Whether you’re looking to live the tales of the Arabian nights, or you’re fascinated with the geometry and colours of Islamic architecture, a trip to one of the oldest cities of the world is going to be a fascinating and exhilarating experience. The old medina or city of Fes is filled with narrow alleyways, quaint souks and ancient tombs, while the new city is overflowing with the familiar sounds of the modern city. Fes combines the old and new to create a unique blend of culture and atmosphere which will truly awe any visitor. Read on for 10 best things to see and do in Fes.
1. Chouara Tannery
Fes is famous for its leather and tanneries and the Chouara Tannery is the oldest tannery in the world. The processes and procedures of the medieval times are still preserved in the way the Chouara tannery operates. Visiting the tannery will be an enlightening cultural experience, and you can even leave with some unique pieces. Be prepared for some strong smells and have a scarf or scented handkerchief to cover your nose, but don’t let it prevent you from a great learning opportunity.
2. Funduq al-Najjariyyin
Literally Inn of the Carpenters, the Funduq is located at the centre of the old medina. It is at the point of the Nejjarine Fountain which was a traditional fountain that provided water for travellers and traders that came through the city. The Funduq is a striking example of Riad architecture, particular to Morocco. It is a private museum today, and worth visiting to appreciate the hospitable nature of traditional Moroccan culture, as well as the exceptional architecture and design.
3. Al Quaraouiyine Mosque
Islamic history and culture is rightly proud of the Al Quaraouiyine, which was built in 859 AD by a woman called Fatima al-Fihri. It is usually fascinating for visitors to learn that Al Quaraouiyine is thought to be one of the oldest universities in the world. It is now a mosque, which is not open to tourists, however, the library part is accessible. The nearby restaurants also give wonderful panoramic views of the mosque courtyard and so it can be admired and experienced without entering.
4. Merenid Tombs
The Merenid tombs are situated on top of a hill above Fes, and give spectacular views of the old medina or city. You can climb up here for breathtaking views at sunset. It is where the sultans and the royal family of the Marinid dynasty were laid to rest. Some of the engravings have faded away, however, there is still much to appreciate in terms of the local architecture and history.
5. Tagine and local cuisine
If there is one Moroccan dish which has made its name known across the globe, then it is the tagine. Made with succulent off the bone meat and deliciously cooked vegetables, it is usually served with couscous. The broth is beautifully aromatic and laden with authentic spices. Every mouthful is utterly divine, and no trip to Fes would be complete without sampling this beautiful dish at one of the local restaurants in the old medina. Finished off with some sweet mint tea, it is the perfect meal on any night of the week.
6. Dar el Makhzen
For lovers of royalty and all things majestic, the Royal Palace of Fez is a place that inspires admiration and awe. The interior is not open to the public as it is one of the many palaces around the country that belong to and are dwelled in by the royal family when they visit the city. Dar el Makhzen in Fes is no exception in terms of its glamour. Featuring ginormous brass and gold doors and glorious zellij tiles it is a popular backdrop for tourists to take memorable and beautiful pictures.
Mellah is home to one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world. The Fes Mellah is, in fact, the first in Morocco. It dates back to the 15th century when the sultan housed the growing Jewish community in their own quarter for their own safety and security. The Jewish community certainly thrived here and there are examples of stunning and imposing architecture in the area. The Jewish population has fallen to less than a hundred in the recent era, but Moroccans are proud of their history of religious co-existence and a visit to Fes Mellah will highlight this.
8. Dar Batha
If you can appreciate the work that goes into the upkeep of a traditional Andalusian garden landscape then Dar Batha will surely impress. It is a palace turned museum which displays a number of traditional artefacts. These include Moroccan tiles, embroidery and carpets which are demonstrative of the craftsmanship and skill of the locals. The garden itself has a collection of wonderful sights, sounds and smells in the form of gorgeous plants and trees as well as a glorious water fountain.
9. Bab Bou Jeloud
The Bab Bou Jeloud is a beautiful and ornamental gate which is considered to be the main western entrance into the old medina. It is worth taking a few pictures here and reflecting on the many differences between the old and new parts of Fes.
10. Zaouia Moulay Idriss II
A zaouia literally means ‘corner’ and is the name given to the home of any sufi or mystical orders. Moulay Idris belonged to one such order, and he ruled Morocco from 807 to 828. He is considered to be one of the primary founders of Fes. People traverse from far and wide to visit his tomb. The building is welcoming of all people but tourists may need to be savvy when dealing with people seeking money and donations at these places. A visit to the zaouia is, however, a great way to experience authentic Fes, with all the history and mystery it has to offer. After prayer, beautiful Arabic chanting is often heard echoing through the chambers of the zaouia and can be a wonderfully peaceful and uplifting experience.
Morocco is widely associated with beautifully captivating Islamic architecture. The signature bold patterns and colours can be seen everywhere in Fes, and especially in the old city. The style is both mesmerising and impressive all at once and one can only admire the patience and skill with which the tile work has been designed.
Fes is a city which brings together the old and new in a way which preserves the past and this can be seen everywhere. From enlightening experiences such as visiting the tanneries to gastronomic delights like freshly cooked tagines, a trip to Fes will feel both enriching and relaxing for a holiday all around the year.
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