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Exploring the Majestic Charms of the Medina of Fes - Morocco

 Medina of Fes view from Mount Zalagh
Medina of Fes view from Mount Zalagh

As I write this blog post, I'm filled with joyous memories from my nine-day stay in and around Fez, Morocco. Often overshadowed by the famous tourist capital of Marrakech, Fez offers a unique and impressive travel experience that I almost missed out on if I followed conventional advice. Join me as I share why this incredible city should be noticed during your Morocco visit.

"Athens of Africa"

Fez, the oldest imperial city of Morocco, stands as a testament to the nation's opulent heritage. It's divided into Fes el-Bali (فاس البالي), the ancient city, and Fes el-Jdid (فاس الجديد), the newer part. Each offers a unique journey through history, and the Medina of Fes, or Fes el-Bali, proudly holds the title of a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

  • The University of Al Quaraouiyine, the oldest university in operation, was established in 859.

  • Chouara Tannery, one of the oldest tanneries in the world

  • The media is home to the annual Fes Festival.

  • Morocco is home to a gastronomic delight. Check out my blog, "Exploring the Spice Routes: A Journey Through Moroccan Cuisine." 

  • The Medina of Fes, a 1200-year-old city encircled by walls, is the most well-preserved in the Arab world.

Medina of Fes

Fes of Medina Narrowest Alleyway.jpg
Fes of Medina Narrowest Alleyway.jpg

Exploring the Medina is a popular suggestion. However, I found myself disoriented in a labyrinth of about 9,500 alleyways, most of which are nameless. Unlike other tourist hotspots, Fez is a city where locals thrive, and the city's essence lies in its daily life. For instance, Fez boasts over 60 public fountains (seqqâya), which are still in use today as not everyone has piped water at home. This is just a glimpse of the authentic and vibrant life that Fez offers.

The alleyways are narrow, so cars aren't allowed, but you'll see occasional bicycles. You'll often see donkeys or mules to transport goods to residents' houses or businesses. The Medina of Fes has over 300 Mosques, markets, tea shops, riads (traditional Moroccan houses with inner courtyards, some of which have been converted into hotels or restaurants), cafés, madrasas (Islamic schools), etc. 

People of Fes of Medina: Berbers, Arab warriors, Andalusi families, and rural migrants
People of Fes of Medina: Berbers, Arab warriors, Andalusi families, and rural migrants

Moving throughout the Medina can quickly become overwhelming, and a local guide is needed for cultural insight, language, problem-solving, and lesser-known shopping spots. However, if you wander, you'll be safe and enjoy all the Medina of Fes offers.  

The View

Hike up Mount Zalagh to truly appreciate the vastness and beauty of Medina of Fes. As the highest mountain overlooking the city, it offers stunning panoramic views. The mountain is also an opportunity for hiking, biking, and birdwatching. It is also home to wildlife and unique photography opportunities.

One of the medina's several tanneries (Chouara)
One of the medina's several tanneries (Chouara)

Fez, Morocco, often called the "Athens of Africa," has left a lasting impression on me with its rich cultural and spiritual heritage. I felt the deep influence that earned the city its nickname everywhere I went. The warm hospitality of the residents and the city's timeless charm made my journey unforgettable. Fez will always hold a special place in my heart, and I'm so glad I chose to make it my home base during my Moroccan adventure. I hope you take a chance and do the same – you won't regret it.

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