The ancient city of Fes is a unique destination on its own. You will be greeted by donkeys with carts in narrow winding alleyways, ancient traditions and a city smothered in character and culture. It’s not only home to the largest Medina in the world, but also the oldest running university too. If you are looking for an ancient, thriving Moroccan city that’s still steeped in tradition, I would choose Fes.
Often people tilt to either really loving Fes or really hating it, but it turned out to be my favourite city when I visited Morocco despite me having one unpleasant experience. Whilst walking through the Medina a kid threw a rock at my eye, but luckily for me, I had sunglasses on so there were no injuries. Little incidents like this shouldn’t put you off from visiting though. I travelled as a solo female through Morocco and I’m going to be completely honest here, for me it was the hardest country to travel through as a solo woman, however, I had a fantastic time and met some beautiful kind people. Now I know what to expect I would happily go back for another visit. If you are going to travel through Morocco I would highly recommend reading my 6 tips for travelling as a solo female. This article refers when travelling through India, but I would give all the same advice to someone travelling through Morocco too. Here are 10 unique things to do in Fes – one of the most interesting cities in the world.
Visit the famous Tannery
Visiting the Tannery is one of the most popular things to see in Fes. It’s listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This ancient process still runs today as they use natural dyes from flowers to dye the leather. Beware, it is super pungent but usually, your guide will give you a bunch of fresh mint to stick under your nose to stop the smell making you want to projectile vomit everywhere. You can visit on your own through one of the leather shops but just beware that the salesman will give you a tour and expect a little tip in return. I did a walking tour (250RAD) with the uncle of the family I was staying with in Fes. This way he came with me and made sure I didn’t get ripped off or made to feel uncomfortable. You can book a tour with him by contacting email@example.com.
Walk through the largest Medina
As mentioned earlier, the Medina of Fes is the largest in the world. I stayed in a homestay inside the Medina and this was a fantastic experience. Being right amid the Medina was something special. Winding alleyways filled with shop owners, animals, colourful materials and street food. It was like a carnival for all my senses. I would recommend spending the day getting lost in the Medina, exploring all that it has to offer. If you can, find a vantage point at one of the cafes so you can get a real taste of how far the Medina stretches.
The Grande Porte Bab Boujloud (The Blue Gate) is the gateway into the Medina. Its famous for its beautiful ornate blue mosaics and on the other side it is decorated green. The blue side of the gate represents the colour of the city Fes. The city of Fes is known for its pottery, which is beautifully decorated with intricate blue designs. The green side of the gate, which faces the Medina is green to represent the colour of Islam.
Stay at Dar El Mathaf
My favourite experience of Fes was my accommodation run by a local friendly family. I highly recommend staying here if you would like an authentic experience and an insight into daily life in Fes. The family were like an open book, I asked many questions and now I consider them my family of Morocco. One of the best parts was the breakfast which was laid out every morning. Fresh mint tea, pastries and lots of other delicious goodies. A big thank you to Nabil,
Oldest university in the world – University Karueein
Fes is also famous for having the oldest university in the world, which was founded in 859 AD. The University of Karueein is also a UNESCO site. Again, the architecture and beautifully decorated facades will blow you away. The university is still running today with students coming from Central Asia, West Africa and various parts of Morocco. It is still very traditional as students gather in semi-circles around a Sheik (a leader in the Muslim community), and all students must have memorized the complete Quran. This is one of the architectural highlights of Fes.
Madrasa Bou Inania
If you are absolutely in love with all the buildings in Morocco, then this needs to be at the top of your list. The Madrasa Bou Inania is a fine example of the intricate Moroccan architecture and design. This is the only religious building that is still in use that non-Muslims are allowed to enter in the city of Fes, so it’s always a stopover for tourists.
Marvel at the beautiful hotel riads
The gorgeous riads in Morocco are one of the most popular reasons why tourists come here. They are doused in detail, colours and beautifully complex designs that will leave you astounded. I didn’t stay in a hotel that had a riad because they were too expensive to stay in, so instead, I visited some of the hotels during my time in Fes to admire them.
Bou Jeloud Gardens
If you want a break from the chaotic Medina, then make sure you come to the Bou Jeloud Gardens located just outside of the Medina. It’s the perfect place to sit down, relax and collect your thoughts of Fes so far.
Situated at the top of the hill overlooking Fes is the Merenid Tombs, which hold the remains of the Royals members dating back to the 13th century. Although the tombs are not that impressive due to poor care and looting, the view you are rewarded with is quite special. You should definitely make a trip up here during sunset.
Do a day trip to Chefchaouen
You may have seen the blue city of Chefchaouen all over your Instagram and Facebook feed in the past year due to its increasing popularity. I opted to do a day trip from Fes (3 and a half hour drive one way!). Although the drive was long I managed to sleep most of the way there and back and spent a few good hours touring around the small city. It sure is the prettiest city in Morocco by far, if you’re a lover of blue then this place is made for you. With its increasing popularity tourism is by far the biggest business here along with marijuana. You may see on your drive towards Chefchaouen fields and fields of marijuana. This is totally normal and although it’s not legal, officials turn their back at that sort of thing. I can highly recommend eating at Beldi Bab Ssour whilst in Chefchaouen. The food is delicious, fresh and homemade.
Make sure you put Fes on your Moroccan bucket list. Don’t forget to explore every inch of Fes and really enjoy the experience and chaos of this beautifully traditional city.
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