In its heyday, Fez attracted scholars and philosophers, mathematicians and lawyers, astronomers and theologians. Craftsmen built them houses and palaces, kings endowed mosques and medersas (religious schools), and merchants offered exotic wares from the silk roads and sub-Saharan trade routes. Although Fez lost its influence at the beginning of the 19th century, it remains a supremely self-confident city whose cultural and spiritual lineage beguiles visitors. Something of the medieval remains in the world’s largest car-free urban area: donkeys cart goods down the warren of alleyways, and while there are still ruinous pockets, government efforts to restore the city are showing results.
Some 90,000 people still live in the Fez medina. It can seem like it’s in a state of perpetual pandemonium; some visitors fall instantly in love, and others recoil in horror. But its charms are many. Seemingly blind alleys lead to squares with exquisite fountains and streets bursting with aromatic food stands, rooftops unveil a sea of minarets, and stooped doorways reveal tireless artisans -Lonely Planet.
I think my take was a bit on the horror side. Claustrophobic as I am, I could never live in this city. Very narrow alleys all within mazes of high walls. The only comfort I felt was at my beautiful riad The Palais Amani which I’ll definitely be reviewing on my hotel page.
Arriving into the city we were whisked away by the porters of this beautiful riad. Walking to the riad, the gal pals were a bit skeptic but once through the door a palatial palace with beautiful mosaics and and gorgeous courtyard filled with fresh herbs and flowers. Our driver had a city guide ready and waiting to take us on walking tour around the medina. As for us, luckily we arrived on a Friday, muslim day of prayer, most of the shops were closed and the alleys were clear to walk. Our first stop was the tannery. Given mint bushes upon entering, we saw exactly why, the smell of leather, skin and dye. Floor upon Floor we were given a tour and then taken to each floor to purchase leather goods. I walked away with a leather pouf, actually wanted two but I was already struggling with luggage weight.
After the tannery it was a quick walk around the medina through winding narrow alleys, to little and big courtyards. Normally on a business day it would be hustling and bustling with vendors galore with hardly any space to walk. Don’t think I could have endured that to my claustrophobic tendencies. We asked our guide how people lived in such cramped environments, she stated that usually you don’t know who is rich or poor or has beautiful accommodations or not unless you walk through their front door. And our choice of stay The Palais Amani was the definite example of that. Look out for my post on this beautiful riad and meeting the wonderful owners of this luxurious property.
- Don’t hesitate to visit Morocco. I did this trip without a tour with 8 females and not once did we feel unsafe.
- Be sure to visit Casablanca and the Hassan Mosque II. It’s the only mosque in the country that allows non muslims to visit. It truly is a marvel.
- Chefchaouen is a definite must. It will probably be the most beautiful city you’ve ever stepped foot it. Its just awe inspiring everywhere you look.
- Definitely do the Sahara Camp. There are many camps out there so choose wisely. We did a three day tour from Fez to Marrakech which included a night in a Sahara Camp. One night is efficient in the camp. The road from Sahara to Marrakech is a very long one, you definitely want to add a stop overnight, which is why the three tour is a must.
- Do visit Marrakech. Its a hustling city with great vibes.
- Do rent a villa in Marrakech. They have the most beautiful villas at great rental prices.
- Be sure to carry a shawl at all times to cover bare shoulders and knees. Sometimes depending where you are going through the temperatures vary all over Morocco.
- Be sure to purchase an ample amount of alcohol or wine. Morocco was very sparse as muslims don’t drink and are not allowed to sell or serve wine to muslims in certain areas. We had a pretty tough time finding wine stores or restaurants that served wine in rural areas.
- Moroccans do not like having their photos taken without permission.
- Wine and Alcohol was very sparse.
- You will get heckled everywhere you go. Just keep walking and don’t engage.
- There will be people trying to help you to find your way around. Avoid them. If you use them, they will expect you to pay them. And honestly you don’t know where they are taking you. Be safe.
- You will have taxi drivers and guides taking you to places to shop. I’m sure commissioned shops. Tell them straight out where you want to go. Same thing with restaurants.
- Travel in groups. Single females should not be alone.
- Use your hotel concierges and taxis to be safe.
Here are my suggestions on where to eat and stay during Fez city visits. I stuck with our Riad The Palais Amani. Food was excellent and the cocktails were fabulous. Me and my girls group really didn’t want to venture out into the narrow alleys of the medina, especially in the dark.
Hotel/Riad: The Palais Amani
Dinner: The Palais Amani