Morocco: Discovering Fez and its medina

I have been dreaming of Morocco, for a long time. The Arabic culture and style attracts me. My very first stop in Morocco is called Fez. Fez (or Fès) is one of the 4 imperial cities of the country with Marrakech, Rabat and Meknes. Fez is a jewel of Moroccan culture and the cradle of knowledge.
Visiting Fez is like immersing yourself in a medieval atmosphere and getting lost in the largest medina in the world!

After 3 hours on the plane, from Brussels, we disembark in the Sebou valley….
The immersion is immediate, people in the street, smells, shopkeepers,…
Within a few seconds, you arrive in the fortified city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We are then propelled into its famous medina. With 8 entrances, 9400 alleys, 144 different districts, 2 tanneries and the second largest mosque in the country, it is better to have a good sense of direction, the largest medina in the world is a real labyrinth!

 

Story of our discovery of Fez

It is 05:15, it is time for the first prayer of the day. The bravest ones wake up to be present.
For us, the day starts a little later. We get up at 06:30 to capture the sunrise over the old town. We have identified how to climb on the roof of our Riad from where we admire the sun gradually coloring the lime houses. What silence. You can hear the roosters and donkeys in the distance and everything seems so calm and peaceful. But these moments of tranquility will soon dissipate. A few moments later, it was the children who set off with their school bags to go to school and the first shopkeepers and craftsmen quietly returned to their shops. We see the sweepers with their donkeys passing by to clean the streets and pick up the garbage bags that were left in front of each house. The streets of the medina are still deserted and most of the shops are closed.  This is the best time to be able to admire all the buildings on your own. We take this opportunity to admire and discover the medina at our own pace.

Between 9:00 am and 9:30 am, most of the traders arrived. A little later, the crowd arrives at the taste count. In no time at all, the medina was filled up and life began again. It is time for us to have our breakfast: fresh orange juice, Moroccan crepe and some local cookies and cakes. Indulge yourself!

 

How to visit Fez

Of course, you can visit Fez on your own, walking around, getting lost, and gradually discovering all that the city has to offer.
We stayed 4 days in Fez and decided for our 2nd day to take advantage of the knowledge and anecdotes of a local guide.
Our accommodation has put us in contact with Soufiane, a patented tourist guide who knows Fez like the back of his hand. Soufiane made us discover a completely different facet of the imperial city. He shared with us information on the history, architecture, past and present life of the city, he took us to see the main places and those that are well hidden. He also answered all our questions and helped us to exchange with the inhabitants, especially those who do not speak French.
Unlike other “supposed” guides who may accost you in the street, our guide did not take us shopping. (He still helped us to negotiate when we wanted to buy something, thank you Soufiane!)

It will certainly take several hours (or can we say days?) to learn how to find oneself in this labyrinth. Fortunately, some indications are placed on some roads, which allows you to find your way back. However, the best advice we received was the following: we must see the medina of Fez as a round ball in which the middle is the lowest point (the stream that separates the Andalusian bank and the Qarawiyyin bank) and the edges, the highest points, are the 14 doors that allow us to leave the medina. In other words, if you are looking to get out of the medina, follow the rising crowd. Easy, isn’t it?

Trading in the medina

Fez is the Paradise of markets. There is something for all styles and tastes. After a few days, we no longer resist the Moroccan style. Whether it is for copper lamps, coloured ceramics from Fez, handmade carpets and tablecloths… The only limit is the number of kilos you can put back on the plane! Of course, the most fun is negotiating the price. It often seems as if the prices for tourists are much higher, so don’t hesitate to negotiate. That’s how it works. For Moroccans it is a game, perceived as a bit like a seduction….

I must admit that I am quite proud of my negotiations. And in the end, that’s what matters, that you are convinced of the price at which you want to buy.

A photogenic city

Fez, its colours and people are also the perfect setting for photography lovers. At the bend of a street, behind the merchant of lamps or carpets, you come face to face with a door or a facade made of ceramics, plaster and painted cedar wood. An impressive architectural beauty.
All the streets are colorful, the people are very nice. However, even if it seems normal, you should always ask permission before taking pictures of people. It was often an opportunity to exchange a few words and experiences with some traders or residents….

That’s the beauty of Fes!

 

 

Some tips to visit Fez during a weekend or if you are travelling in Morocco

 

 

If you spend a few days in Fez, you must take the time to get lost in its medina and meet its inhabitants. Don’t be afraid. Inside the medina there are 2 main streets (Talaâ Kbira and Talaâ Sghira) that will allow you to exit through the main gate.
In the medina there are 144 different districts, each with their own school, mosque, library and craftsmen (!), which makes for many beautiful things to see.

Not to miss in the Medina:
Al Quaraouine
➺ The tanneries of Chouwara: beware of smells (to see them from above, it is necessary to go to a shop terrace. These stores are always indicated “Tannery”. And no, the entrance is free and you don’t have to buy anything in one of these stores.
Médersa Attarine
Bab Boujloud, the “blue door” of the old Medina

Not to miss outside the medina:
➺ The doors of the Royal Palace
➺ See the view from the North and South Borj (We went south, and at sunset, it was great! No tourists, only locals who come to spend a relaxing time.)
➺ The Rcif door

If you have more time
➺  Spend a day in Meknes, another imperial city in Morocco 64 km away!

  • The gates (Mosque, mausoleum, Royal Palace)
  • The mausoleum
  • The sunrise from the terrace of the Riad
  • The Riad where we slept (Gzira)
  • Mint tea with mint
  • The restaurant Patio Bleu & its beautiful view
  • The sunset from the South Borj (The ramparts)
  • Negotiate to make my purchases
  • The kindness of the people and their welcome

To sleep: There are many Riad located in the medina or just a little outside.
Choose a Riad that offers traditional Moroccan breakfasts and has a roof terrace with a beautiful view

We slept at Riad Gzira Fez
5 Derb FERRANE CHERADA GZIRA,
Fes El Bali
I loved it ♡

To eat: We often ate on the go, tasting different specialities in the street and then, of course, tagines in different restaurants!

Chez le Maréchal Nougat

*
To eat light with a nice view on the roofs of Fez
the Patio Bleu

 

 

Have you been to Morocco ? Are you planning to go?
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