VISIT FEZ

An ancient breeding ground for scholars and artisans, imams and gourmands – Fez is a supremely self-confident city with a historical and cultural lineage that beguiles visitors. And there is something intangibly raw about a place where 70,000 people still choose to live in the maelstrom of a medina so dark, dense and dilapidated that it remains the world's largest car-free urban area. Donkeys cart goods down the warren of alleyways as they have done since medieval times, and ruinous pockets loom around every corner – though a government drive to restore Fès el-Bali to its former glory is spurring changes. Fez’ medina can seem like it's in a state of perpetual pandemonium; some visitors fall instantly in love and others recoil in horror. But its charms are many. Seemingly blind alleys lead to squares with exquisite fountains and streets bursting with aromatic food stands, rooftops unveil a sea of minarets, and stooped doorways reveal the workshops of tireless artisans.

Sights in Fez

Chaouwara Tanneries
The Chaouwara tanneries are one of the city’s most iconic sights (and smells), offering a unique window into the pungent, natural process of producing world-class leather using methods that have changed little since…
Art Naji
Ceramics are everywhere in Fez – from the distinctive blue pottery to the intricate mosaics decorating fountains and riads. Art Naji is the place to go to see the real deal being made. The centre is a professional o…
Medersa Bou Inania
A short walk down Talaa Kebira from Bab Bou Jeloud, the Medersa Bou Inania is the finest of Fez’ theological colleges. It was built by the Merenid sultan Bou Inan between 1351 and 1357, and has been impressively res…
Nejjarine Museum of Wooden Arts & Crafts
This museum is in a wonderfully restored fondouq (rooming house) – a caravanserai for travelling merchants who stored and sold their goods below and took lodgings on the floors above. Centred on a courtyard, the roo…
Jnan Sbil (Bou Jeloud Gardens)
These lush gardens are a breath of fresh air after the intensity of Fez's medina. Although over a century old, extensive renovation and replanting have reinvigorated the gardens' splendour, and locals come in droves…
Royal Palace
The entrance to Fez's Palais Royale is a stunning example of modern restoration, but the 80 hectares of palace grounds are not open to the public. Visitors must suffice with viewing its imposing brass doors, surroun…
Ibn Danan Synagogue
This pretty 17th-century synagogue was restored with the aid of Unesco in 1999. The doors are rarely flung wide, so you may need to find the guardian to invite you inside and point out the main features, including a…
Medersa el-Attarine
Founded by Abu Said in 1325 in the heart of the medina, the Attarine was designed as an annexe to the nearby Kairaouine. The central courtyard displays the traditional patterns of Merenid artisanship, with magnifice…
Rue des Mérinides
The most architecturally impressive street in the mellah is Rue des Mérinides, lined with houses that are distinguished by their wooden and wrought-iron balconies, as well as by their stucco work. Jewish ladies woul…
American Fondouk
This nonprofit organisation's raison d'être is to help give the working equids of Fez medina a better life, and improve health and welfare education among the often-poor families who depend on working donkeys, mules…
Batha Museum
Housed in a wonderful 19th-century summer palace and converted to a museum in 1915, the Batha Museum houses an excellent collection of traditional Moroccan arts and crafts. Historical and artistic artefacts include …
Borj Nord
Like its counterpart on the southern hills (Borj Sud), Borj Nord was built by Sultan Ahmed al-Mansour in the late 16th century to monitor the potentially disloyal populace of Fez. Sitting on a level with the Merenid…
Henna Souq
This souq, off Talaa Kebira, is one of the medina's oldest marketplaces. It's dominated by a huge graceful plane tree shading stalls selling ceramics and traditional cosmetics, including henna. This is a good place …
Palais Glaoui
This 18th-century palace is as fascinating for its state of disrepair as it is for its architectural magnificence. It was built by a pasha from Marrakesh and the family living here have been its guardians for 100 ye…
JEWISH SITE Mellah
In the 14th century Fès el-Jdid became a refuge for Jews, thus creating a mellah (Jewish quarter). The records suggest the move was orchestrated to offer the Jews greater protection, and they repaid the favour of th…
Merenid Tombs
These tombs are dramatic in their advanced state of ruin, although little remains of their fine original decoration. The views over Fez are spectacular and well worth the climb. It’s best at dusk as the lights come …
Kairaouine Mosque & University
One of Africa’s largest mosques and possibly the oldest university in the world, this complex is the spiritual heart of Fez and Morocco itself. It's so large that it can be difficult to actually see: over the centur…

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