Founded in 8th century by Moroccan ruler Idris II, the mystical city of Fes went on to become the capital and spiritual center of Morocco later. Literally meaning “pickaxe” in Arab, the name of the city became Fes when lines of the city was created by a pickaxe made of gold and silver. Situated in a narrow valley against the backdrop of the Middle Atlas and positioned on the old crossroads of caravan routes connecting Timbuktu and Takrur with the Atlantic and the Mediterranean shipping lanes, this imperial Moroccan city has its own charm and cannot be missed in your trip to Morocco.
Popularly known as the “Mecca of the West” and the “Athens of Africa” – Fes is known for its minaret and dome pierced skyline along with timeless, crumbling Islamic architecture. Culture vultures and history enthusiasts will find it fascinating to explore the alleyways of this historic metropolis. Your Morocco vacation gets more exciting with Fes in the itinerary.
- Medersa Bou Inania
Built between 1350 and 1357 by the Merenid sultan Bou Inan, this madrasa functioned both as an educational institute and a congregational mosque. Known to be the only madrasa in Fes with a minaret, this is a palatial architectural marvel and one of Morocco’s most gorgeous buildings. Located at Rue Talaa Kebira, this structure with carved woodwork and stucco decoration is a tribute to Morocco’s master artisans. Don’t miss this architectural splendour on your next Morocco travel.
- Medersa el-Attarine
Built in 1323 by the Marinid sultan Uthman II Abu Said, this madrasa got its name from the Souk al-Attarine, the spice and perfume market. Located in Fes el Bali, this is another example of Merenid architecture. The impressive courtyard with intricate decoration and elaborate zellige tile-work and cedar wood carvings, draws attention of all the visitors.
- Souk districts and Tanneries
Known for local arts and crafts, Fes el Bali is a paradise for Moroccan slippers, leather work, metalwork, rainbow glass lamps and tiles that remain displayed at stalls of this souk district. Streets west of the Qaraouiyine Mosque is the spot for local shopping opportunity. This is where you can visit the famous Chouara Tannery of Fes. You can witness the traditional method of dying of animal skins before it is further processed.
- Fes el Bali
Known to be city’s oldest neighbourhood, Fes el Bali is the medina area with a grand old gate at its entrance known as Bab Bou Jeloud. Listed as UNESCO World Heritage site, this fortified section of the city has rambling streets spiral out into two distinctly different districts divided by a meandering river. Left bank is has few historic monuments and majority of the shopping souks, while the right bank is a bit shoddy and is full of local life and photogenic alleyways. Fes el Bali is also known to be the biggest car free urban area in the world. A stroll along the bylanes of Fes el Bali can be truly memorable and something which you can’t afford to miss in your trip to Morocco.
Mellah is a walled Jewish quarter of Fes, where the narrow lanes are lined up with dilapidated houses of 20th century, which were once home to the vibrant Jewish community. You can visit the restored Aben-Danan Synagogue here. At the edge of the Mellah is the rambling Jewish cemetery, one of the most tranquil spots in Fes. There’s a Jewish Museum housing a collection of objects highlighting Moroccan Jewish life and culture. Your Morocco travel is incomplete without a visit to this Jewish quarter.
- Borj Nord and the Merenid Tombs
Established in 1582 by the Saadi dynasty, Borj Nord or Burj al-Shamal is a fort, modelled after Portuguese forts of the 16th century. The fort now houses “Museum of Arms” specializing in history of arms and armour with a collection of 5000 pieces from 35 countries. From the fort up the hill, sits scattering, golden-stoned Merenid tombs which is at a ruined state. History lovers will be fascinated with the sight of these historic ruins.
- University of Al Quaraouiyine
Founded by Fatima al-Fihri with an associated madrasa, which subsequently became one of the leading spiritual and educational centers of the historic Muslim world, this University is considered to be one of the oldest worldwide. Al Quaraouiyine mosque features horseshoe arches and ijmiz frames decorated with beautiful geometrical and floral Andalusian art bordered with Kufic calligraphy, providing a visual delight to the visitors. This mosque has a capacity of 22,000 worshipers and known to be the largest in Africa. Undoubtedly this should be included in your list of places to visit in Morocco.
- Fes Jdid
Founded by the Merenids in 13th century as an extension of Fes el Bali, the grand “Royal Palace” takes center stage of attraction and behind it several mosques and madrasas fill the host of lanes. This tranquil neighborhood which sits between bustling Fes el Bali and the European style Ville Nouvelle makes it a welcoming, peaceful lull between these two fast paced worlds, is a must visit for your Morocco private trips.