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Things to do in Fes: a scavenger hunt to discover the amazing spots hidden in the maze of streets in the most chaotic medina in Morocco.
If I close my eyes and think of Morocco, Fes is the first thing that comes to my mind.
The old medina of Fes, also known as Fès el-Badi, is the greatest example of Morocco’s essence: a chaotic maze of little streets that would test even the ultimate traveler’s sense of direction.
Forget maps, Google Maps, the ultimate app, compasses or North stars. You will get lost anyway in the medina of Fes with no idea where you are going. But this is the most exciting part of a trip to Morocco!
You haven’t really experienced Morocco if you haven’t got lost in the medina of Fes!
There is also a new part of Fes, just like in most cities in Morocco that are divided into “Ville Nouvelle” (the new city) and old medina, enclosed by fortified walls with doors of different sizes to let people in and out.
My friend Erika and I started exploring Fes right from Ville Nouvelle.
As I said, getting lost will be part of your trip to Fes, but I will try anyway to help you at least plan your visit to this city by showing you my itinerary through the things to do in Fes.
THINGS TO DO IN FES: OUR ITINERARY.
THINGS TO DO IN FES: VILLE NOUVELLE.
The Royal Palace in Fes, or Dar el-Makhzen, is the first stop on our itinerary.
It’s a complex of palaces and gardens built in the 14th-century that is used today by the King of Morocco when he visits Fes.
The Royal Palace in Fes is one of the buildings that flourished under the Moroccan royal dynasties. Fes is in fact one of the four imperial cities in Morocco, together with Rabat, Meknes and Marrakech, and also the oldest one.
Unfortunately the Palace is not open to the public so we just take a look outside at the stunning decorations of the brass doors.
We leave now the Royal Palace and head to the Mellah, the Jewish district of Fes.
MELLAH: THE JEWISH DISTRICT OF FES.
We go for a short walk through the Mellah, where we can see the Jewish cemetery and the Habarim synagogue which today is a museum of Jewish historical items.
Nearby there is also the Ibn Danan synagogue.
But it’s now that the real fun starts! Let’s walk through a gate to get to the hustle and bustle of the medina of Fes, UNESCO world heritage site since 1981.
THINGS TO DO IN FES: THE MEDINA.
Planning an itinerary inside the medina of Fes is impossible.
So just walk through one of the gates and wander around. Get lost. Turn around. Browse the markets. Sit down and get some mint tea and “gateaux marocains”.
Walking around the medina of Fes is incredible and the perfect way to really fit in with the local lifestyle.
You will meet men dressed in their traditional rope with a baggy hood chatting with the souk vendors.
Women rolling out sheets of warqa (local phyllo pastry) on the street.
Mules carrying goods and cutting your way.
Guys offering you a tour of the tannery, or “hashish hashish hashish” or a Berber wedding.
Craftsmen pounding copper and brass to shape their products.
Souks packed with people and lamps, mirrors, carpets, spices, leather products, animals, snails, creepy cow’s feet, camel’s heads, slippers, glasses, shoes. The list is endless.
Then all of a sudden everything stops. Pause. Like somebody used a magic wand and time froze. What’s going on? You start hearing a chant with words you don’t understand. It’s the call to prayer coming from the loudspeakers of the minarets.
This happens five times a day to summon Muslims for their mandatory prayer.
Then everything goes back to normal and time starts over. Men chatting at the market. Mules cutting your way. Vendors shouting. Craftsmen pounding copper and brass. Tannery, “hashish hashish hashish”, and Berber wedding.
Experiencing local everyday’s life is absolutely amazing!
But in addition to all this, there are also beautiful points of interest inside the medina of Fes.
Since I can’t plan an itinerary for you I made you a scavenger hunt instead!
I will point out for you some places in the medina of Fes, and you will get a point for each one of them that you can find!
FOUNTAIN IN PLACE NEJJARINE.
You will realize soon that there are many public fountains in Fes.
So if I tell you “find a fountain in the medina of Fes” I would make it too easy for you. I will give you then a specific one to find: the fountain in Place Nejjarine, one of the most beautiful fountains in Fes.
Amazing stucco decorations and tiles, plus a nice jug for thirsty locals and tourists.
Drinking tap water from this jug is so tempting but I think I’ll pass. Thanks anyway!
Finding Place Seffarine is super easy.
If you want to get there you just have to follow the hammering sounds.
Place as-Seffarine literally means “Square of the brass workers“. In fact, you can see here craftsmen pounding copper and brass all the time.
But this square was like a funny nightmare for us.
Every time we think we have finally found the way out of the labyrinth of the medina, here it comes again: the hammering sounds. The clear sound that tells us that we are going back there again, to Place Seffarine!
We officially became the laughingstock of the square. Every time the craftsmen see us coming back they would giggle and say “ENCORE???”. Which can be easily translated with: “You are here again dumbasses?”.
Once again, if I simply tell you “find a mosque” I would make this scavenger hunt too easy for you. Just half point.
But if you find Kairaouine Mosque, well you score 2 points!
Yep, because Kairaouine Mosque is not only a mosque but also a university!
Kairaouine University, founded in 859, is the spiritual heart of Morocco and one of the most important religious and educational centers of the Muslim world.
Besides, according to Guinness World Record, Kairaouine Mosque and University is the “oldest learning institution in the world“.
I still had no idea that the entry to the mosques was for Muslims only. So curious about this place I get close to the entrance.
My advise? Kids, don’t try this at home!
ONE MEDERSA OF YOUR CHOICE: EL-ATTARINE OR BOU INANIA.
Well I don’t want to make this game too hard for you. Finding just one is enough for me to give you a point.
A medersa, or medrasa, is a Koran school where Muslims learn the principles of the Islamic religion.
The main ones in Fes are Medersa el-Attarine, built in 1325, and Medersa Bou Inania, a medersa with its own mosque and minaret.
Place R’Cif, a square that sounds more like a sneeze than a square, is a huge area inside the medina of Fes.
In the square there is the Friday Mosque with its minaret, one of the tallest minarets in the city.
Congratulations! You completed your scavenger hunt! How many points did you score?
Obviously I wanted to play this game with you just to help you discover the city in a different way and to suggest you the best approach to visit Fes. Forget planning and organization; explore Fes in a free and casual way.
Before I say goodbye, let me give you some useful information and travel tips for your trip to Fes.
USEFUL INFORMATION AND TRAVEL TIPS.
HOW TO GET TO FES FROM CASABLANCA.
You can take a direct flight to Fes or Casablanca.
If you land in Casablanca, I suggest you take a train to Fes after visiting Hassan II Mosque and walking around the city center of Casablanca.
Read my post about things to do in Casablanca for more information.
Click here for the train schedule from Casablanca to Fes.
The train takes about 4 hours, so I suggest you take the train at night in order not to waste a half day traveling.
Watch out because it might get cold inside the train in wintertime. So don’t forget to bring a little blanket or a warm jacket for your train ride.
HOW TO GET AROUND.
You can take a taxi to get around Ville Nouvelle.
Just don’t forget to haggle for the taxi ride. This doesn’t mean taking advantage of the taxi drivers. It’s just the way it is in Morocco; bargaining is part of their culture.
However, inside the medina you can only rely on your legs since it’s entirely pedestrian, except for mules and some sneaky motorbikes.
WHERE TO EAT IN FES.
Being a food lover, I’m definitely including some foodie information among my travel tips!
Actually in Fes, just like in Morocco overall, the food is great everywhere.
Maybe pick a restaurant with a terrace for a good view over the city during your lunch or dinner.
Some local dishes that you have to try are: vegetarian couscous, mixed meat brochettes, the amazing local bread, beans and vegetables, and the usual mint tea.
While you are waiting for your food they usually bring you some tasty olives. But please forgive us, we ate them all before taking the picture!
WHERE TO STAY IN FES.
We stayed at Barcelò Fès Medina and we highly recommend it.
It’s an amazing four-star hotel with a reception open 24 hours, and this was essential for our late arrival.
We are definitely not travelers who usually stay in four-star hotels but since they are so cheap in Morocco we decided to spoil ourselves a little after a long day of travel.
Have a look anyway at deals on places to stay in Fes.
Now we go back to Fes station and head to Rabat, the beautiful capital city of Morocco.
If you know other things to do in Fes or any other place to include in the scavenger hunt in the medina of Fes, please leave a comment. I would love to go back to Fes to find it and to start a new exciting game!