Fes is the oldest imperial city in Morocco. It was founded in the 9th century and is home to the oldest university in the world. The medina of Fes is a protected World Heritage that has an outstanding historical value. The travel to the medina of Fes is a travel in time! Everything in this medina looks and smells authentic. Your visit to Fes will have a spiritual feeling to it, for this city has preserved its long history within its walls, inside its riads and madrassas, and in the hearts of its people.
This article is set to be your guide to the best things to do in Fes, and how to make the most of your travel experience in Morocco.
The medina of Fes, also called Fes el-Bali (The old Fes), is undoubtedly a perfect epitome of ancient Islamic civilization. The word Fes or Fes means pickax in Arabic. Legend has it that this city was built with an ax made of gold and silver by Idris I, the founder of the city. In its heyday, Fes had become one of the largest cities in the world.
Though very old, the medina of Fes has conserved its walls, mosques, madrassas, and riads. Now, they are all here still telling stories of their history. Fes el-Bali is a magnificent blend of Moroccan and Andalusian architecture. It is not strange to feel lost while you are discovering the medina, so much of what you would see will amuse you! Ask for directions or take a guided tour. No cars can be found in Fes el-Bali!
Some of the most attractive constructions to see in Fes el-Bali are the mosques and madrassas (Islamic schools). You would find them scattered across the medina’s narrow streets. They all display fascinating craftsmanship and medieval architecture.
Walkthrough the Blue Gate of Bab Bou Jeloud and venture into the medina. There are zawiyas (shrines) of great religious and spiritual importance at the center of Fes el-Bali. There lie some of the most revered Sufi saints and scholars. Many visit these sacred places to commemorate the faith of their ancestors.
Moroccans are very welcoming folks! The secret of their hospitality mostly comes from the confidence they have in their cuisine. Moroccan dishes are countless! Try out zaalouk and briwat! And do not forget the famous Moroccan couscous! During your stay at a riad, you may get the chance to see how these dishes are made!
One of the best things to do in the medina of Fes is to go to a hammam! Some of these bathhouses are centuries old, which makes them very special to the locals. Bathing in a hammam will not only relax you but also intensify your travel experience in Morocco.
The tanneries of Fes are a very popular tourist attraction, perhaps because of the smell! If you are willing to satisfy the curiosity of your nose, then find your way to the tanneries. There, you will discover the art of leather making, the same as it has been for hundreds of years!
The university of al-Qarawiyyine was first established as a mosque. Now it is the oldest educational institution in the world according to UNESCO and Guinness World Records. This university represents the flourishing of Islamic institutions in Fes which is why it is considered the cultural and spiritual capital of Morocco. The library of the university contains many valuable documents and parchments that date back hundreds of years!
You will certainly admire the meticulous wood carvings and ceramics, the ornamented doors and arches, and most importantly, the serenity and the spirituality of the place!
Check out Funduq al-Najjariyyin, it is home to the museum of Wooden Arts and Crafts.
Your shopping experience in Fes city could be the most unique experience you’d ever have! Much of the old commercial activity in Fes still takes place. The souks (marketplaces) of Fes are very lively with merchants, tourists, and visitors from all over the world. You may enjoy sitting in a cafe and watching the hustle of life in the medina.
No matter how big your shopping list is, the souks and shops of Fes offer a wide variety of goods that are produced locally like carpets, jewelry, and Fassi embroidery. For a ‘modern’ shopping experience, visit Borj Fes Mall. This is a large commercial center that has many shops, cafes, and restaurants.
If you feel like discovering more about the imperial medinas of Morocco, check out our local’s guide to visiting Marrakech!
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