Fez (aka Fes or Fès) is, quite frankly, a little tired of being second best. Fez is the second-largest city in Morocco. It’s also the second most popular tourist destination. And it used to be the capital. Poor old chap. Still, there’s nothing second-rate about Fez as it lures you with the intoxicating aromas of North Africa, encouraging you to lose yourself (literally – it’s a medieval maze) in the magic.
And you thought it was just about those little red hats (which, admittedly, are named after the city)!
There are plenty of great sights to see in Fez, whether you’re spiritual or not. Try the Aben Danan Synagogue and the multi-coloured Bab Bou Jeloud gates. Learn a little at the University of Al-Karaouine, before relaxing atop a donkey (no, really!) or in one of the many bars, cafés and restaurants.
So come on, everyone, make Fez number one!
Fez’s Top 10
10. Dar Glaoui: Bet you wish you had married into the El-Glaoui family to share in this unbelievably decadent palace.
5. Bou Inania madersa: A 14th century religious college. Perhaps you could learn a thing or two?
9. Moulay Hassan Square: Surrounded by high walls and containing the beautiful Bab Sbaâ (or Lion Gate).
4. Zaouia Moulay Idriss II: One of the holiest buildings in the city. Pack your respect.
8. Berber pharmacy: Worth a visit, but don’t be fooled into eating anything you’re offered. You don’t even want to know why…
3. Fez City Gates: There are a few to choose from, but the most photo-friendly is the brightly coloured Bab Bou Jeloud.
7. Qaraouyine: This library/mosque is a sight for sore eyes. You need to be Muslim to enter.
2. Tanneries: There are a few to see, but the most interesting is right near the Karaouine. Try not to hold your nose too obviously – it’s a bit on the whiffy side!
6. Merenid Tombs: Amazing views right across the medina and much of the city.
1. Karaouine Mosque: Only Muslims may enter, but the rest of you can take a peek!
- Fes el-Bali - This Fes neighbourhood is like taking a time machine to the past.
- Medina of Fes - The best place to see historical mosques and mausoleums.
- Fes Mellah - These walled cities date back to the 14th century.
- Kairaouine Mosque - This is one of the largest mosques in Fes and was built in 857,
- Cherratin Medersa - This historical site has some amazing woodwork and carved plaster.
Fes Art & Culture
- Café Clock - This Fes establishment acts is a great place to meet local writers and artists.
- Orientalist Art Gallery - This gallery offers modern works of art by local artists.
- Cinema L’empire - This is the most important film venue in Fes.
- French Institute Library - This library offers books and cultural events celebrating the French influence.
- Cultural Centre - This centre houses the main library of the city, as well as unique local artwork.
- Allal’s Art Gallery - One of the best places in Fes to buy local crafts and very high-end metalwork.
- Souk - This market is famous for its coppersmiths, and you can watch the work.
- Talaa Kabira - One of the best shopping districts in Fes for ceramics and local handicrafts.
- Made in Medina - This shop features products made entirely by the local artists.
- Fes el-Bali - The shopping center of Fes, one can find all types of locally made handicrafts.
Gay & Lesbian Fes
- Le Diamant Noir - This is one of Fes’ top gay and lesbian dance clubs.
- Riad dar Dmana - This hotel caters to the gay and lesbian traveller.
- Riad Myra - This hotel in the heart of town offers a warm and cosy atmosphere.
- Riad Verus - This gay friendly hotel offers a mix of traditional Fes and modern conveniences.
- Riad Damia Fes - The central patio area of this hotel is a great place to meet new people.
- Nausikaa Spa - This outdoor spa offers a great way to relax while on holiday.
- Itzer - A town just outside of Fes that offers a great place to do some mountain trekking.
- Merenid Tombs - Many people enjoy the walk as well as the stunning views from this hillside.
- Djemma el Fna - This central square is a great place to take a stroll while watching the people of Morocco.
- Majorelle Gardens - These beautiful gardens house the unique plant life of Morocco.
- Jog high above the city of Fes to Borj Sud, a fort that offers one of the top destinations for joggers.
- Check out a football match in Fes. Widad Fez is one of the most popular clubs.
- Swim or play tennis at the Fes Country Club.
- Work out while on your Fes holiday at Le Complex Sportif de Fes.
- Buy all of your sporting apparel and gear at Planete Sport in Fes.
The Culinary Arts Festival chews into town in April. Fez is considered by many to be the capital of Moroccan cuisine.
June sings with the sounds of the World Sacred Music Festival, featuring religious and spiritual music from around the world.
June also brings the Cherry Festival. The harvest is celebrated over three days with music, dance and markets. They even elect a Miss Cherry!
The National Festival of Amazigh Culture ( that’s ‘Amazigh’, not ‘Amazing’, although the two are interchangeable!) rolls around in July and celebrates Berber culture with music, dance, traditional storytelling and exhibitions.
Get scatting in September with Jazz in Riad.Jazz concerts are held across the city.
When To Go
The weather in Fez is quite extreme. From October to March, it is very, very wet, with rain for several days and then a week or so of grey, wet weather. Then it repeats!
From May to October, though, there is hardly any rain whatsoever. In June, July and August, the temperature frequently reaches 37.5°C (100°F).
As far as buses go, you’ll only need to use them to get to and from the airport.
You’ll see a lot of the city if you walk. Ask your hotel to arrange a guide for when in and around the big marketplaces, otherwise, the friendly local may lead you through the maze to his brother’s rug shop – and become vague on the directions out until you buy something.
The splendid Kingdom of Morocco has a panoply of tourist gems, from the Port of Casablanca to the historic city of Meknes. Few other places offer as much diversity and charm as the country with a coastline on the Atlantic Ocean, Straits of Gibraltar and Mediterranean Sea. With one foot in Europe, Africa and indeed, the Arab world, Morocco is a peerless destination. A great place to start in the nation of more than 30 million people is Fez (or Fes), a city with imperial roots and UNESCO World Heritage appeal.
While not quite as big as Casablanca, Rabat and Marrakech, the city of 1 million people has wonderful attractions to explore. The ancient Medina of Fez is ground zero for visitors. A World Heritage Site since 1981, the quarter dates back to Idris II in the 9th century and ranks as the most densely inhabited pedestrian zone on the planet. Other must-see points of interest in Fez include the ancient University of Al-Karaouine, Aben Danan Synagogue and Bou Inania Madrasa.
Attractions & Activities
Restaurant & Nightlife
Fez has a continental climate with four distinct seasons and a wide temperature disparity from summer to winter.
- Winter (December to February) 4-16°C
- Spring (March to May) 6-24°C
- Summer (June to September) 13-34°C
- Fall (October to November) 8-25°C
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