Top 11 essential things to do and see in Fez, Morocco
The big cities of Morocco have an extremely rich history, a past which knows how to seduce all the generations but also a cosmopolitan life which attracts more and more tourists. Very often portrayed as the cultural capital of Morocco, the city of Fez charms with its architectural, historical and intellectual heritage. Note that in 1980 the city received approval and obtained UNESCO World Heritage status, proving the vigor and dynamism of this city in preserving its history and identity. Here are some places to visit and a (non-exhaustive) list of things to do in Fez.
1. The medina
Discovering the medina is quite an adventure in itself because it does not reveal itself to the traveler in a hurry. You have to learn to appreciate this place, to understand its codes, to let yourself be carried away by the cries, the smells, the heat that emanate from all the stalls. You have to be prepared for the unexpected. The medina in Fez is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it is home to the oldest university in the world. The main sites of the medina to visit date from the 13th and 15th century and these are the madrasah, the palace, the mosques, and the fountains.
2. Leather tanners
The leather tanners leave no one indifferent, especially because of the incredible smell that emanates from their workshop. For those who are not used to it, this smell can be pestilential. But when you leave the workshop, you will be offered a mint drink to mask (slightly) the smell. Discover the traditional tanneries of Fez.
3. The fondouks
You should know that the Fondouk is a caravanserai: it is a two-story building that was designed around a square courtyard. That of Fez is worth a look because it now houses many workshops.
4. The souks
The souk of Fez has existed for hundreds of years and it seems to have changed very little. This is what makes its charm of yesteryear, what makes it so endearing. As Fez is a city of crafts, its souk is crowded with craftsmen who compete in ingenuity and know-how in souvenirs to bring back, such as pottery, ceramics or even jewelry. Don't forget to go to the dyers' souk, a change of scenery!
5. The Karaouine mosque
This university, the oldest in the world, was founded in 859 AD. Even though entry is forbidden to non-Muslims, it remains today a high spiritual place. Discover its exteriors and the details that adorn its walls, its 270 columns and its 24 doors that surround an interior courtyard.
6. The madrasas
A madrasa is an ancient Koranic school that serves as a boarding school for students. In Fez, they are numerous and just as prestigious, especially in terms of their decorations. The Attarine madrassa ( see Photo) which is located in front of the Karaouine mosque, is surely one of the most refined madrasas in the Muslim world where lovers of calligraphy but also mosaics and marquetry can delight their impressed eyes. There is also the madrasa Bouanania: a very impressive madrasa for its size, surely one of the most refined buildings in the city. Another madrasa to discover is the Seffarin which is the oldest in Fez since it was designed in 1280.
7. The doors of the medina
Two large doors are available to you when you want to enter the interior of the medina, it is the Bab Bou jeloud door (photo) and the Bab Dekatène door. Bab Bou jeloud is the main gate which corresponds to the official entrance to the medina and the other gate, with its castle-like appearance, is a place where criminals were then tried during the Middle Ages.
8. Place Seffarine
On this square are found many craftsmen who work copper to make teapots, trays, incense burners while others, boilermakers are established here to develop pots, buckets and various containers. A craft not to be missed.
9. The royal palace
It is the oldest palace in Morocco and surely the most important. Erected in the 14th century, it is called Dar El Makhzen. With its 80 hectares, it was built outside the old medina, it is now located near the Jewish quarter and the Mellah. Even if the visits are not authorized, it is necessary to go there to discover its gigantic esplanade where one can discover large bronze doors which are framed by ceramic tiles. The doors are 7 in number as days of the week as well as levels in the Moroccan monarchy.
10. Dar Batha Palace and Museum
The palace was built by Hassan 1st because he ardently wanted to unite the two cities that make up Fès, namely Fès-el-Baki (old Fez) and Fès-el-Djedid (new Fez). This palace was then transformed into a craft museum where you can discover 13th century pottery and ceramics but also embroidery, jewelry from the Middle Ages. Don't forget to take pictures of the richly decorated gates and the huge padlocks that close the doors for the night.
11. Other place to visit in Fez
Finally, Fez has a magnificent fountain called the Nejjarine fountain which is located near the carpenters' souk and which dates back to the 18th century.
The mausoleum of Moulay Idriss II (Photo) is the 2nd sacred site in all of Morocco. It is closed to non-Muslims. Moulay Idriss II was the founder of the city of Fez.
Finally, the Mellah district is to be discovered: it is the old Jewish quarter which still testifies today to an incredible historical richness and an impressive cultural knowledge.