Fez is the charming and captivating former capital of Morocco. Founded in the 700s by Idris I, it is a great example of high Islamic civilisation. There are many terrific things to do in Fez, including places of historical interest and bustling local markets.
Fez has one of the best-preserved old cities in the whole of the Arab world. Experience the expansive maze of Fes el-Bali, and enjoy the delights of the largest traffic-free urban zone in the world.
The noticeable juxtaposition of medieval charms and modern features makes Fez one of the top destinations for travellers in Morocco.
Here are some recommended things to do in Fez to help you make the most of this interesting North African city:
Looming high above the walls of Fez Medina are the gaunt remains of the Merenid Tombs. Crumbling and decaying, the tombs are in a sad state of disrepair. Whilst you can still see some of ancient engravings and get a feel for the atmosphere, most visitors come for the amazing views of the medina below. A top spot, especially at sunset, soak up the vistas of the ancient medina that lies below. Two large graveyards sit below the tombs, now used mainly by local shepherds as land for allowing their sheep to graze.
One of the biggest mosques in Africa, it is also one of Morocco’s holiest sites. Also known as the Mosque of al-Qarawiyyin, Kairouine Mosque is responsible for announcing the dates of all Islamic festivals and events in the country. The huge mosque can hold up to 20,000 worshippers during prayer times. An impressive building, non-Muslims can only admire the grandeur from outside; they are not allowed to enter the main prayer hall or mosque complex. It is, nevertheless, a beautiful landmark to see.
Bursting with character and atmosphere, Mellah is the city’s old Jewish Quarter. The attractive Aben-Danan Synagogue is located on Rue Temara, and it houses an interesting collection of objects that show the life of a Moroccan Jew. The surrounding area has several Jewish homes, businesses, and monuments.
One of the most well-known buildings in Fez, the splendid Fondouk el-Nejjarine is both a national monument and a World Heritage Site. Designed somewhat like a riad (traditional home), the square complex has a large courtyard at its centre. This was traditionally used to keep goods and animals, and was also used to house travellers and merchants. Now home to the Museum of Wooden Arts and Crafts, wander around and admire some exquisite wooden carvings, archways, and railings. In the courtyard you can see the striking fountain, complete with its bright mosaics.
The tanneries (leather workshops) are popular tourist attractions in Fez. You can watch as skilled workers perform their magic with the tough leather, changing the colours and creating lovely items. You will probably notice the smells before you actually step into the bustling workshops, with the pungent aromas of leather filling the air. Although most of Morocco’s leather production takes place nowadays in factories, in order to meet the requirements and standards for export, the ancient tanneries are still a great way to see how things were done in the past and observe the work that goes into leather production.
Other great things to do in Fez include absorbing the vibe and experiencing the hustle and bustle of the old Medina, learning more about Islam at Merdesa Bou Inania, relaxing in a traditional hammam, peering into the past at Dar Batha Museum, and admiring the exterior of the grand Royal Palace.