With its centuries-old walls, bustling marketplaces and endless amount of trinket shops, the Fes medina is the largest of its kind in the world, and is on the list of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites - to no surprise. The medina was founded in the 9th century and has been a major city center for Moroccan society ever since, now attracting sight-seers regionally and from around the globe. Find out just what makes this ancient city so special by visiting these highly-recommended sites, which are frequented by both tourists and Moroccans...
1. Get lost in the old medina
Have a taxi take you to “Bab-Oujloud”, which is the main entrance to the medina. You’ll see a large blue door (“Bab” means door in Arabic), with lots of shops and restaurants right inside the tall walls of the medina. Enter here, buy some freshly squeezed orange juice (with ice!) and start wandering the complex maze of the Fes Medina! There is so much to see, so plan to spend a few hours just wandering, checking out shops and markets within the medina. A helpful hint: the medina was built in a bowl shape, so if you find yourself too lost (which you absolutely will at some point), walk towards the higher ground in order to get out. This will not guarantee that you exit in the same place you entered, but you will at least be able to find a taxi from wherever you are.
Visit the medina later in the day, so that you are there for the evening prayer calls (look up what time they are when you are there - they change with the sunset times). It is imperative that you find a restaurant with rooftop seating to experience the prayer calls! There is nothing like being above the walls of the extensive old medina as the songs from the 80-something mosques within the city echo in the valley. It shouldn’t be difficult finding restaurants with roof seating, most of them will have signs on the ground floor which will be hard to miss. If all else fails, you can always count on Cafe Clock for a decent meal. It is the most popular restaurant in the medina for Western tourists, the food is good, and the staff is superb (if you see a waiter named Osama, tell him that Harley from America says hi! I can’t guarantee he’ll remember me, but it’s worth a shot..).
2. See the Medersa Bou Inania inside the Medina
Built as a school and mosque in the 1300s, this building within the medina has a gorgeous courtyard surrounded by classrooms which you can tour for only a few dollars. The walls are covered with intricate hand-laid mosaics and centuries-old wood carvings, all of which is both highly symbolic and gorgeous to see up close. Definitely read up a little on the history of the school beforehand so you can at least know some basic information about the structure if you choose not to pay for a guide.
3. Visit the Bou Jeloud Gardens (also known as Jnan Sbil)
These gardens offer a relaxing getaway from the hectic Fez medina, and are definitely worth spending an hour or so exploring. They are not difficult to get to from Bab Boujloud, just look them up on a map beforehand so you can show your taxi driver if he doesn’t already know where to take you. This is also a great place to bring a small picnic, a good book, or a journal if you want to spend more time in the gardens.