Visit Fez: what are the best things to do and see in the cultural capital of Morocco?
The major cities of Morocco have an extremely rich history, a past that knows how to seduce all generations but also a cosmopolitan life that attracts more and more tourists. Very often depicted as the cultural capital of Morocco, the city of Fez charms with its architectural, historical, and intellectual heritage. It should be noted that in 1980 the city received the approval and obtained the rank of world heritage of UNESCO, proving the vigor and the dynamism of this city to preserve its history and its identity.
To visit Fez in these conditions, whether you are an art lover or a simple tourist, is to take a leap into the past a few hours from France: wander the winding streets of the medina, get lost in the souks, admire the finesse of the details of the Karaouiyne mosque, walking along the city's fortifications... So many discoveries that will enchant you.
Fez is a very modern city in which you will easily find accommodation but also entertainment. For lovers of visits, cultural and historical discovery, to quench this thirst for learning, the city is full of curiosities, museums, and monuments that are very well preserved. But to fully understand the subtleties and penetrate the unique atmosphere of the city, here are some places to visit and a (non-exhaustive) list of things to do in Fez.
Read also: Where to eat In Fez
1. The medina
Discovering the medina is quite an adventure in itself because it is not revealed to the hurried traveler. You have to learn to appreciate this place, to understand its codes, to let yourself be carried away by the cries, the smells, and the warmth that emanates from all the stalls. You have to be ready for the unexpected. The medina of Fez is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it is, in fact, home to the oldest university in the Muslim world. The main sites in the medina to visit date from the 13th and 15th centuries and these are the medersa, the palace, the mosques, and the fountains.
2. Leather tanners
It's a special category in the souks, 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 pestilent. When you leave the workshop, though, you'll be provided a mint drink to help (somewhat) conceal the odor. A difficult job that you have to discover to understand.
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 Fes souk has existed for hundreds of years and it seems to have evolved very little. This is what gives it its old-world charm, 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 bringing back souvenirs, such as pottery, ceramics, or jewelry. Don't forget to take a trip to the dyers' souk, a change of scenery!
5. The Karaouiyne Mosque
This university was founded in 859 AD and is the oldest in the Arab world. Even if entry is forbidden to non-Muslims, it remains a spiritual high place today. Discover its exteriors and the details that adorn its walls, its 270 columns, and its 24 doors that encircle an interior courtyard.
A Medersa is a former Koranic school that serves as a boarding school for students. In Fez, they are numerous and equally prestigious, especially in terms of their decorations. To see therefore the Madrasa Attarine (photo) which is located opposite the Karaouiyne mosque. It is surely one of the most refined Medersas in the Muslim world where lovers of calligraphy but also mosaics and marquetry can feast their impressed eyes.
There is also the Bou Inania Medersa: a very impressive Medersa by its size, surely one of the most refined buildings in the city. Another Medersa to discover is the Seffarine Medersa which is the oldest in Fez since it was designed in 1280. Its decoration is reminiscent of the traditional houses of Morocco.
7. The gates of the medina
Two large doors are available to you when you want to go inside the medina, it is the Bab Bou Djeloud door (photo) and the Bab Dekatène door. Bab Bou Djeloud is the main gate that corresponds to the official entrance to the medina and the other gate, with its castle-like appearance, is a place where criminals were tried during the Middle Ages.
8. Place Seffarine
On this square are many craftsmen who work copper to make teapots, trays, and incense burners while other, 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 visits are not authorized, you have to go there to discover its gigantic esplanade where you can discover large bronze doors which are framed with ceramic tiles. The doors are 7 in number like so many days in the week as well as levels in the Moroccan monarchy.
10. Dar Batha Palace and Museum
11. Other ideas for visits to Fez
Finally, Fez has a magnificent fountain called the Nejjarine fountain which is near the souk of the carpenters and which dates from the 18th century. To see the richness of its mosaics!
The Mausoleum of Moulay Idriss II 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 that still bears witness today to an incredible historical richness and impressive cultural knowledge.