The Fez Medina in Morocco #flashbackfriday

From 2009 to 2013, Morocco was home for me. While I didn’t live in Fez for all of my time in Morocco (only about six months) it was the closest city to the town of Sefrou, where I lived the rest of the time I was there. Fez was where I found expat friends, a job, nightlife, and much more. It’s where my daughter was born. I love Fez. I wrote this back in 2013, when I was still going there on a regular basis – even substituting once in a while as a cultural tour guide in the heart of the medina. 

Fez Medina Fes Morocco

I first came to Fez, Morocco on a 3 a.m. train from Tangier. I’d been in Morocco (and Africa for that matter) for less than 12 hours and the adventures that followed are far too numerous to tell here but they involve a girl, a Berber Nomad marriage in the Sahara, a baby, and the fact that four years later, I still find myself living just 28 km South of Fez with my Moroccan wife and our baby daughter.

Fez Medina Fes Morocco

The point of all of this, is that Fez is one of the most remarkable places on the planet and if you take a trip into the Arab world- Fez is an astounding starting place that will enchant you, fill your camera’s memory card, and affect you for the rest of your life. Perhaps not in as profound a way as it has me, but the truth is that I’ve never met anyone who has visited Fez with nothing remarkable to share when they went home.

Fez Medina Fes Morocco

The ancient medina of Fes-el-Bali is the largest car free urban area in the world in addition to being the oldest inhabited medieval Islamic city left in anything like it’s original state. With more than 9,500 narrow streets, alleys, and twisty turny paths, it’s no wonder that people who have lived their whole lives in the medina still sometimes become lost.

Fez Medina Fes Morocco

 

As a visitor, you will most likely first come into the medina through the massive maw of Bab Boujaloud where you will be called to dine on meat heavy tajine dishes or huge golden piles of couscous. The touts can be overwhelming at first, but you don’t need to worry because the days of the truly aggressive touts and false guides are now a thing of the past – the tourist police have reined them in.

Fez Medina Fes Morocco

Before you venture into the medina, you should understand that donkeys and mules have the right of way – they carry crates of coke, baskets of grain, and everything else that needs heavy transport in the medina and they will, run you over. So, pay attention and don’t get distracted by the magnificent architecture, the women scrubbing orange blossoms from the tile doorways, or the heady smell of mint flavored tea. Welcome back to the 7th Century.

Fez Medina Fes Morocco

While you are in Fez, there are a few things that I recommend you must do. First of all, a tour of the medina with a licensed guide is essential in order to get yourself oriented. A guided tour will bring you to the Karouyine University and the mosque of Moulay Idriss as well as take you down many of the streets and alleyways where some of the most beautiful architecture hides.

Fez Medina Fes Morocco

Personally, while the fully restored palaces and riads are magnificent, my favorite destination to show visitors is the crumbling Glaoui palace. While not preserved or restored like the Batha Museum or the Karouyine Mosque, or perhaps becuase of it, the Glaoui Palace is overwhelming.Not as stinky or touristic as the famous Fez tanneries and yet there is something truly awe inspiring in this famous, decrepit but still beautiful house.If you read Gavin Maxwell’s Lords of the Atlas, it is even more so.

Fez Medina Fes Morocco

While you’re in Fez, I think it is essential to stay in a Riad in the Medina. New ones open every day, so there is always a deal happening somewhere. It’s best to check. You can spend anywhere from $20 to $1000 per night – I recommend somewhere in the $50-$100 range for the best value. Make sure that breakfast is included – especially if you pay $1000.

Fez Medina Fes Morocco

 

The Nejjarine and Bou Inania Mederasas are beautiful examples of classical Quranic schools. Inside you will be bowled over by the intricate tile (zellij) and woodwork. The artisans of the Fez medina are an astounding living museuem of tha ancient arts and crafts of Morocco. Rather than taking the standard tannery tour most hotels or riads offer – my suggestion is to book an artisanal tour with Artisanal Affairs.

Fez Medina Fes Morocco

Another destination that isn’t on most itineraries is a trip down Taala K’bira to the donkey parking area next to Palais Jamai. For a more conventional tourist stop, visit Dar Batha (pronounced bat-HA), the home of the Batha Museum. An absolutely gorgeous restored 11th century house of sculpted wood, wrought iron, sculpted plaster and tile work. The gardens offer a respite from the of the medina and inside a treasury of embroidery, carpets, jewelry, pottery, and coins compete with one another to astound you.

Fez Medina Fes Morocco

A visit to the Fez Medina can be overwhelming and that’s why a rest at Cafe Clock is well worth your time. Grab a date milkshake and a camel burger or sit on the roof with a cafe latte and look out over the 366 minarets of the old medina and listen as the call to prayer warbles at you from every direction. There’s also free wifi and a full cultural program of everything from henna, oud classes, calligraphy courses, Gnawa music on Sundays, and Moroccan cooking courses.

Fez Medina Fes Morocco

For me, the best times to visit Fez are late Spring and early Summer when the temperatures have climbed above freezing but not yet to the scorching range. Early June also offers the World Festival of Sacred Music in Fez which draws incredible musicians and interesting speakers each year.

Fez Medina Fes Morocco

Fez is known as the spiritual and cultural capital of Morocco. A visit at any time of the year will show you why. I recommend three to five days, though, like many others, you may find yourself still here three to five years later.

Fez Medina Fes Morocco

Fez, Morocco – The Festival of World Sufi Culture 2012

sufi culture festival The 6th Edition of the Festival of Sufi Culture will take the stage this April . From Thursday the 12th to Saturday 14th a series of round tables, conferences and concerts will take place. The theme of this years festival is Hakim – “Sufi Sapiens”
Sufism, the mystical side of education and spiritual teaching in Islam and considered by many  to be the heart of the faith was  first revealed to the world in  11th century.
Historically, from the 13th century onward, these teachings were passed from teacher to student down through spiritual centers that aimed to preserve the culture, sociability and spirituality proper behaviours of Islam in an era of dislocation of the Muslim world, particularly under the impact of Mongol invasions.
Sufism has nourished the Muslim culture and not only enhanced its artistic and literary expressions, but also its social and economic advancements. For centuries Sufism has inspired simultaneously the ethical and spiritual charters of guilds throughout the Muslim world.
In Morocco for example, guilds and special trades have traditionally allied themselves with Sufi orders. The relationship that has been established between spirituality and social and human development has marked  the cultural and historical identity of Morocco.
The Sufi Orders of Morocco are engaged in teaching and civic and spiritual education at the same time promoting human development and mediation for peace.
The festival of the Sufi Culture celebrates the heart of the Moroccan society today as well as Sufism throughout the world. Sufism can also inspire on global level and some new approaches towards peace mediations and for development of mutual dialogues between religions and cultures.
Itinerary for 2012 Festival of World Sufi Culture in Fez, Morocco:
The venues have yet to be published but the a provisional program is as follows..
Thursday 12th April
10 a.m. Official opening of the Festival.
11 a.m. Conference : the literature of Hakim in the Sufi tradition
4 p.m. Conference : Hakim and poetry in the works of Mohammed Iqbal
8.30 p.m. Concert by the Nidhamouddine Brotherhood from New Dehli India.
Friday 13th April
10a.m. Conference : Hakim and the voice of spiritual chivalry (futuwwa)
4 p.m. Conference : Hakim and Culture
8.30 p.. Concert : Samaâ of Tariqa Khalwatiyya from Turkey
Tariqa Khalwatiyya Brotherhood
Saturday 14th April
10 a.m. Conference : Can one teach Knowledge?
4 p.m. Round Table with Eva de Vitray Meyerovitch lecturer of Iqbal : l’Islam in mouvement
8.30.pm.m Closure concert : Arab/Andalusian and Samaa – with Sufi Brotherhoods from Morocco.
For more information see www.festivalculturesoufie.com
If you’d like to get private accommodation just a short distance from Fez, why not rent our apartment in Sefrou? It’s just 28 km from Fez, will easily sleep up to six people and is  in the charming town of Sefrou which offers a beautiful waterfall, a rustic medina and much more.
Or there are a number of Fez Riads and Hotels to choose from.  Below are some of our favorites.

Sofitel Palais Jamai Fes

Bab Guisa
Best deal306 TL
Latest booking: 13 minutes ago
Score from 111 reviews: Great, 8.8 There are 6 people looking at this hotel.

Ramada Fes

Ramada Fes

85 Av Des Far
Best deal129 TL
Latest booking: 19 minutes ago
Score from 85 reviews: Good, 7.9
There are 8 people looking at this hotel.

Riad Dar Bensouda

Riad Dar Bensouda

14 Zkak El Bghel Quettanine
Best deal117 TL
Latest booking: 2 minutes ago
Score from 168 reviews: Very Good, 8.4
There are 5 people looking at this hotel.

Wassim Hotel Fez

Wassim Hotel Fez

Avenue Hassan II Rue Du Liban
Best deal89 TL
Latest booking: 5 minutes ago
Score from 99 reviews: Good, 7.2
There are 3 people looking at this hotel.

Riad Dar Dmana Hotel Fez

Riad Dar Dmana Hotel Fez

20 Rue Salaj Douh Batha
Best deal187 TL
Latest booking: 2 minutes ago
Score from 19 reviews: Very Good, 8.3
There are 9 people looking at this hotel.

 
 
Other interesting sights to visit while in Fez include:
The museum of Dar Si Said, equipped with a display of Berber arts and crafts from all over Morocco.
The remains of the Badii Palace, a historical monument which is host to the Annual National Festival of Popular Art, beginning the second Friday in June.
The Bahia Palace, which exemplifies Moorish splendor at its finest. It is situated in the heart of the Mellah, and continues to host dignitaries to this day.
 
 

%d bloggers like this: