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One of the oldest cities in Africa, Fez is called 'The Athens of Africa' and the Fez el-Bali (Old Fez) is a true gem. It is an invitation to visit mausoleums, madrasas, tea houses, hammams, and medieval gates. Get to know more about this city that you must include in your tour!
Fez, Morocco is a city in the North of Morocco, considered one of the most beautiful cities in the country and the 3rd largest. It is the oldest of the four imperial cities and located in a region famous for plantations of olives, grapes, cereals and for raising goats and sheep.
When was Fez, Morocco founded?
Fez was founded on the banks of Wadi Fès in two moments, first by Idris I on the east bank around 789 and after by Idris II on the west bank around 809. The city received many immigrants that settled on both sides. Families from Andalusia formed what nowadays is considered 'Old Fez' and other families of Tunisian origins settled in 'New Fez'. The parts were unified in the XI century by the Almoravids and Fez became an important city.
Fez started to grow considerably around 1170 and during the next century several schools (known as madrasas) were built in the city, making of it a center for Islamic education. It also became a reference in trading and traditional crafts - the fez (red truncated cone shape hat) was exclusively produced there until late 19th century. Other remarkable crafts the city is known for are pottery and leatherwork.
UNESCO named Fez in 1981 a World Heritage Site and tourism is one of the city's pillars.
Fez has many historical sites, so take your time. Not all are open to visit yet they are still worth to see the exterior.
Walk around the Medina of Fez: You will see that most attractions are part of the Medina of Fez, but despite them there is just a lot to see and feel in this place with more than nine thousand alleys and founded in the IX century. So just walk around and explore.
Al-Attarine Madrasa: It is a school built in 1323 that has a beautiful courtyard and tiles adorning the walls and floor.
Bou Inania Madrasa: As Al -Attarine Madrasa, this is also a very old and traditional school, founded in the XIV century, and even though non-Muslims can only visit the courtyard it is a very worth visit.
Karaouine Mosque and University: This is one of the oldest universities in the world and it still is operating in present days. Interestingly, it is also a mosque - it is not open to non-Muslims but visitors can give it a look through the entryway. On the other hand, the library, which is the oldest in the world, is open and welcome all visitors.
The Tanneries: Fez is famous for its leather, therefore also for tannery vats. Chouara Tannery is the most famous one. It exists since the XI century and the process used still is pretty much the same. Get prepared as the smell is not pleasant - yet the place is considered a must-see. A project tried to transfer the tannery to outskirts of Fez but due the high tourism demand it was never concreted.
Najjarine Museum of Wood Arts and Crafts: a nice museum founded in an old caravan house. It was restored and if you like History it is a nice stop. The cafe on the rooftop is nice to enjoying a nice view.
Souk Seffarine: Morocco has many famous souks, and Souk Seffarine is no exception. There you will find beautiful metal workshops and can watch while artisans are working.
Bab Al Amer Gate: A beautiful crafted gate founded in 1276 about 25 minutes walk from the medina.
Blue Gate: Another very nice gate, this one is decorated with blue mosaic tiles. It is of the main entrances to the medina of Fez, so it is hard to miss it.
Ibn Danan Synagogue: This is the only remaining synagogue in the medina. It was built in the XVII century and was recently renovated - after nearly succumbing to destruction.
Jnan sbil Gardens: this beautiful garden is only 10 minutes away from the medina's Blue Gate and it is a nice place to relax after your walks or for having a picnic.
Marinid Tombs: The ruins, located on the hills above the medina, offer a nice spot to a panoramic city view.
Dar Batha: It is a former palace. In 1915 it was turned into a museum and it displays a beautiful collection of carpets, Moroccan tiles and woodcarvings from the XIV century. There is a garden in Andalusian style with a water fountain.
Is it worth visiting Fez, Morocco?
It definitely is. The city is authentic and most travellers would agree that a trip to Morocco without visiting Fez is an incomplete one.