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June 16, 2017 / oneworld82

Can it get more Moroccan than this? Imperial Fez

Ask ten people what’s the capital city of Morocco, and they’ll answer Marrakech. Or ask them where they visited n Morocco, and they’ll probably say Marrakech. Marrakech is certainly the city that captures everyone’s imagination, but it’s truly pitiful that not many people have much knowledge about Fez.

Because Fez was actually the center of Moroccan power centuries before Marrakech (when the Almoravids and Almohads had their capital here, Marrakech was only a small village). Not only that, but Fez was always the center of the religious and the intellectual life of Morocco (jurisprudence and faith are very much linked to each other in Islam) РFassis still today sport a superiority complex towards other Moroccan cities.

Medersa Bou Inania’s minaret as seen from Cafe Clock

Driving into the city you realize immediately that you have landed in Imperial Morocco. The hustle and bustle of the modern city leaves way to the imposing walls of the royal palace first, and to the various layers of walls of the medina then.

Outer medina

What’s impressive of Moroccan cities is how well preserved the walls usually are – a testament to the quality of Maghrebin masonry.

Fez has the largest, most intricated medina of all Moroccan cities. Its alleways are narrow, its buildings tall. Bab el-Mahrouk is the main gateway into the city in the west, and the two main streets of Talaa Kebira and Talaa Seghira run almost parallel eastwards to join near Ain Allou – these two arteries are the real commercial heart of the medina where endless merchants, workers, donkeys, and students come to do their business.

Bab el-Mahrouk

While navigating the city along the two main streets is relatively easy, but part of the fun is getting lost. Every corner has a interesting fountain or some bizarre store; one street might see lots of carpenters, another plenty of women clothing. Everything is different yet the same, and the common denominator is the hustle and bustle that can be found around Fes el Bali.

Given the fact the Fez was the political and religious center of the Empire for so long, there are lots of historical sights to admire. Take the Medersa Bou Inania for instance. Built by the Merenid dynasty in the XIV century, this medersa (Koranic school) has some amazing zellij and carvings – everything Moroccan you can think of can be found here.

The famous water clock

The Medersa el-Attarine, further down the street, is another great example of XIV century architecture…




…while the lively Kairaouine Mosque and University, while forbidden to non-Muslims, is another great sight.

Sweets stalls outside the mosque

Place Seffarine is a very lively square where blacksmiths work incessantly to create anything you can think of – keys, trays, wheels, you name it. There are a couple of good terrace-cafes here – a great place for a pit stop with some good mint tea – one of the very specialties of Morocco.

Place Saffarine

While the sights are great, the number of people plying the narrow alleyways of Fez is the true highlight of the medina. You can literally find any type of person here, and this is why wondering around without any precise direction is half the fun.


Yet, there is a place you need to make sure you eventually head to; a place that’s very much the identity of Fez around the World – a place so unique that will leave you speechless: the Chaouwara Tanneries.


One Comment

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  1. Evelina Di Lauro / Jun 16 2017 6:17 pm

    Nice photos

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