As we did not know well what to do in Fez and the old town seemed scary for inexperienced travelers (and we were not even comfortable with the persistent false Moroccan guides of the time), we ended up accepting the offer of a local boy to guide us through the Medina of Fez.
At the first glimpse of a policeman, the young man disappeared without a trace, leaving us lost in the labyrinthine medina of Fez. Naturally, we managed to get out of the old town, although the mood after the event was not the best.
Despite this, at the end of the afternoon, the young man appeared at the door of our hotel, accompanied by half a dozen friends looking like a ruffian, demanding payment. It was not, for all this, a perfect first meeting with the imperial city of Fez.
I was therefore very curious to return to Fez to reconcile with the city. Was the medina of Fez very changed?
He wanted the fate that, 20 years later, returned to Fez. In addition to wanting to travel around the medina and visit Chaouwara tanneries, had no decisions made about what he would do in Fez. Even because I would give myself to the guidance of Abdelkader Malal, an official Moroccan guide, to show me the corners of the old city; including some of their favorite places and things to do in the Medina of Fez for the average tourist (yes, like visiting a tannery).
Here, then, are some of the most emblematic places I've been to. Or, in other words, a small compilation of things to do in the medina of Fez. Let's do it.
My visit to the medina of Fez
#1 Peppermint Tea in the Coffee Clock
I arrived in Fez at the end of the afternoon on a pleasant day at the end of March and, after leaving things at riad La Maison Bleue BathaI went to meet the Coffee Clock. Those who accompany my travels know my fascination for coffees, which is why I could not miss one of the most popular new cafes in the city. That's where I took the first mint tea from the trip.
Before a divine dinner at the luxurious Palais Faraj Suites & Spa, time to still see and feel and hear the medina the seething of life and smells and sounds. It was the perfect way to start exploring the old town two decades later.
#2 Enjoy the door Bab Bou Jeloud
Early in the morning, before breakfast, I left to feel the city wake up. Given the geographical proximity of my riad with Bab Bou Jeloud, known as the "Blue Door", it was from there that I began to visit Fez.
Apparently, the walls of Fez are about 12km long. Along them there are a set of doors, among which Bab Bou Jeloud is one of the most emblematic. It is, in fact, one of the most important entrances in the old city of Fez, with a triple arch structure with moorish architectural inspiration built over 100 years ago.
Like the rest of the old city, Bab Bou Jeloud was abnormally quiet. One of the advantages of waking up early on the road!
#3 Go through rainbow street
Not far away is called Rainbow Street. It is actually little more than an alley where local handicrafts are sold, made visually more attractive due to the use of many colors - on the floor and on the walls. It is a tactic increasingly used around the world to attract tourists and Instagrammers, which in Fez also seems to result.
I passed on Rainbow Street yet the town was waking up, after crossing Bab Bou Jeloud, and there was no one on the street. On Rainbow Street, the first salesman was slowly preparing to open the bank to groups of foreign tourists who would soon begin to appear.
#4 Exploring the alleys and cul-de-sacs
One of the things I enjoyed doing in Fez was to cycle through the medina early in the morning and explore the alleys perpendicular to the main arteries. The most entertaining thing is that many were cul-de-sacs that, after much walking, ended at the door of a room.
For me, seeing Fez deserted, thus slowly waking up, was the perfect way to reconcile me with the city. And I had not seen anything yet ...
#5 Appreciating the architecture (and the ports) of Fez
It was then time to return to riad, have breakfast, and join the guide Abdelkader Malal to explore the old city of Fez with those who know it well.
At its core, the Fez medina has changed in the last few decades. It is, of course, better cared for and less chaotic - admittedly - but it has not lost its soul. souk where the daily life usually takes place, along with the visits that the tourism there takes. But it continues, for example, to have garbage collectors transporting garbage out of the medina using donkeys.
Yes, Fez remains a true empire of the senses. From those destinations to explore with all of them well awake. The smells of tanneries, the spice of spices, the colors of the back streets, the textures of the old wooden doors, the call of a muezzin mixed with the warnings of the porters pushing carts full of food in the narrow alleys of the medina It's a frenzy that sends me back to my dear Iran and makes me feel at home.
#6 Visit the Madrasa Bu Inania
The Madrasa Bu Inania was once one of the most important religious institutions in Fez and is presently the most well-known Koranic school among tourists. It was built at the beginning of the second half of the 14th century and, after recent restoration works, retains an extraordinary beauty.
The main entrance of Bu Inania gives access to a large central courtyard with marble floor that, after much patience, I managed to have for a couple of minutes practically just for me. Unsurprisingly, the mistress gained an even greater charm with silence and empty spaces. The tiles and other extraordinary decorative motifs took on a life of their own, with every detail clamoring for deserved attention.
Bu Inania is undoubtedly a visually stunning madrassa! It was another highlight of my visit to Fez.
#7 Lose yourself in souks feed …
Continuing the visit, I went through the various souks within the medina of Fez. In fact, the whole old city looks like a souk continuous, vibrant and full of people (at this hour). A fantastic contrast to the early hours of the morning, when everything was quiet and deserted.
Our souks, there are plenty of fruit and vegetable stalls, fish vendors and butchers. I saw everything a little, including a kid breaking up a ram's head. I could have had more time in the city and I would have used it to lose myself even more in the labyrinthine markets of Fez.
#8 ... and admire the work of the Moroccan craftsmen
There is no way to not notice them. Not even for the rhythmic sound of the hammers. Tum, tum, tum. Latoeiros. Knife builders. In the background, artists who make traditional crafts, perhaps secular family traditions, endure. The soul of Fez also passes through them, the artists. It is to keep an eye open.
Just do not expect to find the workshops where the famous pottery of Fez is produced, which are no longer in the medina. In these factories, it is possible to watch the handcrafted production of traditional ceramic parts, including molding, painting and baking. But for this you need to get out of the old town.
#9 Getting to know the tanneries of Fez (Chaouwara tanaria)
Finally, I could not fail to know the tanneries where the tanneries of Fez work. Abdelkader's choice fell on the Chaouwara tannery, one of the most well-known in the city.
Access was made by a shop - of course! - which had a terrace with a privileged view to the vats where the skins are dyed. At the entrance, they gave me a branch of mint to better withstand the nauseating smell of the tanneries. And there I stayed for a few minutes, watching the hard work of the men, some stuffed in the "honeycombs" with colored water up to the thigh; others carrying "clean" skins, among other things, with pigeon feces.
It was the perfect way to end my visit to Fez. Tétouan would be the next stop in my short and pleasant Northern Morocco script.
Map: what to see in Fez
More photos of Fez
How to get to Fez
Fez is just over an hour and a half by plane from Lisbon, and it is not very difficult to find cheap flights between Portugal and Fez. I flew with TAP, from Porto to Fez, with stopover in Lisbon.
Where to stay
For more detailed information about accommodation, see the post about us where to stay in Fez, where I recommend some of the best riads of the city.
By way of summary, I stayed in the La Maison Bleue Batha, next to the medina of Fez, which has good location and excellent value for money. Highly recommend without reservations.
Alternatively, among the most praised riads from Fez are the elegant Riad Le Calife; the cozy Dar Delilah; The beauty Riad Alya; and the familiar Riad Andalib. For those looking for budget accommodation, the Fés Touria Palace is one of those good and cheap hotels where it is worth staying. Search for other quality options using link below.
A World Nomads offers one of the best and most complete travel insurance recommended by National Geographic and Lonely Planet. Other excellent and cheaper option is IATI Seguros, which has no age limit and allows multivariate insurance (including long-term travel) to any destination in the world. It's the insurance I use in my travels.
I traveled with the support of Morocco Tourism.