Fez is Morocco’s cultural and spiritual capital. It’s full of history, colour and life: one of the most fascinating cities in Morocco, and it’s easy to reach thanks to direct flights from Gatwick and Stansted, and thrice-weekly internal flights from Marrakech, which take an hour rather than seven-plus by bus or train.
Discover the treasures of the medina or Fez-El Bali. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the largest non-vehicular area in the world, and a unique living and universal museum.
Start your visit by the main gateway of the Medina, Bab Boujloud, the Blue gate and get lost in a medieval labyrinth of narrow streets with countless masterpieces of architecture and historical gems. Do not miss a stop at the Madrasas, Al Attarine and Bou Inania, witnesses to the city’s intellectual and scientific past, and continue to the Quaraouiyine which is the world’s oldest library.
Make sure you visit the artisans’ shops: coppersmiths, potters, weavers, tanners, turners, goldsmiths … it is a fascinating experience watching them working with skills handed down through the ages. Your walk will then lead you to Foundouk Nejjarine, an ancient caravansary that was turned into the Musée des Arts et Métiers du bois (Museum of Woodworking). The top floor of the Foundouk has an amazing panoramic view of the city’s rooftops.
Ask for directions to the famous Tanneries. Every day the tanners here work hard to produce the fine quality leather that is used to make the famous leather that is worked into the clothes and goods you see on sale across the souks of Fez and further afield.
The best way to explore the Medina and not miss anything is to take a guided tour tailored to your main visit’s interests.
It’s time to leave Fez behind and head out to discover the ancient Roman settlement of Volubilis. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is around fifty miles to the west of Fez and can be easily reached by taking a Grand Taxi direct to the site. When you arrive you will be greeted by the sight of low stone walls, towering columns, Roman arches and sturdy gateways. As you explore, with or without a guide, you’ll discover more treasures – ancient mosaics, Corinthian headstones, the remnants of the public baths, carved olive presses and more. Much of it has stood for over two millennia, and you really get a sense of history while walking around the site.
On the way back call in to Meknes, one of Morocco’s Imperial cities and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a modern city with a relaxed atmosphere and a lot of historical monuments that are worth seeing such as Bab Mansour, the enormous Agdal Basin, the Dar Jamai museum of Moroccan Arts and the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, who was the second ruler of the Moroccan Alaouite dynasty.
Start your day with a visit to Jnan Sbil. These beautiful gardens were first planted over a century ago and were opened to the public by Moulay Hassan, Sultan of Morocco from 1873. They have undergone extensive renovation in the last few years to restore them to their original design, giving visitors a taste of nineteenth century Fez. In particular, look for the famous waterwheel, a reminder of the way things were powered when the gardens were first built.
Continue to Fez-El jdid, the Jewish Quarter and spend some time in the jewellery market.
Then travel to the outskirt of the medina walls to visit the Merenid Tombs which sit on a hill overlooking Fez. This necropolis is thought to have been built in the fourteenth century to be the final resting place for the rulers of the Merenids, who conquered Fez in 1250 and turned it into their capital. Even though much of its splendour has been worn away by the passing of time, it is easy to get a sense of its scale by the structures that remain. It’s also a perfect place to overlook the whole of Fez, an unbeatable view that is made even more special when the sun goes down.
If you have time during your stay, plan to go to Hammam, a Moroccan traditional bath and enjoy cleaning your body with ancestral treatments and beauty rituals using 100% natural products from the region: essential oils, Fez clay, savon beldi, henna… or for more fun, take a cooking class and have a recipe to take home.