Fes: two stunning cities for the price of one
Also known as Fez, Fes, technically consisting of two ‘cities’ and located in the north-east of Morocco, is widely regarded as the country’s cultural capital, and it’s easy to see why.
Fes, Morocco’s second-biggest city and capital until 1912, was founded under Idrisid rule in the 8th-9th centuries. Early settlement by Arab families gave rise to the Arabic charm and character which can still be seen throughout the city today. Later eras brought Jewish and French influences to the city, such as the Ville Nouvelle area.
The historic city, referred to as a medina, is steeped in medieval charm and religious and cultural heritage. From the second you set foot on the paved labyrinth-like streets, which form a UNESCO World Heritage Site, be prepared to be wowed by the colours, architecture and mouth-watering aromas the city has to offer.
Its Mediterranean climate gives rise to an outdoor lifestyle, with beautiful places to explore including the Jardin Jnan Sbil. These gardens are so stunningly presented that you can easily spend a couple of hours looking around and even take a picnic for a very scenic lunch.
Surrounding the medina are city walls and fortification gates which once protected the city. Among these, the beautiful Blue Gate, decorated from top to bottom in mosaic tiles, is a fantastic photo opportunity as you enter the medina. The Bab Al Amer gate, located slightly further from the medina, is also stunningly ornate and has been in place since 1276.
The world’s oldest university, Karaouiyne University, while not accessible to non-Muslims, is also worth a visit. Equally, the Royal Palace is also closed to visitors but the outer architecture is eye-catching.
For travellers who fancy a bit of ‘me time’, why not treat yourself to a traditional hammam spa? These often include a full body scrub, along with hot and cold water treatments and a full body massage.
The medina of Fes is most famous for leather goods and these can be found aplenty. The leather tanneries are one of the main tourist attractions, with the surrounding shops giving great views of the tanneries. Be prepared for the strong smell though!
A more pleasant smell is provided by tagines, a truly mouth-watering traditional Moroccan dish not dissimilar to a stew. Couscous, a variety of fragrant salads, pastilla (pigeon pie) and the gorgeous harira soup are all well worth a sample. In fact, there are so many delicious foods to try that it could be worth booking a culinary tour to get a full picture.
For a traditional Moroccan market experience, there are also numerous souks to stroll around, but be prepared to be pestered by the traders.
Accommodation and travel
If you’re staying a few nights in Fes, it could well be worth searching for a hotel which has been converted from a traditional Moroccan home – a riad. Some of these, like the Riad Al Makan, are now stunning luxury hotels and present a fantastic opportunity to experience Fes culture.
Fes is an easy city to explore on foot, although there are also inexpensive taxis available.
The more adventurous traveller can even see Fes as part of a wider motorcycle tour of Morocco.
Fes can be reached in just three hours direct from London Gatwick, with prices at around £120 return. Direct flights also operate from London Stansted.
For more ideas about what to see and do while visiting Fes, head over to the official Visit Morocco website. Got a tip you’d like to share? Post a comment below!
Photo credit: Mittmac