Tiny alleyways. Donkeys pulling all kinds of goods. Locals going about their daily lives. Centuries-old architecture including the first university in the world, al-Karaouine. Mouth-watering specialties. The Fes medina is one of the most amazing cities I’ve ever visited.
And on a recent visit to the imperial city, I discovered a few new haunts and remembered what I loved about this place back in 2010 during my Moroccan holiday. Here’s a few:
Getting completely lost in the souks
Whether on your own or with a local guide, getting lost in the souks is a great way to get a feel for the medina. Whereas some medinas are more tourist oriented, the Fes medina is very much a living-working medina for the locals. Little workshops are filled with amazing artisans – leathersmiths, metalsmiths, carpenters and more. And the shopping is splendid. Pop in to one of the small Ali Baba-style caves for some great hunting, and finds. I recently scored a vintage silk and lace caftan with hand-stitched beading. I have no idea what I’ll do with it, but it was pretty. And the price was unbeatable.
Admire the architecture at the medersas (Koranic schools)
The architecture combined with the tranquility makes this a great stop when wandering the souks is beginning to wear thin. I’ve visited two, there may be others, but both were absolutely beautiful.
Hang out at Cafe Clock
The coolest cafe in Morocco, dare I say. Great ambiance, perfectly priced menu, friendly staff, cool stuff going on like a cooking school, dance classes. Head down on Sunday evenings for a very lively Gnaoua concert. Popular with locals, expats and tourists, the zellig floor quickly becomes a dance floor and even the staff get involved. A great night out! And be sure to try the camel burger, the highlight of the menu in my opinion. Oh so yummy!
Have lunch at the Ruined Garden
A peaceful little restaurant serving Moroccan fusion food in a tranquil little garden. The friendly owner is around to provide tips on menu selections. While I’ve only had one meal here, the meatball with almonds and egg tajine was amazing!
Visit the tanneries
Yes they smell. And it’s kind of gross. But amazing to see that a centuries-old technique is still so widely used to produce such fine leathers. Word on the derb is that some of the top fashion houses source their leather from Fes. With all the styles and colours, I bet you can’t leave empty-handed.
Day trip to Volibulis
A day trip out of the city after a few days wandering the medina is a welcome retreat. And the former Roman city of Volibulis provides just the tranquil setting. Hire a local guide upon arrival and listen to his stories about life in the thriving city. The mosaics here are amazingly still intact after several years of exposure to the elements. Nearby Moulay Idriss is always a wonderful little place for lunch.
Drinks at Merinides Hotel as the sun sets
As the sun prepares to set, head up to the Merinides Hotel for views of the sunset over the old medina. Truly magical!
Have you been to Fes? Is there anything else I should add? Are you coming to Morocco and need help with your itinerary? I’m happy to put you in touch with a travel agent friend/colleague.