Things to See and Do in Fez:
Dar Batha Museum, a late-19th century palace built by Sultan Moulay al-Hassan I, with a lovely garden and outstanding collection of Moroccan arts and crafts. This is the setting for the afternoon concerts of the Fez Festival of Sacred Music. Currently there's a special exhibit of Moroccan ceramics on display.
Nejjarine Museum, 18th century fundoq/caravanserai, beautifully restored, housing a fine collection of traditional woodworking. A fundoq is an inn for traveling merchants, who stayed upstairs and kept their animals and sold their merchandise downstairs. The entire Nejjarine Square and Carpenters' Souk have been restored, in addition to the fundoq.
Museum of Andalusian Music, a museum and cultural complex in a fabulous restored house, Dar Bennani...well worth a visit if only to see the beautiful setting; downstairs is a museum, library, and art gallery; upstairs a music conservatory; go to Rcif, near Cinema Amal and the Palais de Fes and ask for the Musee de la Musique Andalouse on Derb Cheikh El Fouqi.
Belghazi Museum, a large traditional riad converted into a museum of traditional crafts. The collection doesn't compare to the Belghazi Museum in Rabat/Sale, but still is well worth a visit.
Arms Museum of the Borj Nord, a 16th century fortress housing a large collection of antique arms. Even if you're not interested in weapons, the building, craftsmanship of the objects, and view of the medina are wonderful.
Bab Boujloud, the monumental blue and green zellij gate at the entrance to the old medina. This gate was built in 1913, but the original gate is next to it. Note how the original gate was built with an indirect entrance to prevent battering rams. Also note that the huge bolt on the newer gate is on the outside. During the Protectorate the gate was closed at night and locked from the outside!
Fortification Walls of Fez, dating to the 11th and 13th century; take a drive around the ramparts from Palais Jamai to Bab al Fatouh.
Bou Inania Medersa, a 14th century (1357) college/dormitory/mosque complex, recently restored. One of the most important buildings in Morocco. Make sure you see both beautiful entrances, on Talaa Kibeera and Talaa Sghira, and the minaret. The outside walls have been restored with traditional medluk, made of sand and lime, and the shops on Talaa Kibeera have been nicely restored.
Water Clock, part of the Bou Inania complex on Talaa Kibeera. It has finally been restored and is well worth seeing. Only six of the original twelve bronze bowls still exist and are in storage.
Cherableeyeen Mosque, a 14th century Merenid mosque on Talaa Kibeera. Probably the most beautiful minaret in Fez. Note the beautifully carved wood above the entrance of the mosque's monumental washroom across the street from the main entrance. A mosque in Fez was the center of a neighborhood complex usually consisting of a fountain, a msid (Koranic school for children), public toilet, hammam (public bath), and bakery.
Souk al Henna, originally a psychiatric hospital in the 13th century, this square is now a beautiful souk selling henna and pottery. Recently restored.
Moulay Idriss Zaouia, the tomb/shrine/mosque of the son of the founder of Fez. Non-Muslims can't enter, but you can look inside from the doors, and should walk all around because on the outside there's some of the best zellij in Fez. The souk around the zaouia is also very interesting. Note the wooden beams across the entrances to the area around Moulay Idriss: this was the limit of the sacred precinct beyond which donkeys, Christians, and Jews were not allowed. This zaouia was also a refuge for outlaws, since it was forbidden for police to enter to arrest someone.
Attarine Medersa, considered by many to be the most beautiful medersa in Fez. This early 14th century (1325) Merenid building is smaller than the Bou Inania, but the zellij is much better. Note especially the panels at the entrance to the prayer room: as fine as the best in the Alhambra.
Kairaouine Mosque and University, the most important mosque in Morocco, and the oldest, or second oldest (?) university in the world, built in 862 AD, originally for refugees from Kairawan in Tunisia. The best view is from the main entrance, from which it's possible to see the pavilions to the far right (if you're standing on the far left side of the door), based on those in the Court of the Lions in the Alhambra. If you continue around the perimeter of the mosque past the Seffarine Square, you'll see a set of superb 12th century bronze doors.
Medersa Mesbahia, a beautiful Merenid medersa, now closed and in need of restoration, but with amazing carved beams at the entrance. On your left after you pass the main door of the Kairaouine. When Hillary Clinton was coming to visit Fez, these beams, as well as lots of other old wood in the medina, was painted quickly with white spray paint, to make a good impression. Ironically, she decided at the last minute not to come because of bad weather!
Fundoq Tetouanien, a 14th century fundoq, on your left going from the main door of the mosque towards Seffarine. Note the beautiful main door and the carved ceiling in the entrance: some of the most beautiful carved wood in the medina.
Karaouine Library, the main entrance is on Seffarine Square. Currently being restored.
Seffarine Square, a picturesque square next to the mosque, where copper and brass objects are made. Here also is the entrance to the Seffarine Medersa, the oldest in Fez (1280), and still functioning as a medersa.
Cherratin Medersa, beautiful 17th century medersa, the largest in Fez, is near Seffarine and the Karaouine.
Zaouiya of Sidi Ahmed al-Tijani, 18th century mosque and tomb of important Sufi shaykh; turn left at the entrance to the Attarine Medersa.
Tanneries, where leather has been tanned and dyed in Fez for hundreds of years. Interesting, beautiful, smelly, and disturbing. To get there you take a side street leading from Seffarine.
Bab al Guissa, beautiful 12th century Almohad gate, near Palais Jamai Hotel.
Andalous Mosque, the major mosque on the Andalous quarter of the medina, built at the same time as the Kairaouine (9th century). Very impressive main entrance.
Sehrij Medersa, a wonderful 14th century medersa, near the Andalous Mosque. Still being used as housing for students, but the main courtyard may be visited. Click link for panorama picture.
Glaoui Palace, the Fez residence of the Glaoui family, who once ruled the southern part of Morocco. One of the most beautiful palaces in Fez. Not open to the public, but the person in charge, Abdou, is usually very happy to show you around. He was born in Dar Glaoui, and his family has been there for at least three generations. You can go directly and knock on the door in Ziat, or call Abdou to make an appointment: 067 36 68 28. It is customary to give him a contribution to help maintain the palace.
Palais Mnebbi, a grand 19th century house on Talaa Sghira, on the left just before Bank Populaire. Once the house of the minister of finance and defense, and later of General Lyautey, at the beginning of the Protectorate. Now it's a restaurant and carpet shop, and well worth a visit. The zellij and plaster in the two main salons is as good as it gets. Also note the wonderful hand-embroidered cushions in one of the salons.
Dar Adiyel, a 17th century house recently restored by the Italian government. It was originally the house of the governor of Fez, then the first bank in Fez, then a museum of traditional Moroccan crafts, then a conservatory of Andalousian music, and finally began to fall into ruin and was abandoned. Recently it has been beautifully restored and is again a conservatory of traditional music. Dar Adiyel is in Wad Rashasha (off Talaa Sghira), next to Dar Sherifaat. To visit, knock on the door and ask the guardian if you can visit, which is possible when there are no classes. The guardian appreciates a small "donation".
Royal Palace, the recently restored entrance is on the road that goes from the Ville Nouvelle towards the Mellah. The original entrance was Bab al Makina, where the evening concerts of the Fez Music Festival are held.
The Mellah, the Jewish Quarter in Fez since the Merenid period. The Jews lived here and received protection from the sultan. The main street is especially interesting with its balconies and Art Deco zellij mosaic. Most Jews in Fez (around 300) now live in the Ville Nouvelle, and the Mellah has become one of the poorer neighborhoods in Fez.
Ibn Danan Synagogue, a recently restored 17th century synagogue.
Merenid Tombs, the tombs are not very interesting, but the view of the medina is great. Best not to go alone, as this area is often deserted.
Hammams in Fez, traditional public baths; a very important part of everyday life in the medina. Virtually everyone goes to the hammam in their neighborhood once a week for their entire life. Even those who have a shower at home (very rare!) go to the hammam, which is thought to be the only way to get really clean. If possible, go with a Moroccan friend, since you need certain paraphernalia and need to follow the rules of the hammam to avoid offense.
Cafes, sitting in local cafes is a great way to people watch and have interesting conversations with Moroccans. Some of my favorites: Cafe Firdaous, across from Hotel Batha (now has Wi-Fi!), La Noria in Fez al Jdid next to Bou Jeloud gardens, the one next to the Kantrit Bouros pharmacy on Talaa Kibeera, and the one near Bank Populaire on Talaa Sghira.
Fez Festival of World Sacred Music, the major cultural event in Fez. Superb music from all over the world; June 2-10, 2006.
Study Moroccan or Standard Arabic, it's possible to take three or six-week classes, or private lessons at the Arabic Language Institute in Fez.
Learn Moroccan Cooking: Lahcen Beqqi, an outstanding chef, formerly at one of the best riads in Fes, can teach you how to make traditional Moroccan and Berber dishes. He gives classes for one or more persons at his house, a riad, or at Dar Bennis, if you're staying there. You pay for the lesson, plus the cost of ingredients, which you will buy in the souk with Lahcen. And of course you get to eat the wonderful meal you cook! firstname.lastname@example.org; 071-60-80-15. Layla, the cook at Dar Bennis, is also happy to give you cooking lessons, but she speaks mostly Arabic.
Day Trips from Fez:
Azrou, a beautiful Berber mountain town 17 km. past Ifrane. The view on the road between Ifrane and Azrou is spectacular. Good for buying carpets, and there are some good restaurants. Near Azrou are cedar forests where you can see wild Barbary apes.
Dayet Aoua, a lake in the mountains after Immouzer and before Ifrane with an excellent place to eat, Chalet du Lac, sometimes open only on weekends, so best to call: 055-663-197.
Immouzer, a small Berber town on the way to Ifrane. Nice for coffee or lunch on your way to Azrou.
Sefrou, a Berber town 30 km. from Fez; pleasant medina and mellah.
Moulay Yacoub, hot springs and luxurious spa, 20 km. from Fez.
Volubilis, the best preserved Roman site in Morocco, from the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. Beautifully preserved mosaics.
Meknes, the capital of Morocco in the 17th century. Many beautiful monuments, and a great medina.
Taza, a pleasant town to the east of Fez. A wonderful highlight near Taza is the Gouffre du Friouato, the deepest cavern in North Africa.
Taxi Drivers for day trips or going to the airport:
Driss: 061-58-08-83; no English spoken, but very pleasant
Mohammed Mohammadi: 061-17-44-83; air-conditioned taxi, a bit more expensive; also has a minibus; speaks English and French
Ali Alami: 061-25-30-10
Mohamed Bouftila: 061-25-62-91
These guides have been recommended, but please let me know if you have a good or bad experience. If you would like a cultural/historical tour with no shopping, make that very clear at the start, and be firm along the way. A half-day costs 150-200 DH; a whole day 250-300 DH. Since guides get a "bonus" from the shopkeeper when you buy things, it's appropriate to give a more generous tip if you're happy with the tour and no shopping occurred. I think it's better to start with a half-day tour of the medina, and then spend the rest of the day wandering on your own. You can always ask for more time in the afternoon or the next day if you're very happy with the guide.top of page
©2010 David Amster