Getting lost in Fez

door Esther

Fes, and especially the Medina, stimulates all your senses. The maze of narrow lanes and souks are bursting at the seams with leather shops, bakeries, piles and piles of herbs and spices, vendors pulling carts or riding donkeys and (overall) friendly people who want to have a chat and sell you their goods. The best way to explore Fes, Morocco, is to just dive in headfirst and not worry where you are going to end up.

Plan your trip to Fes Morocco

  • If you don’t want to get lost over and over (and over, and over) again, like I was, it’s a good plan to take a guided tour through the Fes Medina. The guides can tell you lots of interesting things about all the sights in the Medina and will lead you to cooperative shops where you can buy authentic souvenirs for a fair price with little haggling.
  • Dinner with a view? I highly recommend L’Amandier as it offers amazing Moroccan food and excellent Medina views.
  • Having said that, most riads offer really good dining options. I had dinner at my riad Lune et Soleil where I had the best tajine during my trip through Morocco.

Getting lost in Fes Morocco

The thing that I did most and best when I took my city trip to Fez was get lost. Yes, I was warned beforehand by the friendly host in the Riad where I was staying. He drew me a map, marking the ‘big road’ and told me that whenever I didn’t know where I was, I should just find my way to this road and all would be okay. Well, that was a nice theory. I found myself wondering a dozen times a day where the hell I was! And it wasn’t until I let go and accepted that I shouldn’t even try and find my way, that I was able to really enjoy this magical imperial city that is Fes Morocco.

Fes Morocco: getting lost in the Fez Medina | Mooistestedentrips.nl

Fes Morocco: what to see in the Fez Medina | Mooistestedentrips.nl

Fes Morocco, Fes Medina | Mooistestedentrips.nl

The Fes Medina

The walled old city of Fes Morocco, known as the Medina, is not only one of the oldest medinas in the world, but also one of the only ones left where people are actually still living. Over 100.000 Fassis call this maze of narrow streets and souks their home today. Once you enter the Media through one of the colourful and impressive gates (called a ‘Bab’) you’ll immediately get completely absorbed by the smells of grilled meat, herbs, spices and leather. And even though the board of tourism has placed coloured signs up so you can follow a certain theme through the Medina, these prove to be not quite faultless.

A couple of places that you will be able to find in the Fes Medina, even just by getting lost, are the Kairaouine Mosque, the impressive theological college of Medersa Bou Inania and the Nejjarine Museum of Wooden Arts & Crafts. And if you find yourself completely clueless on how to get back, don’t be afraid to ask the friendly shopkeepers how to walk to one of the main squares or the big road.

Visiting the tanneries

If you’re in the market for a leather jacket that will fit you perfectly or a pair of custom made boots, Fes is the place to go looking. But not before you visit the tanneries. There is no place in the world where you can experience (and smell!) something like this. Now, I was blessed with cloudy weather when I visited the Fez tanneries. I watched the tanneries from one of the rooftops of a leather coopérative and just let me tell you: the small branch of mint they give you: it’s needed. Even on a cloudy day.

Fes Morocco, what to see? Tanneries Fez Morocco | Mooistestedentrips.nl

What to see in Fes, Morocco? Tanneries Fez | Mooistestedentrips.nl

But watching the entire process of leather making, from the tanning of the hides to colouring the leather sheets, I now look with a renewed respect to a leather purse or bag. The cooperative is a good place to make a purchase. You won’t find a better selection of leather in Morocco, the prices are as good as they’re going to get and the profits will flow back to all the people working there.

Drinks and views at Palais Jamaï

Now, it’s a bit of a myth that you can’t buy an alcoholic drink in Morocco. No, you can’t have a beer with a mosque insight, you can’t have a cocktail on the Djemaa el Fna square in Marrakech and having an alcoholic drink in public is frowned upon. However, what people do inside or on their own property is their own business. Therefore, it’s actually not that hard to enjoy a glass of (Moroccan!) wine when you’re in Fez, Morocco. Not every restaurant will serve alcohol, but you won’t have to look hard for places that do.

Photo by Palais Jamai | Mooistestedentrips.nl

And after you survived a hot day in the Medina, you deserve a cool drink and some good Medina views. And there is no better place for these two things than Sofitel Palais Jamaï. This old palace is now a luxurious hotel with a garden and pool area that just breathes a 1001 night atmosphere. As a non-guest you are welcome to just have a drink on their mosaic tiled terrace whilst overlooking the bustling Medina.

Top culture in Café Clock

One place in the Medina that doesn’t require a search is Café Clock. Just follow the signs! Inside you’ll find a three-story restaurant, but it’s actually so much more than that. Not only can you eat fantastic Middle Eastern food at Café Clock, but you can also learn how to prepare it. The café offers many cooking classes but is also the stage for concerts, poetry recitals and other cultural gatherings. The roof terrace is a haven away from the bustling Medina and the perfect place to enjoy a glass of fruit juice and some lunch.

Café Clock | Mooistestedentrips.nl

Café Clock (photo by Café Clock, Fez) | Mooistestedentrips.nl

Discover New Fes

When I say New Fes, take it with a pinch of salt. No high rises or cutting edge architecture here, because the new city of Fes is about 700 years old. Only with a Medina that’s a thousand years old, a 700-year-old part of town can be marked as ‘new’. The largest part of New Fes was built for the palace of Sultan Abu Yusuf Yacoub and even today the palace takes up half the grounds of the entire area. The other half went to the large Jewish population of Fes, forming a Mellah.

This community is long gone, but the streets are still filled with typical Jewish architecture with wooden balconies. A walk through the Mellah and the synagogue and cemetery in the far end of the neighbourhood is recommended, but please keep your wits about. The area used to be the seedy part of town and even though it’s not that bad anymore, I found I got hassled and followed a lot more here than in the Medina, for some reason.

What to see in Fez, Morocco: New Fez | Mooistestedentrips.nl

Fez, Morocco: discover New Fez | Mooistestedentrips.nl

Riad in Fez: Riad Lune et Soleil

When you’re travelling to Morocco I can’t recommend enough you stay in a riad. This is no standard hotel. Often, these traditional houses don’t seem like much from the outside. But once you walk through the door and a small hallway, you’ll find yourself in a small oasis. Most riads have a lush mosaic-tiled courtyard with beautiful large trees and wrought iron garden furniture. The rooms are traditionally decorated and very comfortable.

Riad Lune et Soleil | Mooistestedentrips.nl

I was staying at Riad Lune et Soleil, in the Medina. The courtyard, lined with orange and palm trees and furnished with lovely lounge chairs, had another fun feature: 3 tortoises that kept following each other around and sometimes would crawl towards where I was sitting and look up curiously. My room was large and furnished with artefacts of different centuries like I was sleeping in a treasure box of a long-forgotten explorer. And the best part: the food in this Riad was outstanding. Breakfast would be a feast of pancakes, bread, cakes, honey, jams, eggs and olives. And when I didn’t feel like venturing into the Medina at night in search for food, a three-course meal could be whipped up in no time by the friendly staff.

So, tell me. Have you visited Fez? Please, tell me you got lost as well!

Would you like to read more of my articles in English? Check out the list of English articles.

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Fez Morocco: visit Fez Morocco | Mooistestedentrips.nl

Dit vind je misschien ook leuk

19 Reacties

Karlijn 7 december 2018 - 13:32

Wat een mooi verhaal! Het brengt me weer even terug in Fes, waar we vorig jaar oktober waren. Ook steeds aan het verdwalen, maar dat is in Fes inderdaad niet zo erg (behalve ’s avonds, toen vond ik het minder grappig). Ik vond Fes geweldig.

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Anda 7 december 2018 - 13:33

Interesting report about Medina. I was curious about tanneries because I know there is a horrible smell associated with the vicinity of leather processing, but I see no complaints in your post. Very nice trip overall, with lots of good food involved it seems.

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Mary 7 december 2018 - 13:33

Fez looks absolutely beautiful! I’m glad you enjoyed your visit. It would have been so interesting to see the tanneries and witness the whole process. Your Riad is something I would have expected from Morocco. Lovely photos!

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Linda Bibb 7 december 2018 - 13:35

I have always wanted to go to Morocco, and visiting the Fez medina is definitely on my list. I have read that medinas were deliberately designed so that invaders would have a hard time finding their way in or out. Looks like a challenge I’d like to experience! Thanks for the idea to visit the tanneries on a cloudy day; I’ve heard how pungent they are.

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Anna 7 december 2018 - 13:36

Morocco is on my travel bucket list and The Fez Medina would be one of the first stops to explore the country! I’d absolutely love to do the cooking classes at Café Clock.

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Paul 16 februari 2019 - 17:04

I have lots of memories of going round and round the same squares in Fes trying to find my way out. Such an interesting place to explore. Thanks for bringing back so many fond memories in your article.

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Lisa 16 februari 2019 - 19:24

The riad you stayed in looks amazing! I would love to visit Fez one day. The market sounds incredible and the fact you got to see the tannery was a bonus! The hassle in the ‘new’ part of town spoils it a little bit.

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Rhonda Albom 16 februari 2019 - 21:23

Fes is one of my favourite places. I liked it so much that I returned for a second stay during my month in Morocco. I only got lost once in the maze of alleyways. I would have found my way back but a kind old lady showed me the way to the main street. I was lucky enough to be there during the festival Moussem of Moulay Idriss II.

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Lyn 16 februari 2019 - 22:52

I know what you mean about getting lost. We have just come back from Egypt and the only way to explore the old town of Cairo (Islamic Cairo) is to accept that you will get lost and just go with the flow. Otherwise you spend all day looking at Google Maps and don’t get to see anything.

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Sharon 16 februari 2019 - 23:54

The medina in Fez looks fascinating! I would love to visit the tanneries. I’m good at getting lost, too, but usually that just adds to the experience, right?!

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Bea 17 februari 2019 - 09:40

I really wanna experience the tanneries. Yes, I hear the smell is overwhelming, so not looking forward to that :) #farawayfiles

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Garth 17 februari 2019 - 13:20

Ah Morocco! It’s high on my list of places to still see in the world. Fez looks fascinating, especially the tanneries, I’ve heard this before that they are very smelly. I love all the patterns of Islamic art, especially the tiles. Your courtyard riad looks and sounds delightful. Have pinned for future reference :)

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Janis 17 februari 2019 - 14:26

Fes sounds like a really fascinating city and the tanneries look incredible.

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Jill 17 februari 2019 - 17:10

Beautiful photos of such an exotic city. I tend to get lost easily so I’m sure I would spend my entire time in Fez lost!

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Sarah 17 februari 2019 - 21:10

Amazing pictures and so much great information. I had a doctor’s appointment this week and the doctor couldn’t wait to tell me all about his trip to Morocco. After reading this I really want to go.

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Hilary 19 februari 2019 - 21:05

I would really really like to visit Morocco! Thank you for sharing this with us.

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Rob+Ann 20 februari 2019 - 05:21

Getting lost in Fez is one of the things we’re most looking forward to when we visit Morocco! We’ve heard from, well, everyone that you will get lost, so we figure we should embrace it. Some of our best experiences happen when we get lost, too. We’ve also heard good things about Cafe Clock. So much for us to look forward to!

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Erin Gustafson 20 februari 2019 - 13:39

Oh we really want to go to Morocco and would definitely seek out a riad when there. Fez looks amazing and I’m a firm believer in getting lost sometimes. What a beautiful post, definitely pinning for later! Cheers from Copenhagen, Erin.

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Shona 22 februari 2019 - 08:54

Ah, Morocco! So far I haven’t made it, but I’ve pinned this for when I get there. I’d definitely be happy to get lost in Fez.

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