Morocco has been the most magical trip I’ve had so far. It’s special in many ways and no doubt will now forever hold a special place in me. We started with Marrakech and made our way up to Fez via the Sahara Desert, then made it to Chefchaouen and lastly Tangier. It’s been an absolute journey, to say the least. Following part 1 and part 2 of this series, we’ve now come to Fez.
1 Day in Fez Morocco
Often overshadowed by Marrakech, Fez is an underrated cultural gem in Morocco. The city breathes of history at every corner, oozing cultural significance and architectural intricacies. It’s eye-opening to see how much historical significance the city has provided for the world and set the footprint for how society runs today.
Where to stay in Fez
There are plenty of riads in Fez to choose from. If you want to be within close proximity to major tourist attractions, staying around the Old Medina, i.e. Fez El Bali, would be ideal as most major sights are just nearby. We stayed at Riad Amor, which is a humble but comfortable riad in the heart of the medina, with warming & welcoming staff that made our stay a memorable one. As with many other riads in the medina, staff will come to pick you up from the medina entrance. This is because the medina of Fez is more intricate and complicated than that of Marrakech’s and it’s easy to get lost.
Another popular area to stay in would be the Ville Nouvelle, which is the new town of Fez. With the lack of local vibes, it is compensated with snazzy modern luxury as this is the area where international hotel names settle. If you are staying in this area, you’ll have to take a taxi to get to the medina for sightseeing.
Fez Hotel Recommendations:
- Riad Amor (where we stayed) – Fes El Bali – £
- Riad Anata – Fes El Bali – ££
- Palais Amani – Fes El Bali – ££
- Les Jardin Des Biehn – Fes El Bali – £££
- Riad Fes – Fes El Bali – £££
- Karawan Riad – Fes El Bali – ££££
- Fes Marriott Hotel Jnan Palace – Ville Nouvelle – £££
- Hotel Sahrai – Ville Nouvelle – ££££
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What to do in Fez
We spent one full day exploring in Fez. Here is our itinerary:
From the desert tour, we arrived at Fez on Thursday evening after we got dropped off at our riad, Riad Amor. Both of us were really tired after the tour. Once we checked into our room, we had a nice hot shower and enjoyed a really lovely dinner the riad had set up for us. The following day is where we got to see and explore Fez. Here is what we did in one day:
Medina & Souks
If you think Marrakech’s medina is hard to navigate, try Fez’s! It’s mind-blowing how anyone can navigate their way properly in this insane maze in Fez. Our guide says the medina is even hard to navigate for locals, leave alone tourists!
Since it’s Jummah (Friday) when we started our first day exploring Fez, many shops were closed. While that’s not necessarily the ideal scenario, it also meant less chaos in the medina maze – so it’s a good thing in a way! Our riad arranged us a local guide to show us around, so it was a much more relaxed experience than that in Marrakech’s.
Fez really enticed me. Every step I take within the medina was oozing of history. The intricacy of architecture and art put Marrakech’s to shame (a slight exaggeration but you get what I mean). Not just in architecture but even souvenirs such as lamps showcases more intricate designs. At one of the souks that our tour guide brought us to, we also got to see the handicraft in work as well.
Al Quaraouiyine and Bou Inania Madrasa
We walked around and made brief stops at a couple of attractions such as the Al Quaraouiyine and Bou Inania Madrasa. We were a bit bummed out that we didn’t get to properly explore each site. There’s so much history all around and I would’ve liked to spend a bit more time at each site just to digest all of it.
Al Quaraouiyine, in particular, is the first-ever university established in the world, founded by Fatima al-Fihri back in 859. Not only was it a pioneer to the world’s education system, but it also helped to raise women’s status among society as the establishment is founded by a female! I have visited Coimbra University in Portugal before, which is also one of the oldest universities in the world and you can clearly see Moroccan influences in its architecture.
Next, we were brought to the Chouara Tannery. Before we enter, we were handed some mint leaves. The purpose of the mint leaves is to help with the pungent smells from the tannery. After getting past rows and rows of leather goods, we climbed upstairs and were led to the balcony overseeing the entire tannery.
Was the smell that bad? To be honest, it’s not as bad as we thought. We didn’t even need the mint leaves at the beginning and only sniffed it a few times towards the very end of the visit. It’s rather interesting to witness the whole manual process of traditional leather tanning & dyeing, a method used since ancient times. Though it’s certainly left me slightly dubious on leather goods now just because now I’m aware that the process involves pigeon poop.
Lunch at “Secret Location”
In all honesty, none of us was hungry at the time (us plus the couple on this medina tour together). But our tour guide was nothing but persistent. He took us to this “secret location”, winding through zigzag alleyways, claiming it’s a neighbourhood gem that only locals know about.
I didn’t manage to get a hold of the name of the restaurant. The interior was stunning in there, featuring extremely high ceilings, adorned with opulent design and intricate colours.
We were “forced” on a set lunch menu, which started with a range of mezze followed by the main course of our choice. Since it’s Jummah, couscous made an appearance on the menu. We had the chicken pastilla and a beef tagine couscous.
About it being a local-only neighbourhood gem…it’s certainly not because halfway through our meal, swarms of tourist groups came in and we didn’t see a single local around. Oh well, food was decent but it was a shame that we weren’t hungry enough to fully enjoy it.
After the meal, the tour guide brought us back to the riad. After a quick refresher, we headed back out again to explore other parts of Fez. We decided to join with the couple we met through our tour to hang around.
We first took a little walk up the Merenid Tombs. It might not be the same as the popular Mount Zalagh as viewpoint but it’s still a great spot for a glimpse of the old Fez from above. It’s probably less crowded and touristy there too.
Just right when we got to the top, we hear the Adhan (call to prayer) echoing around the hills. It’s truly a special moment.
From there, we wandered past some markets, which were just opening up again after Jummah, and made our way through to the Royal Palace. Although it’s not open to the public, its spectacular exterior is well worth a visit. The tall ornate golden doors are certainly a sight worth seeing.
Ibn Danan Synagogue
From there, we popped over to see the Ibn Danan Synagogue, one of the oldest and most important synagogues in North Africa. In all honesty, we thought it wasn’t particularly impressive compared to the grandeur and architectural masterpieces found in Fez. But it’s undeniable that the place carries so much history.
It’s relatively quiet too. Probably the quietest tourist spot as we’re literally the only visitors. This place wasn’t on my radar to start with but our new couple friends introduced us to it. It’s also a little hard for us to connect to the place since we’re not Jewish. But anyhow, at least we managed to catch quite a breathtaking sunset on the rooftop of it!
Dinner at Cafe Clock
For dinner, we checked out Cafe Clock, which I originally wanted to visit in Marrakech but somehow couldn’t fit it in our itinerary. Lucky for us, Cafe Clock’s Fez branch is fairly near our riad.
We tried out their famous Camel Burger – yes, you read it right, a burger made of camel meat. You can read more about it on my review below.
Then it started to really dawn on me that we’re coming to the final part of our trip. How time has gone so quickly especially when you’re having fun! Continue to read part 4 here.