25 Best Things to Do in Fez (Morocco)

The enchanting medieval city of Fez was founded on the banks of the Jahar River in the 8th century by Idris I, a descendant of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

Shortly afterwards, the 9th-century Al-Carwain University arrived, the oldest place in the world for higher education.

In its UNESCO-listed country, Fez is a multi-sensory journey, through the ignorance of technical tanners, the noise of artists designing copper vessels and the variety of scents that will guide you better than any map.

The alleys in Fez are as intricate as the calligraphy, tiles and centuries-old plaster that adorn the city’s palaces, mosques, madrasas and temples.

Let’s explore the best things to do in Fez:

1. Country

Narrow country crossing, strip

What is believed to be the largest pedestrian area in the world is an indecipherable maze of more than 9,000 alleys mostly unnamed.

It is held by many as the largest walled city in the Arab world, where the intertwined streets are so dark and narrow that it is impossible to see them even from the views of the top of the valley.

No map can understand this place, and you’re sure to get lost, but it’s part of the fun.

When people talk about the country, they usually mean both the ancient Pas (al-Bali) and the newer al-Jadid, which was founded in the 13th century during the Marinid dynasty.

During this period, Fez reached its cultural peak, became a capital and gave birth to madrasas, mosques and part of the defense of the city that stands today.

Recommended tour: Guided tour of Fez Medina

2. A madrasa in which she is not

A madrasa in which she is not

A madrasa in Inia, founded in the mid-14th century by the Marinid ruler Abu Inan Paris, is a feast for the eyes, with every inch of the courtyard filled with exquisite art.

It is also the only religious school in Fez that has its own spire, is also a work of art and has been recognized as the best in town.

The laundry fountain in the yard continues to flow after more than 750 years, and standing here it is hard not to be amazed by the geometric tile work on which are Arabic calligraphy strips, the bright plaster with feathers and the carved cedar screens.

The skill and human hours in this space drive the mind crazy.

3. Bab Bo Jaloud

Bab Bo Jaloud

You can see the elegant spire of a madrasa in which it is through the horseshoe arch of the great western gate of al-Bali.

What may surprise you is how young this monument is compared to the religious schools and temples in Fez.

The Bab Bou Jeloud dates to 1913 from the French Protectorate, and is in the Neo-Moorish style known as Mauresque.

What has earned the gate so much affection is its passive tile work, in vivid blue on the outside wall and green on the inside.

Car traffic is prohibited beyond this point, and at dawn to dusk the artery behind it is a parade of pedestrians, mules, donkeys and mopeds.

Some of the best places to dine in Fez are right inside the gate, providing a view of the front row of everyday life in a medieval city.

4. Madrasa al-Atarin

Madrasa al-Atarin

This 14th-century madrasa near the Spice and Spices Market in Suk al-Atarin is a masterpiece of the Marinid dynasty, commissioned by Sultan Abu Said Uthman II.

In the same way as other marinid religious schools in Fez, Madrasa al-Atarin is adorned in its rectangular courtyard with a sophisticated ornament.

There you can stare in awe at the technical achievement of cedar carving and plaster work.

However, the most impressive is the decoration of the tile cutting, using a technique called “thinning” in which the glazing of the tiles is carefully scraped to create a glossy pattern.

In the frieze tiles above the zellig patterns on the wall for the prayer room in the courtyard have the word “Allah” in green calligraphy, carefully inlaid on a white background.

5. Jardin Janan Sbil

Jardin Jenan Sabil

Between Fes al-Jadid and Fes al-Bali is the oldest park in the city, designed in the 18th century on the orders of Sultan Mulai Abdullah.

A rare piece of green space where you can escape the crowds in the country for a few minutes, Jardin Jenan Sabil was allowed to decline until the 2000s when it was replanted.

Now, carefully manicured, the park has a large pool and water gardens with geometric fountains adorned with sludge tiles, all bordered by geometric flower beds of roses, cacti and low boxwood hedges.

The shade has palm trees, orange trees, pines and a cypress avenue and skyscrapers.

6. Fonduk al-Najaraine

Fonduk al-Najaraine

Attracting attention at one end of Najarain Square in the Old State is the magnificent five-meter entrance gate to this 17th-century khan (inn), adorned with a complex cedar canopy.

Above the portal are geometric patterns and elegant flowers and beautifully detailed tile works.

On the side there is a 19th-century skaya, a fountain for caravans, with stunning sludge tiles and gypsum works of honeycomb.

The funduk, commissioned by Sultan Alawi Ismail Ibn Sharif, has been preserved as a museum of woodwork.

See also  15 Best Day Trips from Casablanca

You can go in and look up at the three floors of the galleries, and browse through the showcase of artistic wood carving from the city’s past.

The display shows furniture, doors, musical instruments, canopies and other architectural elements, as well as traditional wooden tools.

There’s a rooftop cafe, for a cup of mint tea high above the country’s chaos.

7. Marinid tombs

Marinid tombs

An exciting panorama of the ancient Pass awaits you in the ruins of a royal necropolis from the Marinid dynasty (13th to 15th centuries). After overthrowing the al-Muhammad dynasty, the Marinidas took over the city in 1250 and soon established the new fortified palace city of Pas al-Jadid alongside the old city, Pas al-Bali.

Remains of two mausoleum with monumental horseshoe arches and light remnants of plaster decoration still stand from this time.

Their occupants are unknown but the quality of the pieces of decoration indicates a high status.

You can do the climb at sunset, stopping to choose the landmarks of the city, such as the high spire of the Al-Karwain Mosque and the Royal Palace, bordered by Malah (the Jewish Quarter). Wait for the call to pray and hear the voices of the muezzins from all corners of the city, all at once.

8. Sharij Madrasa

Sahrij Madrasa

Next to the Andalusian Mosque is a madrasa commissioned in 1321 by the Marinidi sultan Abu al-Hassan.

In time this compound became known for its Saharij, the bathing pool adorned in its courtyard, from which the name came.

The same rectangular courtyard enriched with carved cedar, sculpted marble, colorful sludge tiles and plaster, all designed to remind of the legendary Alhambra Palace complex of Granada.

On the sides accommodation for students and a guesthouse.

9. Zauya Moulay Idris II

Zauya Moulay Idris II

This temple on the Place de Marche Verte is considered one of the holiest sites in Morocco, containing the mausoleum of Idris II (791-828). Founder of the 200-year-old Idris dynasty, Idris II is credited with establishing the first Islamic State of Morocco.

The temple, which sits under the tallest spire in the ancient Fez, was built between 1717 and 1824, and is intended primarily for the residents of Fez, although visiting Muslim practitioners can also enter the mausoleum.

The two-meter-long wooden bars indicated that the place was forbidden to Christians and Jews, but also helped keep donkeys away.

Non-Muslims can now enter the compound and admire the 18th-century white marble fountain of the courtyard, even though the mausoleum at the southern end is not out of bounds.

Pilgrims continue to visit the Temple for good luck, and Idris II has long been associated with fertility among women.

From the entrance to the mausoleum, non-Muslims will be able to identify the tomb on the right through the opening, wrapped in silk brocade.

Notice the cedar wood doors, which were slipped by pilgrims who kissed and caressed their surface for centuries.

10. North Burj

North Burj

One of the most prominent defensive features on the country walls is this 16th-century fortress of the Said dynasty, towering over the city to the north and visible for miles.

The Burj Nord was designed according to the Portuguese artillery forts of the period, and had a dual purpose of protecting the al-Bali strip, but also of keeping the rebellious population of the city under control.

The powerful corner strongholds are new additions from the Alawite period.

Since 1963 the Burj Nord has housed the Arms Museum, with a collection of more than 5,000 items from Morocco, Africa, Europe and Asia, and dates back to prehistory to the 1900s.

Do not leave without seeing the 12-ton Saadi cannon that saw action among the three kings (1578)

11. South Burj

South Burj

The sister castle of Burj Nord is perched on a hilltop across the valley, with a wonderful panorama of Fez to the south.

Burj Secret was built at the time, but unlike its brother it retains its simple square silhouette, with no corner strongholds.

You can get there in a few minutes from Bab Jadid, cross the river and then the Alal al-Fassi Avenue (N6). The route winds up the hill through an olive grove and standing at the base of the citadel walls you can see the whole country of Fez embedded in the valley, with Mount Jabal Zalah rising from behind.

12. Place a saffron

Safrin place

This square is surrounded by a wall on one side of the magnificent, horseshoe-arched entrance to the Al-Carwain Library, and in the center is a knotted plane tree.

But it is the sounds, no less than the sights, that make Safrin Square special, as the rest of the square is given to copper vessels, a craft that dates back to Fez centuries ago.

You will hear the ringing of the artists who design and polish their wares long before you step on Place Saffarine.

Handmade copper utensils hang, glittering in store fronts, where you can haggle over buckets, pots, pans, tajines, trays, incense burners, couscous steamers, sieves, kettles, sugar cans and much more.

See also  15 Best things to do in Agadir (Morocco)

On the north side, near the library entrance, is Cremerie la Place, for a cup of coffee or mint tea.

13. Al Galawi Palace

Al Galawi Palace

This semi-ruined palace from the beginning of the 20th century, is the former home of the politician Tami al-Galaui (1879-1956) notorious for collaborating with the French and helping him overthrow Muhammad V.

This negative association may be why the compound was allowed to come down, but decades of wear and tear take away a bit from the beauty of the palace.

In 2019 it was inhabited by a self-taught artist, who charges a small fee for admission.

Inside there is a glowing Zeliji decoration, painted wood carving, stained glass and plaster work.

Notable rooms are the harem and the large kitchen.

14. Al-Crawain University (Mosque)

Al-Crawain University (Mosque)

Fez grew up around the world’s oldest continuously operating higher education institution, founded in 859. Al-Carwain University is still highly regarded in the Muslim world, and while the modern university has been relocated to a newer part of the city, the library and mosque are still in the country.

The 9th-century mosque underwent two expansions in the 12th and 18th centuries and is stunning thanks to its endless halls, marble fountains, blue-and-white zelligs and delicate plaster works.

This is a prominent site for Moroccan Islam, so unfortunately non-Muslims are not allowed to enter.

You can peek through the gates, or walk to the 14th-century Madrasa al-Atarin for another lookout point.

It is beautiful in its terms, but also gives you a better view of the courtyard of the mosque and of the stone spiers.

15. Burski Chuara

Burski Chuara

Not far northeast of the Al-Carwain Mosque is the largest of the city’s three tanneries that have operated in almost the same way for more than 800 years.

Here sheepskin, goat and cowhide and camel skin are healed and cleaned with a spicy mixture of cow urine, pigeon droppings, salt, halved lime and water.

Once they are soft they are soaked in large colored earth pits to paint them.

Traditionally these would contain turmeric (yellow), indigo (blue), mint (green), henna (orange) and crushed poppy (red), although nowadays chemical dyes tend to be used.

This part of the process is mesmerizing, and the pits look like a huge palette of painters from the terraces above.

16. Andalusian Mosque

Andalusian Mosque

This mosque, upstairs from the factories, dates back to the city’s birthdays in the 9th century, making it one of the oldest mosques in the world.

It was established in the years 859-860 during the days of the Irisid dynasty for Andalusian refugees from Cordoba, who settled in this part of the country.

The work was sponsored by Mariam Binat Muhammad bin Abdullah, the sister of Fatima al-Fihri, famous for establishing al-Carwain University – and the two mosques were historical rivals.

Originally a modest structure, the mosque has been expanded and refined over the centuries.

The square spire dates from the 10th century, and was designed to resemble a spire in the Al-Karwain Mosque.

The gate on the northern façade dates from the beginning of the 13th century and has two arches, one decorated with cast plaster and the other cedar, and both are rich in celestial decoration.

For non-Muslims, this is a monument to enjoy from the outside, but there is enough to see to make the detour worthwhile.

17. Dar you came

Dar you came

Close to Bab Bo Jaloud and just beyond the western wall of the ancient Pass, is a former royal palace built in the late 19th century for Sultan Hassan I and his successor Abdelaziz, as accommodation for their guests.

More than half of the complex occupies an Andalusian-style garden, which is still used for cultural and religious events in the summer.

Dar Baatha has been a museum for more than a century, and is a repository of artefacts from the ruined buildings of ancient Fez.

All aspects of traditional art are displayed, in the form of jewelry, mosaics of gems, embroidery, cast iron, coins and rugs.

There is a magnificent collection of local cobalt blue ceramics, a symbol of the city for more than a thousand years, and astrolabees, a technology adapted by Arab scholars in the 10th century to determine prayer times.

18. Take a guided tour of a country

Gate to the ancient state of Fez

We mentioned that the country maze pass has 9,000 alleys and 40,000 dead ends, as well as an equally complicated history.

So if you want to make sure you do not leave a stone unturned in a city surrounded by the largest wall in the world, you can call the services of a professional guide.

The guided tour of Fez Medina lasts up to six hours and can be taken in English, French, Spanish or Italian.

In addition to showing you all the hallmarks, such as tanners, the Najerin Museum (skip the queue), the insoles, the Andalusian and the kaleidoscope of the market stalls, your guide will share anecdotes, historical facts and bargaining tips.

See also  15 Best Attractions in Morocco

19. Dar al-Mahazan

Dar al-Mahzen, Fez

The royal palace that functions in the Jdid strip district covers more than 80 acres and has been here since the 13th century.

Inside there is a 14th century mosque, a madrasa, a magnificent courtyard and spacious gardens.

Now, although the palace is closed to the public, you can sail to the Place des Alaouites to appreciate the art of its entrance, which was renovated in the 1970s.

It has carved cedar tiles and stunning sludge, but it is appreciated thanks to the subtly designed brass doors that sparkle in the low sun at dusk.

20. Al Mukri Palace

Al Mukri Palace

This palace was commissioned by Muhammad al-Mukri (died 1957), Minister of Finance on a succession of sultans during the French Protectorate.

El Mukri was cultured and well-traveled, staying in various courts across Europe and becoming the first Moroccan to import a grand piano.

His descendants continue to live in the palace, welcoming visitors for tours, but also renting rooms to guests.

You will discover a little more about Al Mukri as you look around, admiring painted wooden ceilings, masterfully sculpted plasterwork, chandeliers, Murano glass windows and a spectacular courtyard framed by two long horseshoe arcades with stunning slime pillars and working fountains. .

21. Suk al henna

Suk al henna

In the middle of the country you will encounter a crowded passage that beckons you to a square in the shade of large old plane trees and the tall spire of Zaouia Moulay Idriss II.

It is exciting to think that henna has been sold in this very place for centuries.

You will see it traded here as leaves, dried and ground for chewing.

It is traditionally applied by women during wedding ceremonies.

The stalls here are also loaded with antimony (kohl) as well as other traditional cosmetics like rose water, rhasoul, musk and lavender extract.

22. Chapter Makina Plaza

Chapter Makina Plaza

Towards the end of the 19th century Sultan Hassan I fortified the Jadid Pass district with a series of fortifications.

One of them, Bab Makina, has become the backdrop to the World Sacred Music Festival every June, and is now in its third decade.

The 2019 edition had promotions from Spain, Lebanon, Azerbaijan, France, Oman, Venezuela, Armenia and Ireland.

If you find yourself here while walking around the city, you will face a row of three heavy wooden doors with horseshoe arches and next to them tall square towers and pointed marlons above them.

23. Even Danan Synagogue

Even Danan Synagogue

For a glimpse into the Jewish history of the city of Malach, there is a non-functioning but preserved synagogue from the 17th century.

It was established by the merchant Maimon Ben-Sidon following the arrival of thousands of Jewish families recently deported from Spain.

Inside, what will catch your eye is the large Torah cabinet with carved wooden panels and framed in a delicate plaster work painted of honeycomb.

Opposite is the Habima (raised oratory stage) and has an open cast-iron canopy with horseshoe arches and floral motifs.

Downstairs there is a hope for women, still with water, and you can go up to the terrace with a view of the nearby cemetery.

24. Desert tour for small groups of two days

Arg Cheby Dunes

In this historical trading position, it may be impossible to ignore the reading of the Sahara.

You can sign up for a two-day hike in the desert from Fez to the sea of ​​dunes at Erg Chebbi.

On this journey you will travel through a cedar forest populated by monkeys, and gather in the Middle Atlas Mountains to see barbarian villages, a ski resort from the 1930s, mountain springs and jagged rock formations.

Later you will go down to the desert and ride a camel to the sands to spend the night in a barbarian camp.

Early waking up the next morning will be taken to the dunes to watch the sun rise over the Algerian border before making the journey back to Fez at a leisurely pace with regular rest stops.

25. Day trip from Meknes, Wolobilis and Moulay

Woloblis, Morocco

On this trip you will reach west to the ruins of the ancient barbarian city of Volobilis, once the capital of the kingdom of Ortania.

Today as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Volubilis was inhabited from the 3rd century BC to the 11th century AD, and was ruled by Rome before being conquered by local tribes in the 3rd century AD, and never re-conquered.

What speaks to the great wealth of the city is its incredible amount of mosaics, many are still on site at the same time luxurious villas.

The trip will include a stop in the town of Moulay Idris Zarhun, one of the holiest sites in Morocco, where Idris I brought to Morocco Shiite Islam in the eighth century and which was built from a material hewn from Woloblis.

Then you will see Meknes, which was founded as a military settlement in Almorvid in the 11th century, and is awarded a state and a museum of Moroccan art.

Where to stay: The best hotels in Fez, Morocco
Commitment to the lowest price