESCO World Heritage Site: The Medina of Fès el-Bali was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981 due to its outstanding historical and architectural value.

  2. Labyrinth of Alleys: The medina is a complex network of narrow alleys, winding paths, and covered passages. It's easy to get lost in this labyrinth, but it's also part of the adventure.

  3. Souks and Markets: The medina's souks are renowned for their diversity. You'll find markets specializing in everything from spices and fabrics to leather goods, pottery, and artisanal products.

  4. Bab Bou Jeloud: This monumental gate marks one of the main entrances to the medina. It is adorned with blue and green glazed tiles, creating an impressive entrance.

  5. Mosques and Madrasas: The medina houses several historic mosques and remarkable madrasas (Quranic schools), including the Al-Qarawiyyin Mosque and the Bou Inania Madrasa.

  6. Fondouks: These ancient caravanserais are historical buildings where traders stored their goods. Some have been restored and now house shops or artisan workshops.

  7. Cafés and Traditional Restaurants: Explore traditional cafés and restaurants to taste Moroccan cuisine, including tagines and couscous. Some riads also offer meals in an authentic setting.

  8. Fountains and Squares: The medina boasts numerous fountains and lively squares, such as Nejjarine Square, where you'll find the Nejjarine Fountain and the museum of the same name.

  9. Artisan Workshops: Meet local artisans in their workshops, where you can witness the crafting process of handmade items such as carpets, pottery, and leather goods.

  10. Nightlife: The medina takes on a special atmosphere at night. Some squares and alleys are illuminated, and it can be pleasant to stroll through the medina after sunset.

The Medina of Fès el-Bali offers an immersive experience into the history, culture, and daily life of Morocco, and every corner of this ancient city has something special to offer.

2 - Leather tanners

Leather tanners, Fez, Morocco

The leather tanneries in Fès are renowned for their traditional artisanal work, and visiting the tanneries is one of the iconic experiences in the city. Here is some information about the leather tanneries in Fès:

  1. Location: The tanneries in Fès are primarily located within the Medina, and one of the most well-known tanneries is the Chouara Tannery. Tanneries are often clustered in specific areas where you can observe the leather processing.

  2. Traditional Process: The Fès tanneries employ leatherworking methods that date back centuries. Raw leather is first cleaned, then soaked in vats filled with water and natural substances such as ammonia and pigeon droppings to soften and degrease the leather. Afterward, the leather is dyed using natural pigments.

  3. Vibrant Colors: Fès tanneries are renowned for their brightly colored leathers. The dyeing vats often contain natural pigments such as saffron for yellow, paprika for red, and indigo for blue.

  4. Observation from Terraces: To observe the process, you can access some of the terraces of nearby shops. The owners of these shops may provide you with mint leaves to hold against your nose to mitigate the strong smell of the tanning products.

  5. Bargain for Leather Products: After observing the work of the tanners, you can explore nearby shops selling a variety of leather products, including bags, shoes, belts, and artisanal items. Don't forget to negotiate prices.

  6. Wear Appropriate Clothing: Due to the strong odor of the tanning products, it's recommended to wear clothing that you aren't afraid to get dirty. A scarf or a nose mask can also be helpful.

  7. Visit During Working Hours: The tanneries are generally open during working hours, so it's advisable to visit during the day.

A visit to the leather tanneries in Fès provides a fascinating insight into traditional craftsmanship and the cultural heritage of the city in the leather industry. However, be prepared for the strong smell associated with the tanning process.

3 - Al-Qarawiyyin University

Al-Qarawiyyin University, Fez, Morocco

The University of Al-Qarawiyyin, located in Fès, Morocco, is considered the oldest continuously operating university in the world. Here are some key details about this historic institution:

  1. Foundation: The University of Al-Qarawiyyin was founded in 859 by Fatima al-Fihri. It is one of the oldest universities globally, with a history spanning over a millennium.

  2. UNESCO Status: Due to its historical significance, Al-Qarawiyyin was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981.

  3. Faculties and Subjects: Al-Qarawiyyin offers teachings in various fields, including religious sciences, humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences. Emphasis is placed on Islamic studies, jurisprudence, Arabic grammar, medicine, and other disciplines.

  4. Mosque and Madrasa: In addition to its educational activities, Al-Qarawiyyin houses a mosque and a madrasa (Quranic school). The mosque is open to worshipers for prayers, while the madrasa is where students receive their education.

  5. Library: The university also houses an ancient library containing a collection of Islamic manuscripts and other valuable works. Some manuscripts in this library date back centuries.

  6. Open to Non-Muslims: Historically, Al-Qarawiyyin was reserved for Muslim students, but in 2017, the university announced that it would be open to non-Muslims.

  7. Restorations and Projects: Over the centuries, the university has undergone several renovations and restorations. Preservation projects have been undertaken to maintain its historical heritage.

  8. Cultural and Historical Role: Al-Qarawiyyin has played a major role in preserving and transmitting Islamic knowledge and classical sciences over the centuries. It is an important cultural and historical symbol of Morocco.

If you are considering visiting Fès, the University of Al-Qarawiyyin is a must-visit historical site that provides insight into Morocco's educational and cultural history, as well as Islamic scholarship. Please note that access to certain parts of the university may be limited.

4 - Bou Inania Madrasa

Bou Inania Madrasa, Fez, Morocco

The Bou Inania Madrasa is a historic Islamic school located in the heart of the Medina of Fès, Morocco. Here are some key points about this remarkable architectural and educational institution:

  1. History: The Bou Inania Madrasa was built in the mid-14th century, specifically in 1351-1356, during the Marinid dynasty. It was named after the ruling sultan, Abu Inan Faris, who commissioned its construction.

  2. Architectural Beauty: The madrasa is celebrated for its exquisite architecture, showcasing the intricate details of Moroccan craftsmanship from the Marinid period. It is considered one of the finest examples of Merinid architecture in Fès.

  3. Religious and Educational Role: Like many madrasas of its time, Bou Inania served both religious and educational purposes. It was a place for Quranic studies, Islamic law, theology, grammar, rhetoric, and astronomy.

  4. Courtyard and Architecture: The madrasa features a central courtyard adorned with a stunning fountain and surrounded by galleries with intricately carved stucco, colorful zellij tiles, and cedar wood. The courtyard is a tranquil space for reflection.

  5. Prayer Hall: Bou Inania Madrasa includes a prayer hall with a mihrab (prayer niche) that is considered a masterpiece of Islamic art. The mihrab is adorned with intricate geometric patterns and inscriptions from the Quran.

  6. Minaret with a View: Unlike many madrasas, Bou Inania has a minaret, and visitors can climb to the top for a panoramic view of the historic Medina of Fès.

  7. Cultural Heritage: The madrasa has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, contributing to the preservation of Morocco's rich cultural and historical heritage.

  8. Open to Visitors: Bou Inania Madrasa is open to visitors, allowing them to explore the beauty of Islamic architecture, learn about its historical significance, and experience the serene atmosphere of this educational institution.

When visiting Bou Inania Madrasa, be sure to check the opening hours and consider hiring a guide to provide insights into the history and architectural details of this splendid monument. It stands as a testament to the rich cultural and intellectual heritage of Fès.

5 - Batha Museum

Batha Museum, Fez, Morocco

The Batha Museum, situated in the Batha district of the Medina of Fès, is a cultural gem nestled in the heart of Moroccan history. Housed in a 19th-century palace built by Sultan Moulay Hassan in 1897, this museum provides a captivating immersion into traditional Moroccan art. Its eclectic collections include textiles, pottery, jewelry, musical instruments, and weapons, showcasing the richness and diversity of the country's artisanal culture.

The architecture of the palace itself is a masterpiece of Hispano-Moorish design, with its intricate tilework, sculpted columns, and artistic details that transport visitors to a bygone era. Beyond the indoor exhibits, the Batha Museum features tranquil gardens where visitors can stroll and relax in a peaceful atmosphere.

The museum also offers an exceptional panoramic view of the Medina of Fès from its elevated position on a hill, providing a unique perspective on the ancient city. As a dynamic cultural venue, the Batha Museum occasionally hosts cultural events, temporary exhibitions, and artistic performances, reinforcing its role as a guardian of Morocco's cultural and artistic memory. Open to the public, it invites visitors to delve into the fascinating history of Fès and appreciate the exceptional artistic heritage of the kingdom. Before planning your visit, it is advisable to check the opening hours for an optimal experience.

6 - Tombs of the Marinids

Tombs of the Marinids, Fez, Morocco

The Merinid Tombs, perched on the Zerhoun hill north of Fès, unveil the fascinating history of the Merinid dynasty that left its mark on Morocco between the 13th and 15th centuries. Constructed in the 14th century as a burial site, these tombs showcase distinctive Merinid architecture adorned with geometric patterns and calligraphic inscriptions. The mausoleums house the graves of prominent members of the dynasty, including Sultan Abu Inan Faris, revealing an artistic and architectural richness characteristic of Islamic art.

Providing a peaceful escape from the bustle of Fès' Medina, the site offers a contemplative atmosphere enhanced by the exceptional panoramic view of the city and surrounding mountains. The location, usually open to visitors, allows for an exploration of Merinid history in a picturesque setting.

The Merinid Tombs are also conducive to photography, although restrictions may apply to certain areas. Before planning your visit, it is advisable to check the opening hours to ensure a rewarding experience in this historically significant and tranquil location.

7 - Royal Palace of Fez

Royal Palace of Fez, Fez, Morocco

The Royal Palace of Fès, also known as Dar el-Makhzen, stands at the heart of the Medina, forming a jewel of Hispano-Moorish architecture in Morocco. Built in the early 20th century under the reign of Sultan Moulay Youssef and later expanded by Sultan Mohammed V, the palace showcases refined Moroccan craftsmanship. Its monumental brass doors, adorned with traditional patterns, welcome visitors into a world of royal splendor.

Inside, lush gardens, elegant inner courtyards, and artistically crafted fountains create a serene atmosphere. Architectural details like zelliges, intricately carved plaster, and richly decorated cedarwood add to the magnificence of the place. While some parts of the palace are reserved for the private use of the royal family, the spaces accessible to the public reveal a remarkable cultural and architectural richness.

As a royal residence during the visits of the royal family to Fès, the Royal Palace remains a symbol of Moroccan history and its artistic heritage. While photography may be limited in some areas, exploring this iconic site offers immersion into the grandeur and majesty of Morocco. Visitors are encouraged to respect the rules and appreciate the beauty of the Royal Palace with decorum.

8 - Jnan Sbil Garden

Jnan Sbil Garden, Fez, Morocco

Jnan Sbil Garden, nestled near the Medina of Fès, provides a picturesque escape in the heart of the city. Originally designed in the 19th century by Sultan Moulay Hassan I, the garden features shaded walkways, water basins, and lush vegetation in the style of traditional Andalusian gardens. Visitors can stroll among a variety of colorful plants and flowers, capturing the serenity of the environment.

Traditional architectural elements, such as pavilions and statues, add an aesthetic touch to the garden. Often the venue for cultural events, concerts, and exhibitions, Jnan Sbil Garden offers a dynamic atmosphere within Fès. With free access, it is a popular spot for locals and visitors seeking relaxation. Opening hours may vary, but generally, the garden provides an ideal space for outdoor activities, reinforcing its status as a verdant haven in the heart of the historic city.

Fez - Where to Stay?

In Fès, you have various accommodation options depending on your preferences and budget. Here are some suggestions for different types of accommodation in Fès:

  1. Medina of Fès: If you want an authentic experience and be in the heart of the action, consider staying in a riad within the Medina. Riads are traditional Moroccan houses renovated to offer an intimate atmosphere and are often tastefully decorated.

  2. Medina Hotels: There are also hotels located within the Medina, offering a blend of modern comfort and traditional ambiance. Make sure to check reviews and amenities provided by each hotel.

  3. Hotels Outside the Medina: If you prefer a quieter environment, you can choose to stay outside the Medina. Fès has many hotels of various categories located outside the old town.

  4. Palaces and Charming Residences: Some historic palaces and residences have been transformed into luxury accommodations in Fès. These establishments often offer a unique and upscale experience in a historical setting.

  5. International Chain Hotels: If you prefer international hotel chains, Fès also has options from well-known hotel brands.

  6. Tourist Residences: For longer stays or group travel, you might consider a tourist residence, which often provides kitchen facilities and more space.

Before booking, make sure to check online reviews, rates, and amenities offered by the establishments to choose the one that best suits your needs and preferences.

Fez - How to get around?

In Fès, there are several transportation options for getting around the city. Here are some common ones:

  1. On Foot: The medina of Fès is a labyrinth of narrow streets, and the best way to experience its charm is by walking. This allows you to explore markets, historical sites, and neighborhoods in greater detail.

  2. Taxis: Taxis are widely available in Fès. You can hail a taxi on the street or find them at designated taxi stands. Make sure the driver uses the meter, or agree on the fare before starting your journey.

  3. Horse-Drawn Carriages (Caleches): For a more picturesque experience, you can opt for a horse-drawn carriage, known as a "caleche." These carriages offer leisurely rides through the city.

  4. Buses: Fès has a public transportation network, including buses, serving different parts of the city. Fares are usually affordable, but schedules may vary.

  5. Car Rental: If you want to explore the surroundings of Fès or have more flexibility in your travels, car rental is an option. Make sure to be familiar with local driving rules and follow traffic signals.

  6. Bicycles: For cycling enthusiasts, some areas of Fès are suitable for biking. You can rent a bicycle in certain parts of the city.

  7. Shared Vehicles: Ride-hailing services and carpooling apps may also be available in Fès.

Before choosing your mode of transportation, consider the distance to be covered, your budget, and personal preferences. Each mode of transport has its advantages depending on the situation and your specific needs in Fès.

Fez - Best period

The best time to visit Fès depends on your preferences regarding climate and activities. Here is some information to help you choose the ideal time for your visit:

  1. Spring (March to May): Spring is often considered one of the best seasons to visit Fès. The temperatures are pleasant, with sunny days and cool nights. Gardens are in bloom, and it's an ideal time to explore the medina and participate in cultural festivals.

  2. Fall (September to November): Similar to spring, fall offers moderate temperatures, and the city is less crowded with tourists compared to the summer peak season. It's also a good time for exploring Fès in pleasant weather.

  3. Summer (June to August): The summer months in Fès can be hot, with temperatures often exceeding 30 degrees Celsius. It is the peak tourist season, but if you can tolerate the heat, it's also when festivals, cultural events, and outdoor activities are abundant.

  4. Winter (December to February): Winters in Fès are generally mild during the day, but nights can be cool. There may be occasional rainfall. Winter temperatures attract fewer visitors, making it a good time if you prefer a quieter experience.

It's important to note that seasons can vary from year to year, and it's always recommended to check specific weather conditions for your travel period. Festivals, cultural events, and accommodation availability can also influence the choice of the visiting period.

Last update : 26/05/2024 15:38

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