Morocco Diaries – Figuring out Fes

Our three brilliant days exploring Fes gave us a real glimpse of Morocco, without the overcrowding and tourist tat of Marrakech. We visited in the month of April, which, although it meant scorching temperatures (think 37c!), it was a great Spring time trip from the UK.

Honestly, I wasn’t too sure what to expect with Fes, but it was cleaner and calmer than I expected, and not as much people ‘hassle’ as people lead you to believe about Morocco.

First Impressions

Fes offered us a fantastic insight into Moroccan life, culture and history. As the oldest of Morocco’s four imperial capitals, and one of the most complete cities in the ancient Arab world, it is a compelling destination on any trip to the country.

As with a number of Moroccan cities, it has a modern side – the Ville Nouvelle, but most of Fes’ attractions lie in the incredible Medina-city of Fes el Bali. The city’s layout is incredibly confusing and best explored on foot. Just prepared to be patient wandering in the medina, it is an intricate web of alleys and laneways, which all start to look the same! The locals certainly find it amusing watching you go by hundreds of times.

guide to fes morocco

What to Do and See

guide to fes morocco

guide to fes morocco

The Tanneries

Fes has an interesting selection of things to do, but none more essential to visit than the tanneries, for which Fes is famous. There are a number dotted around town, but the most well-known is at Chouwara. To find it, look for the signs on the walls which are there to guide tourists. However, to access – and there are numerous vantage points, you need to go into a leather shop and upstairs. Just ask and someone will guide you. Local staff are more than happy to share how the leathers are treated and dyed, and are surprisingly not too pushy about buying products. However, prices are definitely higher here than in other stores in town but we did choose to tip our guide 20 dirham for his tour and explanation.

guide to fes morocco

guide to fes morocco

The leather production process here in Fes has barely changed since the sixteenth century, so it definitely a worthwhile visit. Also, it really didn’t smell as bad as people say!

The Royal Palace

Fes’ Palais Royale is a beautifully restored building, located between old and new Fes. Unfortunately, visitors are not permitted to enter its grounds, but it’s really worth a quick look in and appreciation of the detailing!

guide to fes morocco

guide to fes morocco

Explore the Medina and Bab Boujeloud

The city’s oldest part and also a UNESCO World Heritage site, we spent plenty of hours wandering the medina and losing ourselves for hours in the small shops. It is almost impossible to find your way without Google Maps, or a very good paper map, but luckily, despite the heat, the alleys are well shaded. Bab Boujeloud is the gate at the heart of the medina and a great spot for a bite to eat at a cafe. Beware though, many food market stands have animal body parts hanging up, including heads! Quite the surprise as you’re walking by…

guide to fes morocco

guide to fes morocco

guide to fes morocco

It’s also a wonderful place to pick up some lovely goods. You can find hundreds of spices, bathing goods, leather items, silver table ware and lamps and gorgeous clothes.

guide to fes morocco

guide to fes morocco

guide to fes morocco

guide to fes morocco

guide to fes morocco

Medersa Bou Inania

One of the key tourists sites in Fes is this Medersa. This is a place where young Muslims would come to study religion, and many students lived in small residential rooms here too.

This Medersa is, without a doubt, one of the most alluring buildings in the whole country. Amazingly well maintained, without the crowds, it was a wonder to explore. As well as the downstairs main courtyard, you can explore the upper level and the student rooms, which makes for a great photo opportunity!

Medersa Bou Inania

guide to fes morocco

guide to fes morocco   guide to fes morocco  guide to fes morocco    guide to fes morocco  guide to fes morocco

guide to fes morocco

Explore the old Jewish quarter

Once known as a Mellah, in centuries gone by, this was the old Jewish quarter. It has a slightly more spacious feel than the rest of the medina, with different architectural styles.

guide to fes morocco

guide to fes morocco

guide to fes morocco

The Bou Jeloud Gardens, also known as Jardin J’nane S’bile

The ideal oasis in the big city, these gardens are tucked away and remain perfectly peaceful. There’s a serene lake too and it’s a delightful spot for people watching.

guide to fes morocco

guide to fes morocco

guide to fes morocco

guide to fes morocco

Climb to the top of Mount Zalagh

Looming over Fes is Mount Zalagh which is well worth climbing to the top. At first we thought it looked a bit ominous and probably a prime spot to get mugged, but it was actually totally fine to go at sunset. I wouldn’t recommend visiting after dark. The views are amazing and really give you perspective on the sheer size of Fes!

guide to fes morocco

guide to fes morocco

guide to fes morocco

guide to fes morocco

Henna Souk

To add to our authentic experience, we really enjoyed getting henna from a local girl. She couldn’t speak english but we spent ages picking a design before she delicately and softly applied the henna to our skin. It is like experiencing a real art form again, as opposed to the 2-minute henna art places in Dubai, for example.

guide to fes morocco

Try a Hammam

For the ultimate local experience, a hammam is a must. There are plenty of private hammams for a more luxurious and pampering experience, but we were too curious to know what happens in a local hammam.

What an experience this was and perhaps one we don’t need again – but to do once is essential! We bought all the local products, mostly clay based for our hair and body.

guide to fes morocco

Eat at Cafe Clock

If I could suggest one place to eat in Fes, it would, without a doubt be the wonderful Cafe Clock. Topping the list of foodie places in the city in almost every magazine or guide, the food is unbeatable. Camel burger? Got it. Date cheesecake? Got it. The best iced coffee in town? Definitely.

I nagged my friend to eat there for nearly every meal as I couldn’t get enough.

It’s fairly tucked away and you might need some directions from local guides, but when you’re inside, there are four storeys or so of cosy and cool seating. The cafe’s staff were really friendly and the cafe often puts on events such as live music or quiz nights. It really was a really wonderful place for locals and tourists to relax and mingle.

guide to fes morocco

guide to fes morocco

guide to fes morocco

guide to fes morocco

Stay in a local riad

Enhance your Moroccan experience and enjoy true local hospitality by staying in a riad. We stayed for three nights in Dar Warda, a small-family run riad tucked away about 5 minutes from Bab Boujeloud. We had a lovely room with some amazing tiling and a pretty roof terrace with panoramic views. A really brilliant breakfast was included, which really set us up for the day.

Getting to Fes

We arrived by train into the Ville Nouvelle, before walking to the medina (approx 40 minutes). We discovered later how cheap taxis are, and would recommend this instead of walking.

We left by bus from the CTM station, located 5 minutes walk from the old medina. A fairly hectic and messy station, my main advice would be to come and by your onward bus tickets a fair few days before you want to go. They definitely sell out their seats!

Overall, Fes was a fascinating stop on our Morocco itinerary. Jam packed with history and interesting architecture, but so much less touristy than we expected.

I hope this post has been useful for anyone planning a visit to Fes. Feel free to ask any further questions in the comments section below!

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guide to fes morocco

 

 

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16 Comments

  1. February 21, 2018 / 4:02 pm

    What gorgeous photos! I really love middle eastern architecture. They always put so much attention and detail into decorating their palaces and places of worship.

  2. February 21, 2018 / 4:48 pm

    Morocco looks absolutely fantastic! I really want to visit is as well, hope I will do that soon enough!

  3. February 21, 2018 / 9:18 pm

    Wow… so many incredible things to see. I like that you didn’t just do the typical touristy stuff and you really got into the culture – it’s helpful for those of us not in a position to travel right now. I had no idea it was that colorful of a place <3

  4. February 21, 2018 / 11:13 pm

    This place is beautiful! So much history and charm. Your picture really tell the story of this country’s unique culture and architecture.

  5. February 22, 2018 / 7:41 am

    Fes really looks so beautiful, and your post confirms that I must return to Morocco so I can see Fes! I was there earlier this year, but unfortunately did not have enough time to fit it into the trip. Your photos also turned out really nice!

  6. Agnes Vazhure
    February 22, 2018 / 2:12 pm

    I love the photography you have. Fes really looks amazing and lots of history. It makes me wanted to visit this place someday.

  7. Elizabeth O
    February 22, 2018 / 2:55 pm

    Morocco looks incredible, what an amazing experience you got to have. I love the look of all the architecture it’s so picturesque!

  8. February 22, 2018 / 4:07 pm

    Such beautiful photos, I always love seeing your adventures. I’d love to visit Morocco one day, so many beautiful colours and cultural and historical sights to see!

  9. Esme Sy
    February 22, 2018 / 4:30 pm

    Gosh, what beautiful sights and places! Certainly, I didn’t see these from the last Mission Impossible movie but I’ve always been interested in Morocco. Those textures, doors, walls, it’s brimming with culture. Thank you for sharing your wonderful pictures!

  10. Sue Tanya Mchorgh
    February 22, 2018 / 4:32 pm

    Morocco! Wow , so beautiful. The details in the building and those bright colours… so amazing.

  11. February 22, 2018 / 6:25 pm

    Morocco looks incredible, such a magical place, thanks for sharing their history and culture 😀

  12. February 22, 2018 / 6:41 pm

    Your pictures looks amazing!! I am super jealous – Morocco looks like a fab place to visit. so much culture, food – how exciting x

  13. February 22, 2018 / 8:23 pm

    What an amazing place to visit, Morocco is on the top of my wishlist. Those streets, colorful varieties on the shops, buildings, tradition, it is just so interesting and beautiful. I love all your pictures, would love to visit it soon.

  14. February 22, 2018 / 8:32 pm

    This is such an inspirational post! I believe that travel is one way of truly living life and experiencing what the human culture has to offer. Yes looks exotica and fascinating, and inviting me (and my heart) to visit! Love the ornate architecture and the various trinkets that make Morocco one of a kind.

  15. February 23, 2018 / 1:40 am

    Beautiful place without the crowds like you mentioned. It’s always nice to go to places that have less tourists because then you can explore freely and not get stuck in lines and all that.

  16. February 23, 2018 / 9:46 am

    Great heritage to explore. You have portrayed beautifully all elements of culture and nature in this wonderful country. Like your pics immensely.

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