The city of Fez in Morocco is one of the best known cities of Morocco with a very long and storied history. Some visitors may use Fez as a home base during a trip you take to Morocco, but others stick around long enough to explore some of what it has to offer. If you only have 24 hours to spend in the city, here are a few ways to spend the day.
Start your day off right by indulging in a traditional Moroccan breakfast. Most hotels and guesthouses offer breakfast, however, if this isn’t the case for you, visit a bakery and pick up a krachel, bghrir or croissant with milky Moroccan coffee.
Next, head to the Fez medina. It is easy to get turned around in this ancient labyrinth, and visitors should seriously consider hiring a local guide to help with navigation. Established between 789 and 808 AD, the medina has been functional for centuries. Residential homes, mosques, schools, businesses and palaces are all found within the gates of the medina. Successive rulers of Fez have added on with their own touches for style and decoration, and visitors will see examples of Andalusian, Oriental and African influences in what is considered the best preserved historic town in the Arab/Muslim world. You could very easily spend an entire day in the medina, taking in the sights and sounds as well as shopping. Fez is well known for its ceramic and leatherwork, and the medina has some great workshops where interested buyers can find something to take home. Set a timer for your visit if you’re short on time.
A visit to the infamous Fez tanneries should not be missed. Make sure to stop and purchase a few bunches of fresh mint before ascending to the viewing decks. Tanning techniques that have been in practice for hundreds of years still happen in the old clay vats, but the smell can be overpowering.
Lunch is the main meal of the day and many Moroccans take several hours in the afternoon for a meal. If napping is not on your list, consider taking your mid-day meal between noon and 2:00. This way you can eat and, when you’re finished, many things will have re-opened. Consider ordering the signature dish of Fez, d’jej m’hmar, a chicken tagine that is cooked until it’s falling apart and then fried on the outside to create a crispy texture.
With the stomach full, it’s time to quench the brain by visiting the oldest university in the world, where guests can learn just about anything they want to know about Morocco’s history. The al-Kairaouine mosque and university was founded in 859 AD by Fatima al-Fihri. Keep in mind this is still an operational religious site, and non-Muslims are unfortunately prohibited from entering the interior of the mosque, but even a glimpse through the door is worthwhile.
Fez once was home to the largest Jewish population in Morocco as well as the oldest mellah (established in the 15th century) where many lived. A mellah is a walled-off area usually near a royal palace. This one was originally created to protect Jewish inhabitants from outside raids by other Arab tribes. Many of the buildings in the mellah are not in great condition, however, the synagogue and cemetery have been kept in good shape.
As the day winds down, take time to admire the city at night. There are many cafes and restaurants in the Ville Nouvelle featuring a wide range of dining options not limited to traditional Moroccan fare. Enjoy a leisurely meal on an open-air terrace followed by tea and pastries. Consider a last-minute shopping trip to pick up an item you can’t leave without. Many of the shops in the city remain open well into the night. Keep in mind that in the evenings it’s common for Moroccan families to head out for a stroll so the streets are likely to be more crowded than during the day.
Written by Amanda Mouttaki.
Photo by Jodi Art.