Couple of months ago I traveled to Morocco for a week and one of my top destinations to visit there was the ancient city of Fez (often spelled as Fés). It is one of the oldest and most beautiful of the imperial cities.
Fez is situated in the North Eastern part of Morocco and it is the third largest city in the country. It is also mentioned as the cultural and spiritual capital of Morocco. Fez is most importantly known for it’s Medina.
Medina is the old walled part of a town or city in North Africa.
The Fez Medina was founded in the 9th century. It is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and world’s largest urban car-free space. Just wandering around the Medina will take you back in time. The Medina in Fez is unique, traditional and amazing.
The city of Fez is divided into three parts. Fez El Bali is the oldest part of the Medina, Fez Jdid is the new part of the Medina and the Ville Nouvelle is the new city. And this Fez El Bali or the old city is where you have to visit and explore.
You can travel to Fez from any part of Morocco by plane, train and by road. I went by a private car from Casablanca to Fez, it took me 3 hours by road. If you are not bound by time like me, then I suggest you stay for a day or two in Fez. If you are traveling from Rabat, the capital city of Morocco then it’s more closer, probably 90 minutes.
The city of Fez has numerous hotels and guesthouses. But staying in a Riad is a must. Riad is a large traditional house built around a central courtyard, most of them are converted into a hotel.
After I arrived in Fez, my sightseeing tour began from the new Medina or the newer part of the city, before heading to the old Medina.
Inside the old Medina, you will see some of the narrowest roads ever. As it is completely car-free, you will see donkeys pulling goods carts and men pushing hand carts just like in Medieval times in the narrow alleyways of the Medina.
The only way to get around the Medina is by walking. It is easy to lose oneself in the winding alleyways of the Medina. For first timers I suggest to go with a guide or with people who know that area well.
Fez El Bali or the old Medina has a raw appeal. For a visitor like me the Medina looked liked it was in a perpetual state of chaos. The moment I laid my eyes on Fez’s Medina, I’ve been in love with it.
It is one colorful maze, I wouldn’t mind getting lost into. The narrow streets of the Medina is bustling with people and activities. It is full of life and color.
In this Medieval walled city, you can see squares with exquisite fountains, minarets from the rooftops, textile shops, pottery and ceramic shops, leather goods shop, lamp stores, carpet stores, butchery, aromatic food stands and more.
I loved the beautiful display of traditional Moroccan architecture and elaborately painted and sculpted woodwork.
Some of the important places to be visited in the Medina are:
- Bab Boujloud
- Bou Inania Madrasa
- Ibn Danan Synagogue
- Mellah (Jewish quarter)
- Dar El Makhzen
- Royal Palace
- Attarine Medersa
- Al Qarawiyyin Mosque & University
- Nejjarine Fondouk
- Nejjarine Museum of Wooden Arts & Crafts
- Riad Belghazi
- Zaouia Moulay Idriss ll
- Riad Fes
- Chouara Tanneries
- Borj Nord and the Merenid Tombs (for the best views over Fez El Bali)
I enjoyed a traditional Moroccan lunch at one of the oldest restaurants in the Medina. Did a bit of souvenir hunting and enjoyed watching the craftsmen and weavers at work.
And soaked up all the art, architecture, culture, history, spirituality and gastronomic delights that the Medina of Fez had to offer.
I always used to wonder, how will it be to go back in time and well, in Fez I got a chance. I felt like I was in another era. I am totally smitten by the charm of this Medieval city. Now it is etched in my memory forever.
If you are ever planning a trip to Morocco, do add Fez on the top of your itinerary list and explore the maze of narrow alleyways and watch the raw beauty of the place come alive. And for all those who dream of going back in time, don’t miss this chance. The Medina in Fez is truly incredible.