Top 9 Things to See in Fez (Fes)

By Claire | Updated Nov. 10, 2021

Located in the northern inland and between the Atlas Mountains and Rif Mountains, Fez (or Fes) is the 2nd largest cities of Morocco and the most famous one among the four imperial cities. It's also the most "academic" city in Moroccan history, with its cultural and religious influence seen in all Arabic areas.

Fortunately, even though the former splendor faded, this ancient city with profoundness is much alive – this can be told in its madrasas, its markets, and its different vigorous old arts. Let's reveal the top 9 must-sees to help you embark and discover the splendor in Fez as below:

  • Medina

The Medina of Fez comprises numerous monumental buildings. The first impression you may get is of "a maze". There are 4900 alleys in the Medina of Fez, with approximately 80000 people that live inside, making it the largest Medina in Morocco. Some of the alleys are very narrow that only allow one person to pass each time.

The majority of the arts of Morocco can be found in Medina, such as pottery, copper production, cloth dyeing, perfume, leather production, etc. Fez was also called the "Art Capital" which takes credits to Fez's educational institutions.

Pleasantly, it's also the hub of local food stalls. There are several kinds of local bread and cookies, and creamy bean soup making it a perfect hearty breakfast to start your day; camel meat is a good choice for lunch; dates filled with a walnut kernel, is a great accompaniment with a cup of herb tea, tingling your taste buds and undoubtedly lifting your spirit to enjoy the rest of your day  A great place for you to sample many traditional snacks and street food during your visit.

  • Al-Quaraouiyine University-The Oldest in the World

Hidden inside of the labyrinthine medina, stands the Quaraouiyine Mosque, which is the home of Al-Quaraouiyine University, also known as Al-Karaouine or Al-Qarawiyyin. It's listed in the Guinness World Records as the oldest continuously operating and degree-granting university in the world. It is dated back to the 9th century and has stood through harsh events that shook the stability of the country.

The university doubles as a functioning mosque and non-Muslims are not allowed inside the grounds. Visitors, however, can wander around the mosque and admire the institution's beautiful and elegant design, decorated with Andalusian art bordered with Kufic calligraphy, from the main gate and other entrances. The university library is home to many precious manuscripts including historic copies of the Qu'ran. 

  • Tannery Chouara

The Tannery is the largest and oldest tanneries in the city, dating back to the 11th Century. It is considered one of the main tourist attractions and not to be missed!  A feature of Chouara is the numerous stone vessels with different colored dyes and white liquids. Hides of animals are processed by first soaking in a series of white liquids made from cow urine, pigeon feces, quicklime, salt, and water to help soften the skins. Once this is done, it is then soaked in a dying solution, such as indigo for blue, poppy or paprika for red, saffron, pomegranate, or a mix of turmeric and mimosa flowers for yellow. This is done manually and involves no modern technology.

As vast waters are needed for the processing, there are tanneries dotted outside of the Medina along the Oued River. Standing on a high building around the tannery, you will get a birds-eye view of the stone-made colorful dyeing vats, giving you magnificent shots of the area.

  • Madrasa Bou Inania - Most Refined Theological College of Fez

As one cannot enter into the Al-Quaraouiyine University, Bou Inania Madrasa is a perfect compensation. Bou Inania was the last and most grandeur madrasa built by Sultan Abu Inan (Marinid ruler of Morocco, 1329-1358). A madrasa in Meknes shares the same name which was also built by him, however, the one located in Fez is more superior and stunning.

The madrasa is a complex of buildings. The remarkably well preserved interior courtyard is a masterpiece of fancy handmade tiles, woodcarving, and joinery. The construction of Bou Inania was known to be highly expensive due to the scale and lavishness of the building. It is architecturally the most elaborate educational institute in Fez. It is opened to all visitors from 9 am to 6 pm Monday to Thursday. On Fridays, it is used for Sa-lats – ritual prayers for Muslims.

  • Mausoleum of Zaouia Moulay Idriss II

From 1717 to 1824, this holy shrine in medina took more than one hundred years to complete. The architectural style of it is called Alawi. The mausoleum has a mosque and is used for religious purposes and a tomb for funerals. It is mainly used by local Muslims.

Non-Muslims are not permitted to enter and see the shrine. When you walk around the city, you will see six-foot wooden bars around it that were originally used to keep Christians, Jews, and donkeys out. However, you can see it from the entrance, where you will get a glimpse of the mosque, the shrine, a school and a bit of street making it more mysterious and interesting to non-Muslims.

  • Bab Bou Jeloud--The Blue Gate

If you've ever been to Epcot in Bay Lake, Florida, and saw the blue gate, you may be excited to see the original version in Fez. Many tourists miss it while in Fez, mainly because only one side of it is blue, and the other side is green. The blue on the side that greets visitors, represents the color of the city of Fez, while the reverse side, which faces the medina, is green – the color of Islam.

This triple-arched gate was reconstructed in Moorish architectural form in 1913. It is now an iconic sign of the medina that separate the busy souks, an Arab marketplace, from the bustling traffic. There are several eateries just inside the gate, where you can sit and enjoy local cuisine and watch the never-ending movement of people and wares passing to and fro.

  • Borj Nord--Fortress of the Ancient Fez

This fortress was built-in 1582 by Sultan Ahmed Al Mansour, and modeled from the Italian forts from the 16th century. Built with marble, it was the biggest defensive installation of Fez. It was used as a prison during the French colonial period.

Now a museum, it displays a full range of Moroccan weapons including some of the precious weapons from the Moroccan royal family. The fortress offers a great spot to take a panoramic view of the entire city of Fez. From there, you can also make a quick visit to the Merenid Tombs located nearby.

  • Merenid Tombs

Merenid Tombs, or written as Marinid Tombs, refers to the ruins of monumental tombs, that dates back to the 14th Century. It was built on the top of a hill overlooking the historic city of Fez. Though looking rather dilapidated, it offers you splendid panoramic. views Sunrise is the best time, however, it is not recommended due to safety reasons.

  • Madrasa Al-Attarine--The College of Perfumers

Al-Attarine Madrasa stands at the front of a spice and perfume market in the medina which contributes to its nickname 'the madrasa of the perfumers' The highlight of the Madrasa is its courtyard, floors, and walls exquisitely decorated in the traditional patterns of Marinid craftsmanship.

Not far from it, is the oldest university that is open for visitors from 8 am to 6 pm. However, at times it hosts religious events that may change the public opening hours.

Visiting Fez with Global Highlights

Rich in culture and history, visiting a city as historical as Fez, a local guide is highly recommended. Why? Having a local guide will help you navigate and learn about the ancient sites as well as scouting out for local cuisine in the maze-like medina. We, at Global Highlights, can help you customize and plan your holiday, keeping your interests at heart, and ensuring you a stress-free vacation.

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