In the city with the largest urban center of the world without a car, time seems to have stopped, people are always smiling, traffic problems occur because of donkeys and globalization is still an unknown word. Known as the cultural capital of Morocco, Fez, the city with the largest and oldest Medieval Medina in the world, is probably the most authentic city of Morocco!

The city of Fez is divided into three parts. Fez El Bali (Medina), dating back to the 9th century, is the oldest part of the city, which literally resembles a labyrinth. Outside the walls of Medina begins Fez Jdid, which was built in 1276 as an extension of Medina, and immediately afterwards we meet Ville Nouvelle (new city), which was constructed by the French in the first half of the 20th century.

Bou Inania Madrasa

At the western entrance of Medina, very close to Bab Boujloud (Blue Gate), is located  the impressive Bou Inania Madrasa. Built in the 14th century by sultan Bou Inan, from which it took its name, is perhaps the most beautiful of the religious schools across Fes. With magnificent mosaics, impressive large doors and a beautiful minaret decorated with green tiles, it is one of the architectural masterpieces of the city and one of the few religious places in Morocco accessible to non-Muslim visitors.

Chouara Tanneries

Fez is famous for its skins, so there are three tanneries in the city, with the most famous being the Chouara tanneries. It is one of the most photographed places in the city and one of the most unique sights you will ever visit on a trip, as they look like a huge painting palette. Although visiting the tanneries is a must if you find yourself in Fez, there are two things you should be prepared for. 

The first one is the scent. The skins and the materials used to process and paint them (cow's urine, pigeon droppings, etc.) create an intense and quite unpleasant scent, which the locals will try to eliminate by giving you some mint. Although this scent was quite unpleasant, it actually was much less intense than I expected. However, if you have a sensitive nose, it is advisable not to visit this place after lunch. 

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The second thing to keep in mind is that the only way to see the tanneries is by visiting one of the shops around them. However, it is very common the owners of these stores to ask you to buy something or give them some money before leaving. Along the street, you will come across many shop owners who will invite you to see the view from their own store. We decided to avoid the shops on the main street and walk a bit in the area before choose the right one. When we found it, we asked the people at the entrance how much it would cost us and they assured us that it would be completely free. Having read several things about it, we entered believing that in the end they would be asking us to buy something from the store, but that never happened. I do not know whether we were just lucky or if what we had read was eventually a bit too much but we took dozens of photos and just left without asking us to pay anything.

Al-Attarine Madrasa

Very close to tanneries, in the heart of Medina is also located Al-Attarine Madrasa. Built in 1325, it is one of the few Madrasas (religious schools) in the city that are open to tourists and boasts an impressive architecture and a beautiful inner courtyard. However, it is a good idea to visit it early in the morning to have the chance to admire the impressive mosaics, the impressive details and the carved wooden vaults before the groups of the tourists arrive.

Al-Qarawiyyin Mosque

Al-Qarawiyyin Mosque and University of Fez was founded in 859 AD from a woman, Fatima al-Fihri, who left her homeland, Tunisia, to live in Morocco. UNESCO considers Al-Qarawiyyin as the oldest university in the world. Unfortunately, the entrance is allowed only to the Muslims, but everyone can admire the largest mosque in Africa, from the entrance door.

Get lost in Medina

If you find yourself in Fez, there is no better way to spend your day than letting yourself get lost in Medina's souks. All you have to do is let the colors, smells, sounds and flavors drift you and you will soon feel that you are in a world so different that it seems to have come out of a book's pages. At the same time you can visit Medina's markets and buy some some gifts and souvenirs!

Merenid Tombs

These are the ruins of tombs dating back to the 14th century that housed many sultans and other members of the Merenid dynasty. Today, the ruins of two tall orthogonal mausoleums with large apse-shaped entrances are visible. The Merenid tombs are built on a hill, north of Fes al-Bali that offer panoramic views of the city of Fez.

The Royal Palace

The royal palace of Fez, Dar el Makhzen, dates back to the 17th century and hosts the country's king when he visits the city. Although its entrance is forbidden, its impressive exterior appearance, with the giant doors made of brass and gold make it one of the city's most important attractions.

Watch the Sunset

There is no better way to end your day in Fez than admiring the city's views and the unique colors that the sky is taking during sunset from a rooftop. We were lucky enough to stay in Mayfez Suites & Spa, which offers one of the best views of Fez (read more about my stay in Mayfez, here).  

After a busy day in the city all you need is to get away from Medina's chaos, admiring the impressive minarets, dominating amongst a sea of satellite dishes, listening to the imams from all over the city praying while the sun goes down.

Daphne Giannouli

1 comment:

  1. Breathtaking post! I can only confidence my tour with my parents in September goes as well as yours did! I’ve been gripped with Morocco ever since my friend planned abroad there. I can’t wait to go and discover!