Fes has always been a place of fascination for us, due to our joint love of ‘magical’ Morocco. Having secured some cheap return flights and our accommodation through the lovely Riad Tizwa, who owns a sister riad near the old medina, we were set.
Located inland in Northern Morocco, the city of Fes was the former capital. It is now Morocco’s second largest city behind Casablanca and known as the country’s ‘cultural capital’. The medina itself boasts UNESCO World Heritage Status with over 9000 streets to wander and is called Fes El Vali.
Landing at Fes Sais Airport with a speedy transition through immigration, very different to Marrakech which is somewhat slower. We were met by our transfer and after little under 30 minutes we were sipping mint tea with Merieme inside Riad Tizwa. This riad like its sister in Marrakech is throughly authentic and tastefully decorated with a palatial feel. With 9 bedrooms it is a good size with a spacious terrace to take in the views of Fes and overlooking the medina itself. We enjoyed relaxing up here and taking our breakfast and mint tea on the roof. The staff were very helpful and always willing to offer recommendations of what to see or where to eat. Our room, room 4 was located on the roof. A beautiful and simplified Moroccan room and en suite, just perfect for our stay.
We had a rough plan in our heads, it’s the travel blogger in us, which also included a bit of r and r. Which is few and far between these days. After taking some advice on our first morning about a guide, which was difficult at first as we are so used to the Moroccan hustle and bustle, in finding our own way. It became pretty obvious that this was the right decision on stepping through the famous ‘Blue Gate’ (it is actually green on the opposite side) and into the old medina. We smile as we write this, thinking back to last week and how helpful it was to have Mohammad with us. From our observations the guides seem to play an integral part of life in the medina and the main aim of getting visitors around. Making sure they see all the highlights, to that there is many. We took in the Chouara Tanneries, a first for us. Which is viewed from a terrace and an ideal platform for photographs. It awakens all of your senses, through the colours, smells and sounds of the workers from below. Other noteworthy sights we visited were the Al Attarine Madrasa built in 1323 by Uthman II Abu Said, a marinid sultan. Which was a religious school and Madrasa’s are constructed with beautiful tiles, crafted plasterwork and cedar wood from the high atlas. The University Al Quaraouiyine is located inside the medina and is recognised by UNESCO as the very first founded university in the year 859 some 1159 years ago, quite impressive. Onto the Nejjarine Museum of wooden arts and crafts, this museum which is a restored fonduck. This means a inn where travelers and tradesmen used to stay on the trade routes, as they were designed to accommodate horses, camels and carts. The exhibition is on three levels but photographs of the items are prohibited. There is also a rooftop terrace with great views. A good choice for lunch in the old medina is at Restaurant Asmae, which is only open on lunchtimes and offers a Moroccan feast for around 240 dhs per person with drinks.
In between these main sites we took in the day to day life of Fes Medina, with hanging camels heads, street performers, as well as dodging the obligatory donkey or two and the mopeds. If we were to describe and recommend Fes to anyone we would say it is a perfect introduction to Morocco for the first time traveller and it offers you a real sense of culture, history and authenticity. Our recommendation would be to visit Fes then venture onto Marrakech as you will be climatised to Moroccan life.
If you want to seek some solace and relaxation outside the walls of the medina, head for Jardin Jnan Sbil. The public botanical gardens are lovely to explore and have a walk through.
Our food recommendations are Fez Cafe, Riad Fes and Dar D’or. These are all located within a 5 minute walk from Riad Tizwa. Make sure to try a pastilla, tagine and an assortment of Moroccan salads with homemade bread whilst in Fes.
If you are wanting to explore more of Morocco whilst staying in Fes, there are plenty options including Meknes, Volubilis and Moulay Idriss which is around 900 dhs for two people for the day with a driver. Or further afield Chefchaouen, where we visited the blue pearl of Morocco. This blog on the blue city will soon follow. The cost was 1400 dhs for the day and well worth it. This was all arranged through Merieme at Riad Tizwa.
Fes was a new adventure for us both, as we are regular travellers to Morocco it is notably more relaxed and life seems to set at a slower pace. If visiting Morocco, Fes is a must to be ticked off the list and 4 days is a perfect amount of time to stay here.
A few tips…
- On arrival make sure to pick up a landing card and fill it out prior to immigration. The same needs to be repeated on your departure.
- Exchanges can be found in the arrivals hall, with a rate of 12 dhs to the pound (correct at time of writing) However we used our Starling Bank card a lot and benefitted from a much better exchange rate of 12.42 dhs.
If you wish to ask me any questions about Fes or Morocco feel free to message me anytime.