Medina Fez - The oldest quarter of Fez and the whole of Morocco. It consists of many streets and alleys, occupying most of the city. It is almost impossible to recount the streets of the medina, because there are too many of them. Independent walk through them is a whole adventure. The old part of Fez entered the 1000 best places in the world according to our site.
It is no secret that the ancient city quarters are called “medina” in North Africa. As a rule, medins are surrounded by fortified walls and they are entered through massive gates. In this sense, Fez is no exception. Moreover, this city is the oldest of all the imperial cities of Morocco. He was the ancient capital of the country.
Apparently as a reward for a rich history, Fez is endowed with two medins. One of them is Fes al-Dzhid, and the other is Fes al-Bali. The latter is the center of attraction for tourists. After all, this is the most confused medina in the world. It is like a huge maze, 6000 streets of which are closely intertwined.
Self-wandering the streets of Fes al-Babi can lead to a dead end. Central streets are wider and filled with endless shops. It is noteworthy that this whole gigantic zone is pedestrian. Motorized vehicles are prohibited here.
On the territory of the medina there are beautiful mosques with medieval mosaics, but entry for them is limited for tourists. Of special interest to guests of Fez are dyes of the skin. It would seem that outside the window is the 21st century, and the inhabitants of the medina still dye their skin according to old technologies. This is especially in contrast with satellite dishes installed on almost every home.
The entire territory of the Fessian medina consists of 40 quarters, each of which has its own craft direction (tanning, pottery, etc.). Women especially like the Bu-Inanya quarter, where henna is made and decorated with mehendi painting.
One of the most famous sights of the medina is the University of Al-Karuin, founded in the XII century. Also, in the old town is the mausoleum of Idris II. In the new medina of Fes al-Dzhid, there are the gardens of Bou-Jaloud and the Royal Palace. You can get to Fez by train from Casablanca or Rabat. Entrance to the old medina is through the Sultan gate of Bu-Dzhelud.
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As a rule, the medina is surrounded by a wall. Usually inside the medina there are quite narrow streets (sometimes less than a meter wide) that make up the real labyrinths. In this regard, automobile traffic in medina is impossible, and sometimes the movement of two-wheeled vehicles is also difficult. The narrowness and complexity of the streets served as an additional obstacle to the possible invaders of the city.
Many medinas have preserved ancient fountains, palaces and mosques, which are preserved in connection with their cultural significance and as tourist attractions.
In Algeria, the old Muslim quarter is usually called “Kasbah” (“citadel” in Arabic).
Housing in Fes
Morocco is not an expensive country, in Fez you can find housing for every taste, color and wallet. There are lots of offers, from budget guesthouses to luxurious riads. Our journey took place under the motto: "Give exotic", so the hotel was chosen purely in the Moroccan style.
The choice fell on the Riad Idrissy and it was a 100% hit. Besides the fact that it is elegantly decorated and located in the medina, the owners of the riad are incredibly cute and helpful people. Is it worth it to talk about amazing breakfasts at the hotel ?! Tastier than here and we did not eat in Morocco.
All guidebooks, as one, recommend visiting Muslim mosques (there are about 250 of them). Like, these are the most ancient buildings of the city, unique architecture, unique painting and other laudatory songs. Yes, they just forget to clarify that the tourist will not stick his nose in there, the entrance is strictly for Muslims. The rest can only admire the facade of the building. We looked at a couple and went where we were pleased.
Fez Dyeing Machines is a cooperative in which about 550 families work. Like 1,000 years ago, they adhere to natural methods of processing leather, so products from Morocco are of high quality.
To make the skin soft, it is soaked in pigeon droppings, and plants are added for coloring. With the help of mint, they get green color, saffron will color the skin yellow, and to get red, they take poppy flowers.
- For the manufacture of leather products use the skins of goats, cows, sheep and camels.
- The skin goes through five stages of treatment: it is soaked, washed, dries, softens, and only then it is painted. The entire process from A to Z lasts 22 days.
- Colors change once a week. For example, this week red, brown and yellow, and the next blue, green and purple.
- Shuara Dyeing House works 365 days a year, without a break for the holidays or bad weather.
At Shuar there is a store in which everything is sold: from belts and wallets, ending with a coat and bags. The price of products, as it seemed to me, was a little overpriced; in the markets, the same products are much cheaper.
This attraction of Fez is very smelly, well, very straight! In order to somehow muffle the pungent smell of rotting flesh, tourists are given a sprig of mint at the entrance.
This is perhaps the most impressive attraction. Few places on the planet can meet something similar. There are three dyes in Fez; Shuara is the largest. The entrance is free.
Address: Hay Lablida Chouara, Fes
Opening hours: 8:30 - 20:00, seven days a week
In the medina, every now and then, you can stumble upon small bakeries that prepare bread for families or for sale in stores. Keeping the oven at home is unprofitable, expensive and unsafe, so many people bring the dough to the bakery, and after a while they take the fragrant bread. Well, or buy a finished product in a store.
It was very interesting for us to find out how everything works from the inside, so we did not hesitate to ask permission to go inside. Moroccans are very pleasant and open, so almost always go to meet tourists. They also treated us with buns, they didn’t take money for bread, they said that it was a gift.
Counters of local markets are full of ceramic dishes with oriental ornaments. Plates, saucers, cups, bowls, caskets - this is only a small part of the range. Eyes run up, I want to buy literally everything! If you, like me, are imbued with the beauty of the dishes, then I recommend to go directly to production.
Here for tourists spend a free tour. We were told about the stages of the manufacture and painting of dishes, we were held in all the pavilions and showed the very most from their arsenal: handmade vases, stunning tabletops, kitchen utensils and more.
Naturally, then they will offer to buy something, but only offer. Nobody will persuade you and convince you that their goods are the best, as we had in India.
Products in production are more expensive than in the same markets. We bought a little carnival for 20 euros. But the quality of the dishes is better.
Address: Art Naji, 20, Fez
Opening hours: 8:00 - 18:00, seven days a week
Markets are my weakness. I have already written more than once how I like the markets of Georgia; in Fez, everything is much larger. You can wander around the market mazes for hours. Here, the malls are full of bright colors of original goods: leather products, ceramic dishes, fabrics of all rainbow colors, silver jewelry, vegetables, fruits, spices, meat rows - this is only a small part of what the trading part of the medina can offer. In markets, the cost is much lower than in production itself, and if you bargain well, the high price will melt like ice cream in the sun.
Two full days in Fez will be enough to see all the key places in the city. We were four and missed the last two days, walking along the already familiar streets. You can see the sights of Fes on your own, but we decided to take a guide. The main reason is the labyrinths of the medina, you can get lost in the narrow streets in two ways. Secondly, not a single guidebook will introduce you to the city like a local resident will do.
The guide found us himself. Walking around the medina, the young guy offered his services, and at that for quite ridiculous money (by European standards). Our 5-hour excursion cost 20 euros for two adults, that is, 10 euros per person. We were satisfied with the tour 100%, listened to the guide with an open mouth. He showed us all the most interesting things in the city and paid attention to the smallest details that we would never have noticed on our own.
Find a guide is not difficult, near the gates of Bab-Bou-Dzhelud guides offer their services. Such excursions are conducted in English, French and Spanish.
But there is one caveat - in places where the guide will take you, the cost of goods / souvenirs is greatly overstated. Most likely the guides receive% of the tourists given. My advice to you: go, look, ask the price, but don’t buy anything. With a probability of 99% you will buy the same goods on the market much cheaper on your own. We believed in our and overpaid.
Outside the medina, Fez is teeming with red cars - it's a local taxi. The fare in the city is 10-20 dichrams / 0.9-1.8 euros, depending on the distance. In 95% of cases, we did not have to bargain, the driver immediately called the regular fare. Perhaps somewhere they fooled on 5 dhrams, but these are trifles, there was no outright insolence. You can also meet a white taxi. Such cars travel long distances to the airport, for example. White taxis are not allowed to carry tourists around the city from point A to point B.
According to my feelings, the city of Fes is a mixture of Georgia and India, that's true! Here, India's coloring and hospitality inherent in Georgia are characteristic. Everything here is so unusual and unusual, but at the same moment there is a feeling that you are welcome here. Wherever you look, something interesting happens: bread is baked, carpets sewn, doors made, fabrics, jewelry, skin dyed and much, much more. For me, Fez is a treasure box. Every street, every door, every window keeps its secret. Just take a look and everything will sparkle with new colors.
At the same time, Fez is not yet very spoiled by tourists. Here the word "no" is understood the first time and very unobtrusively offer their goods and services. I liked Fez and I would like to come back here!
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The heart of the city
The old part of the city is the most interesting tourist attraction of Fes - fountains with real Moroccan mosaics, narrow streets along which donkeys loaded with goods move, the noise of markets, towers of madrassas and mosques, as well as dizzy aromas of spices. Here you can spend hours admiring every building, because all of them have survived to this day, almost in their original form.
The facades and doors of many houses have magnificent finishes in the form of lace wood carvings, colored mosaics and arabesques above the entrance. All this looks massive, solid and beautiful, which really was built for centuries. Thanks to the support of UNESCO since the mid-20th century, large-scale restoration work has been carried out in the medina, and since 1980 it has been inscribed on the World Heritage List.
Blurring the boundaries between eras
The authorities have provided numerous benefits for residents of Fes al-Bali in order to keep them from moving to other more modern and prosperous areas of the city. Indeed, without people, the medina will become the next lifeless museum and will lose the color that attracts the guests of Fez.
Fortress walls surround the medina around the medina, and you can enter through the gate, there are several of them, the main of which are called Bab-Bou-Dzhelud. Outside the gates, you will be greeted by 73 km of medieval alleys and streets, intersecting which form squares with brisk trade and shops of artisans working right on the street. Everything that local craftsmen produce is perceived by European tourists as souvenirs, but locals still use them in their daily lives.
Despite the fact that the medina is a tourist attraction, there is not a single card that could at least somehow help the guests. Only the one who was born and raised here can easily figure out the intricacies of the endless maze of streets. In the afternoon, it is not crowded in the streets, but with the onset of coolness the medina comes to life, and numerous cafes are filled with the enchanting and alluring aroma of Moroccan coffee.
40 quarters of traditions and craftsmen
The entire territory of the old medina consists of 40 independent quarters, each of which has a closed structure and includes its own water supply, a hamam, a mosque and a bakery. From one block to another you can get through the doors. For safety reasons, in previous years they were closed at night, but today this tradition is observed only on the night from Friday to Saturday.
All buildings are fastened together with slabs, which creates a single integrity of Fes al-Bali, and only the doors are the connecting link between the blocks. You also can’t determine who owns the house - poor or rich face: all the facades are very similar in appearance, the difference in the interior, which can be seen only through the open doors.
Each quarter has its own craft direction. Quarter Tenneurs is considered the abode of the best masters of the leather industry of Shuar, who has become famous throughout the world. Nejarin is a master carpentry; exquisite works of pottery can be enjoyed in the Henne quarter. Areas of paradise for women will be the areas of Bab-Smarin, where they create the most luxurious jewelry and Bu-inanya, which is famous for the production of henna, here you can decorate yourself with traditional body painting - mehendi.
When exploring the city, you should pay attention to temple architecture, for example, the Zaviyya Mulaya Idris mosque, which is one of the most revered places in the city.