Fes Medina, Morocco
History of Fes medina
Around the year 790, Idris I founded in the heart of Morocco the city of Fes. It would not only become his residence, but also the spiritual heart of Islam and the most important city in Morocco. Belonging to the exclusive “club” of four imperial cities completed by Rabat, Meknes and Marrakech. Fes continues to evoke the exuberance and hypnotism worthy of Morocco’s oldest capital. A destination divided between two Medinas (or ancient cities) that breathe a genuine and enigmatic tradition, with as many doors as colors diluted in its labyrinthine streets.
Facts about Fes Medina
ALL ROADS LEAD TO THE BLUE DOOR
The city of Fes is divided into three distinct areas. Fes el-Jdid, a place that brings together the Mellah (the name given to the Jewish Quarter). The New City, where Parisian cafes born in the times of colonization and, especially, the Medina Fes-el Bali. The oldest area of the city surrounded by walls that reach up to 15 kilometers in length. The latter, in particular, is the main attraction when it comes to getting lost in the essence that we came to seek that exotic Morocco. From the first moment you cross Bab Bou Jeloud, the iconic gateway to the Medina, also known as the Blue Gate.
THE SCENT OF COLORS
Designated a Unesco World Heritage Site because of its status as the largest pedestrian zone in the world, the Medina of Fes forms an urban lattice of 9,000 alleys where a paradise of trade and bargaining is forged. Artisans making honey bows, live roosters waiting their turn at the butcher’s. Or stalls selling spices, carpets and babouches where, unlike other cities like Marrakech where the merchant is more intrusive. Here a polite “No” is enough when insisted upon. Shades that enclose hundreds of aromas, flavors and colors, as well demonstrates one of its best kept secrets: the Rainbow Street, a multicolored cobblestone path linking the streets Talaa es-Seghira and Taala el-Kebira, the two main arteries of the Medina of Fes.
Beyond its commercial component, Fes-el Bali encloses some of the most important monuments of the city. The great Bou Inania Madrasa, epicenter of Koranic study, or the also obligatory Karaoine Mosque, endowed with more than 320,000 works. It is also the largest in Morocco until the opening of the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca. In addition, you can also refresh yourself from the stimuli of the road in one of the typical mosaic fountains of Fes, the Nejjarine Fountain being the oldest in the city.
IT SMELLS LIKE A CAMEL LOCKED UP
But it will be there, somewhere where the Medina twists and turns, when a certain not very pleasant aroma will warn you. Then, someone will take you between streets that narrow even more and you will climb the stairs that will reveal the presence of the best kept secret of Fes. The Chouwara Tannery, a spectacle of natural dyes fed with pigeon droppings. It is whhere different families (one per dye) remove the old art of dyeing camel or lamb leather. An excuse to access all the products derived from the largest of the four tanneries of Fes without forgetting the main ally: a sprig of mint to alleviate the odors of tradition.
A MAGIC CARPET VIEW
You leaving the Medina of Fes through the Bab Guissa Gate. Opens before the eyes a high promontory that holds the ruins of the Marinid tombs. The mausoleums founded in the fourteenth century to house the remains of the first conquerors of the city. A hill worthy of a medieval tale from which to enjoy the best panoramic views. The later, is surrounded by goats looking for some pasture among solitary palm trees.
OF PALACES AND CONTRADICTIONS IN THE JEWRY
In Fes there is life beyond its main Medina, being the Jewish Quarter, also known as the Mellah. It is one of its most peculiar corners. A more modern neighborhood (it was opened in 1438, 700 years after the creation of the city) where the bazaars are away from the tourist circuits. There are also monuments that you will not expect. For example the Hebrew cemetery (pictured) and the corners are very authentici but also with contradictions. For example, the wooden balconies open to the outside that challenge the Arab conservatism of the Royal Palace. It forbids the entrance to the wild mint green rooms that characterize the colorful DNA of Fes.
BSSAHA (OR “BON APPÉTIT”)!
Lovers of Moroccan gastronomy will find in Fes the best representative of this exotic food. It is based on classic cous-cous and tagine, flour soup (harira) or the delicious bastela, a cake based on cinnamon, nuts and pigeon meat to be washed down with an exquisite Moorish tea.
Present in countless places and environments, the restaurants in Fes, especially those in the Medina, are an attraction in itself. They are highlighting the delicious potato croquettes of the Lagliali restaurant, next to the Blue Gate. You can also have the lemon chicken tagine at Café Al Oud, a place between Moroccan tradition and Western hipsterism.
NOT FAR AWAY
Fes is the main asset of a tour of northern Morocco totally fascinating. Take the opportunity to extend your adventure by a day and visit Meknes. Another of the imperial cities and located just an hour from Fes. Or even go up to the Rif Mountains and stroll through Chaouen. The famous blue village (and the largest hashish plantation in the world) to link up with a visit to the coastal Assilah. Also finish with the underrated charm of Tangier. Places that extend the potential of a city of Fes as many nuances as secrets hidden among its palaces, tanners and bazaars.
Itinerary for a 7-day Morocco tour departing from Fes. You will see so many amazing sights during these 7 days and 6 nights. Meknes, the Ismaili capital, the Roman ruins of Volubilis, and the charming blue city of Chefchaouen are all included. In addition to seeing the highlights of Rabat, Casablanca, and Marrakech. In addition, take in the breathtaking scenery of the High Atlas mountains and the Tizi-N-Tichka pass. Then go to the Kasbah of Ait-Ben-Haddou, the Ouarzazate city studios, and the Todra gorges.You will also visit the Merzouga Sahara desert. Which allows you to ride camels and spend the night in a desert camp. And take in the breathtaking sunsets and sunrises in the Sahara. Following that, you will see the Barbary macaque in the cedars.
Explore Morocco’s Sahara desert from Fes to Marrakech on an epic journey. It will allow you to meet locals and have an authentic desert experience. By taking the three-day Fes to Marrakech desert tour, you will be able to ride camels across the golden dunes of Erg Chebbi. You will also spend an unforgettable night in a desert camp.
You will enjoy complete silence among the high dunes of Merzouga, a place that feels a million miles away from civilization. Aside from camel trekking, sunset and sunrise over Erg Chebbi, and a night in the desert. Your three-day Fes desert tour will take you across the Middle Atlas Mountains to Merzouga and the High Atlas Mountains to Marrakech.