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.