Traveling During Eid al-Adha (Eid el-Kbir) in Morocco

Eid al-Adha in Morocco with sheep

By far, Eid al-Adha is the most important holiday for Muslims around the world. It occurs two lunar months after the end of Ramadan. Confusingly, Eid al-Adha called by many different names. Eid el-Kbir (often spelled “Eid el-Kbeer, “Aid al-Kébir” and other variations) is really common. It translates to “The Big Holiday”. With  francophiles, la fête du mouton (“sheep festival”) is also common. (more…)

Top 7 Things to Read Before You Visit Fez

Top 7 Things to Read Before You Visit Fez

Until 1925 Fez was the modern capital of Morocco and retains its prestige as one of the most enchanting and enriching cities in the country. Home to the world’s largest car-free city center and the world’s oldest functioning university it’s no surprise Fez is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site and a must-visit on tourist radars. Before you pack your bags and visit Fez here are seven articles we think you should read to get prepared.  (more…)

Dar Batha Museum in Fez, Morocco

Dar Batha Museum in Fez
Arts and history enthusiasts simply can’t leave Fez without paying a visit to the incredible Dar Batha Museum, the city’s museum of traditional Moroccan arts. Set in a gorgeous 19th century palace, the building in itself could be considered a piece of art. Designed by Sultan Moulay Hassan, this Andalusian-Arabic style palace was occupied by two sultans before being repurposed as a museum in 1915. It features stunning zeillij tiling, intricate wood carvings, and a tranquil Andalusian garden where visitors can enjoy a peaceful break from the bustle of the medina. Within its walls however, lies the real treasure: one of the country’s finest collections of Moroccan decorative arts and artifacts dating to the 10th century. (more…)

Bab Boujloud in Fez, Morocco

Bab Boujloud in Fez Morocco

Bab Boujloud, Fez Morocco

No one visits Fez without passing by Bab Boujloud at least once. It is virtually impossible, as the gate (bab in Arabic) serves as an excellent navigation point for the lost wanderers trying to find their way through the busy streets of the Fez medina. But Bab Boujloud is much more than just a handy reference point on a map. Its glittering mosaic tiles and grand archway have made it one of Morocco’s most famed gateways and a sight you definitely won’t want to miss as you discover the city of Fez. (more…)

Merenid Tombs (Marinid Tombs) in Fez, Morocco

Merenid Tombs in Fez Morocco
Everyone loves a little mystery, and that is exactly what you will get when you visit the enigmatic ruins of the Merenid Tombs (also known as Marinid Tombs). Located on a hill just above the bustling city of Fez, there is very little that is actually known about these tombs besides the fact that they were built in the 14th century. The time period suggests that these were built during the Merenid dynasty, but it is not certain who specifically was buried there and why. All of this mystery only entices us even more, and the tombs are one of the most visited sites in Fez. The spectacular panoramic views of the city and mountains may also have a little something to do with it. (more…)

Al-Qarawiyyin (al-Karaouine) Mosque and University in Fez, Morocco

Hand-drawn illustration of Al-Qarawiyyin Mosque in Fez, Morocco

For over 1200 years, the Al-Qarawiyyin Mosque (or al-Karaouine) has been one of the leading spiritual and educational centers of the Muslim World. With a history dating back to the 9th century, this mosque and university have been the selected congregation space for various Muslim saints and scholars throughout the centuries.

Today, the university continues to function as an excellent school of religious and physical sciences, and the mosque is considered Morocco’s holiest place, governing the time of all Islamic festivals across the country. On your next visit to Fez, make sure you head into its old town and take your time discovering this magnificent treasure chest of history that has much more to it than meets the eye. (more…)

Fondouk el-Nejjarine in Fez, Morocco

An illustration of the Fondouk el-Nejjarine in Fez, Morocco showing the ancient woodwork and craftsmanship of this UNESCO city

The ancient city of Fez houses within its walls an exquisite collection of monuments and sights that showcase the rich history and traditions of the Moroccan people. One of these monuments is Fondouk el-Nejjarine: an 18th century roadside inn transformed into a museum dedicated to the wooden arts and crafts typical of Morocco.

Fondouk el-Nejjarine proves to be a unique experience that reveals the past and present simultaneously: while inside you’ll be able to view beautiful pieces of wooden art on display; once you step outside you’ll have the opportunity to witness modern-day carpenters chiseling and carving their own creations. (more…)

Medersa Bou Inania: A Moroccan Gem in Fez

Medersa Bou InaniaAlthough Sultan Abou Inan wasn’t the most pious of men (having killed his father, brutally murdered his rivals, and fathering over 300 offspring), he was able to devote some time towards developing one of Morocco’s most beautiful medersas, the magnificent Medersa Bou Inania (also known as Madrasa Bou Inania or simply Bu Inaniya). Built between 1351 and 1358, the medersa stands today as one of the most stunning examples of Merenid architecture in the world. Initially, it functioned as both an educational institute and a mosque. Today it is still an active religious building, and it is one of the few mosques in Morocco that remains open for all to visit, including those that are not Muslim, providing a unique experience for tourists. (more…)

A Wander in Fez

Blue Gate in FezI have a golden rule when in Fez; I never walk up either Tala’a Kbira, ‘big street’, or Tala’a Sghira, ‘little street’, I only ever walk down, working on the premise that my knees and stamina are nothing compared to those of the mules that provide much of the traffic in the Medina’s two main pedestrian arteries – and their muleteer’s, come to that. I consider the twenty dirham a taxi costs from Rcif at the bottom of the steep hill that is Fez el Bali to the Bab Boujloud, the principal entrance at the top, to be a very worthy investment. (more…)

24 Hours in Fez, Morocco

fez morocco tanneryThe 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.

Morning:

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. (more…)

Top Things to See and Do in Fez, Morocco

fez morocco tanneryA smaller, more compact city than Tangier or Marrakesh, Fez packs a lot of charm and history into its winding alleys. Fez el Djedid is the modern portion of the city, but most interesting things to see are located in the medina: Fez el Bali.

Medina

Upon entering the medina, gaze up at the intricate gates that arch over the entrances. These four giants are covered in beautiful tiles and serve as a great photographic subject before you plunge into the sights and sounds of the marketplace. The Bab Boujeloud is especially impressive. Shop for crafts, rugs, pottery and other souvenirs at the souks along these streets. Whether or not you plan to purchase leather goods, stop by the medieval tanneries, the Terrasse des Tanneurs, which are still in use. Once you climb to the tanneries’ terraces, you can see the dyeing vats’ sea of colors without getting too close to their unpleasant smell. (more…)

Fez Festival of World Sacred Music 2012

Music Festival Fez MoroccoFor the past 18 years, the city of Fez, Morocco, has put on the Festival of World Sacred Music, dedicated to the traditions of knowledge, art and spirituality of the city. It began as a peace initiative following the first Gulf War but has since become an established part of the world music and art scene. This year’s event runs from June 8-16 at different venues in the city of Fez. The theme is “Re-enchanting the World,” and pays tribute to Persian poet Omar Khayyam.

Acts from around the world converge on Fez along with thousands of attendees there to pay homage to sacred music from around the globe. There is a heavy focus on Sufi music, however, music from all over the globe is represented. This year’s acts hail Hungary, Romania, Central Europe, Lebanon, Tunisia, India, Cuba, Pakistan, Iceland, Iran, Guinea, France, Morocco and the United States. Along with musical acts there are several poetry readings, poetry set to music and dancing troupes. (more…)

Visiting a Tannery in Fez

tannery vats in fez moroccoFor traveling to Morocco, the ancient city of Fez and its medina can feel very foreign indeed. The walkways wind up and down through the hilly city, too narrow for cars or all but the slimmest carts and carriages. The medina is much like it was hundreds of years ago; the pace and structure of life still follow the old rhythms. You can feel the age of the medina—and its history—with each step. Nowhere is this truer than in Fez’s tanneries.

The tanneries of Fez, holdovers from medieval times, produce much of the city’s renowned leather. Few who visit a tannery are left underwhelmed. The sight of dozens of men, many waist deep in dyes, working at a trade few outside this world could see, is a sight to behold.

Fez’s tanneries are spread out like a tray of watercolors. Deep vats hold dyes in an array of colors and shades, each manned by a single tanner. Taking the raw leather into the vat, the tanners stomp on the hides, working them underfoot for hours until they are soft and pliable, and have taken on the desired color.

The main ingredient in the vats is actually pigeon droppings, harvested every day by small boys who hope to one day become tanners themselves. The vats also contain a mixture of acids, natural pigments and cow urine. The caustic mixture helps to break down the tough leather and allow for the full absorption of the dye. (more…)

Day Trips from Fes

ruins at volubilis moroccoFez (also known as Fes) will charm you with its culture tucked into every tightly woven street corner, but it can be nice to escape—even when you’re enjoying this fascinating old city. If you’re aching to break through the city walls for a day, we’ve got you covered.

Some of the most popular day trips from Fes include Meknes and nearby Volubilis, as well as the capital of Morocco, Rabat. It’s time to plan your Morocco itinerary … you’ve got lots of places to explore! (more…)

Things to Do in Fez, Morocco

Panoramic View of Fez MoroccoLocated in the Middle Atlas Mountains, Fez serves as Morocco’s cultural and religious center. The stark contrast between the old city’s narrow lanes, where donkeys barely have enough clearance to pass pedestrians, and the Ville Nouvelle’s wide, tree-lined streets is striking for many travelers, and it is this juxtaposition of medieval and modern that makes Fez one of Morocco’s top tourist destinations.

Explore the Old Medina

The central place to enter Fez’s walled city is at the gate of Bab bu Jeloud; petite taxis can drop you off there. Before getting out of the taxi, decide if you want to explore the medina on your own or hire a guide, because, as soon as you open the car door, local tour guides, both official and non-official, will close in on you to offer their services. If you don’t have a map and don’t speak French or Arabic, it can be worth hiring a guide for a walking tour so you don’t get lost. (more…)

Fez el Bali & the Festival of World Sacred Music

Fez Festival of Sacred Music MoroccoIf you enjoy the adventure of getting lost in a whimsical destination, Fez el Bali should be right up your alley…literally.

Known for its seemingly infinite winding alleyways, Fez’s old town allows you to experience ancient Morocco with its well-preserved historical character. Wandering through the city’s narrow walkways is like embarking on a journey as far back as the ninth century, shortly after Arabs arrived in the country.

Fez el Bali is a huge medina and UNESCO World Heritage site with narrow alleys packed with lively restaurants, spice markets, crafts, workshops, hammams, mosques, fountains and performers. You’re welcome to wander at your leisure throughout the medieval town, but, of course, if getting lost isn’t up your alley, plenty of local guides are available for hire. (more…)

Fez: Soul Of Morocco

A trip through time is almost everybody’s dream. There is a time machine right at your fingertips, and it starts on the plane. The journey begins when you land in Morocco. So let your Moroccan itinerary begin in a timeless setting. This little North African country sets on the modern side of history. Its roots, however, go way back to before the Romans and Phoenicians came. (more…)

The Old Capital: Fez, Morocco

Although demoted from the position of Morocco’s capital city, there is little doubt that Morocco’s former capital, the city of Fez, remains one of the most important cities in the entire country. Fez was the capital of Morocco for over four centuries, and it still remains the cultural center of the country, as well as one of the most important religious centers. The city was founded in the late 8th century, and a large part of Fez remains a medieval city in design, a visual proof of the city’s history and culture.

On our Morocco photos, you’ll be able to see why Fez is a must stop. Fez is intriguing, its old buildings reflecting an architecture most of the world moved past centuries ago, with winding narrow streets that are too small to allow for common automobiles. This means you will see throngs of people on foot, and the streets are full of donkeys and mules, just as they were hundreds of years ago. The city is the cutting edge of Moroccan art and culture, yet with the same feel and similar appearance that maintained itself centuries before the first Europeans even appeared.

One of the most tempting sites to visit is the Kairouine Mosque—which has stood for over 1,000 years. The Kairouine Mosque is considered the most important mosque and Islamic learning center in all of Morocco. Because of tradition, non-Muslims are not allowed inside, but there are open doors that you are allowed to look through, so long as you are respectful about it. Even glancing down these hallways gives you a sense of how much the building has expanded from a humble building to the giant center it is today.

Even though the Kairouine Mosque is off limits to most travelers, several of the Islamic schools that are around the mosque do allow visitors. Many of these schools are literally hundreds of years old and contain beautiful courtyards led to through open doors rich in detailed work, using everything from marble to cedar. Unusually close by to this area is the tanners’ quarter, where you can visit and watch experts craftsmen apply their trades.

A large part of the charm of Fez is that sense of a different time. While you will see all the evidence of modern cultural influence from blue jeans to boom boxes to modern goods, a traveler can not shake that sense of the past, from the narrow streets, to the buildings of old stone and wood, palaces and Islamic schools with elaborate entrances, to all the various sights that remind one of the past from ramparts, balconies, and courtyards to the walls that were once used for defense, before the need was no longer there and the city grew out towards the desert beyond them. Many of the streets are virtual mazes of alleys and tunnels, and streets are made of cobblestone. The voices of people—from old men, to merchants, to children—envelope the city, and it’s not far off description to describe Fez as a giant human beehive.

Fez is a city where the modern culture and wonders lives among buildings and streets that speak about centuries worth of experience and history never forgotten. Travelers who are looking to stay in any number of Fez Riads can experience the city and medina like no one else. The culmination of these two meetings makes Fez, Morocco, a popular stop even for many travelers who are less inclined towards normal tourist spots or city seeing. Many of Morocco’s most renowned cultural festivities, from film festivals to art and music festivals, occur in Fez and often times bring travelers from all across the nation and beyond. Though no longer the official capital of Morocco, Fez more than holds its own among many fine cities and destinations for visitors, whether it be tourist or traveler.

The History of the Fez Medina

A unique, ancient, and appealing city, the Fez Medina in Morocco holds true to its definition that it once was a non-European city in Africa or the Middle East. In Morocco, medina simply means “city”. And, Fez has two: the Fes-el-Djedid (new), built in the 14th century and Fez-el-Bali (old), which was built towards the end of the late eighth century. Built by the first Muslim Dynasty, the Idrissids, the renowned medina sits on the banks of the Fez River. Locals claim that the Kairouiyine Mosque, constructed during the reign of Yahya ibn Muhammed, is one of the oldest in Africa. In 859, the University of Karueein, as it is now called, was officially founded, giving the Fez Medina one of the oldest universities in the world.

The majority of the Fez Medina’s population was made up of refugees from surrounding Moorish dynasties, namely from Andalusia, Kairouan, and Tunisia. Each group established their own districts within the medina, usually separated by geographical markers, such as the river or surrounding rolling hills. Historically, the city was a melting pot of North African Muslims and Jews, who resided in what is known as the Mellah district. Today, people originating from Fez tend to have lighter skin tones, blond hair, and even green and blue eyes. (more…)