Fez, often referred to as the "Athens of Africa," boasts a rich history dating back over a thousand years. Its significance as Morocco's former capital and its status as home to the oldest university in the world, Al-Qarawiyyin, add to its allure.
This city's heart beats within the walls of its Medina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that stands as one of the world's most well-preserved medieval cities.
As you wander through its ancient streets and bask in the warmth of its people, you'll find that Fez is not just a destination; it's a live testament to the power of human connection and the exchange of ideas.
Join us as we look at the hidden gems, ancient marvels, and local flavours that make Fez an unforgettable destination worth considering for your next adventure.
What to do in Fez
1. Wandering Through the Medina
Stepping into the Medina of Fez is akin to stepping into a time capsule. The maze of streets and alleys is a blend of sights, sounds, and scents.
The souks (markets), with stalls of textiles, spices, ceramics, and more - will heighten your curiosities. Local artisans, many of whom belong to families that have practised their crafts for generations, create intricate works that tell stories of heritage and skill.
2. Discovering Architectural Gems
Fez is full of architectural masterpieces, each telling a story of its era.
The Al-Qarawiyyin Mosque, founded in the 9th century, is a symbol of Islamic architecture. It is believed to be the oldest university in the world - having served as an educational as well as religious centre throughout its existence. Its intricate design and serene courtyard provide a glimpse into the city's spiritual core.
Bou Inania Madrasa, a 14th-century theological college, showcases the harmonious blend of geometry and artistry through its delicate stucco carvings and zellij tilework.
3. Immersing in Culture
No visit to Fez is complete without a visit to the tanneries. The largest and most popular of the 3 tanneries is Chouara Tannery. The stone vats of coloured dye and the labour-intensive tanning process offer a window into a craft that has remained unchanged for centuries.
Additionally, Fez celebrates culture through its annual Festival of World Sacred Music. This event unites performers from around the world, through music.
4. Culinary Delights
Moroccan cuisine, celebrated for its harmonious blend of flavours and spices, takes centre stage in Fez. Whether it is the slow-cooked tangine, fragrant couscous or delicious pastries, every bite tells a story that's beyond the ingredients.
Related article: Best Moroccan foods to try on your visit to Morocco.
5. Hidden Gems and Local Hangouts
While the Medina draws crowds, Fez also offers quieter corners for those seeking a different local experience.
Check out neighbourhood cafes where the locals gather for mint tea and a chat with friends. Tranquil riads, traditional Moroccan houses converted into boutique accommodations, provide an oasis of calm within the bustling city.
In a city of more than 1 million permanent residents, the hidden gems are so many and all you have to do is ask.
6. Day Trips from Fez
Fez serves as an ideal starting point for exploring the nearby areas.
Meknes, a short journey away, boasts grand palaces and impressive city gates. Volubilis, an ancient Roman city, offers a glimpse into Morocco's past as a crossroads of civilizations.
If you're inclined towards nature, the Middle Atlas Mountains and the charming town of Ifrane provide a refreshing contrast to the urban bustle.
7. Craftsmanship and Souvenirs
Fez has long been a hub of Moroccan craftsmanship. Artisans pass down their skills through generations, and their works are a testament to both tradition and innovation.
Whether it is a handwoven rug, ceramics, or leather goods the craftsmanship of the people is undeniable. These make for great souvenirs for you to take back home for yourself and as gifts for others.
Practical Tips for Travelers
Navigating the Medina's intricate streets requires a sense of adventure and curiosity. Hiring a local guide can enhance your experience by providing insights into the history and culture of Fez.
As a gesture of respect, it's advisable to ask for permission before taking photographs of people, especially in more conservative areas. Embrace the slower pace of life, and engage with locals to discover hidden gems that exist in Fez - beyond the tourist trail.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best time to visit Fez?
The best time to visit Fez is during spring (April to May) and autumn (September to November) when the weather is pleasant, and the city is less crowded.
Can I explore Fez on my own or should I hire a guide?
While exploring Fez on your own is possible, hiring a local guide can provide deeper insights into the city's history, culture, and hidden gems within the Medina.
Are credit cards widely accepted in Fez?
While some upscale establishments may accept credit cards, it is advisable to carry cash, especially in the Medina and local markets.
What should I wear when visiting religious sites in Fez?
As a sign of respect, it is recommended to dress modestly when visiting religious sites, covering your shoulders and knees.
Can I haggle in the markets of Fez?
Yes, haggling is a common practice in the markets of Fez. It is part of the local culture, so don't be afraid to negotiate for a better price.
Even with the popularity of Fez as a great destination for the history and culture of the Moroccan people, the city offers much more. Fez is a true testament to the human connection that is able to span times and eras long gone, and still bring people closer.
Regardless of what part of Fez interests you the most, the city, its medina and the people are something special. If you would like to visit Morocco, we encourage you to consider Fez - and talk to us about helping you plan your unforgettable journey.