Fes holidays:culture,daytrips and riad short breaks
Cradle and cauldron for the Arabic and Islamic culture introduced to the Berbers in the 8th century, the labyrinthine medieval city of Fez is one of the most fascinating places in the world. Pressed tight with donkey traffic and thick with the din of commerce, its endless narrow alleys look like film clips about the bible.
Fez has been and is still the ancient center of learning, culture, and craftsmanship all concentrated in the world’s largest still-functioning medieval quarter .It was, too, the capital of all Morocco and recognized as the most imperial of all the imperial cities . With its many mosques, Medersas (koranic school), souks and Foundouks, the old medina is a gigantic crafts workshop and market that have all changed little. A walk through the dead-end alleys beckons the walker on an endless and absorbing experience enveloped in an exciting and chaotic range of sounds and aromas.
1. When you arrive at airport get some change before you ask for a taxi transfer’s prizes in case Moroccan Skies is not in charge of this service.
2. For those who plan to stay in Morocco a bit longer, buy a cheap mobile phone for local and national calls.
3. The daytime can be very hot and we would recommend bringing something cool and light to use as a cover up to stop your skin from blistering! For evenings out in Marrakech bring a long (but light) pair of pants or skirt in case it is cold. We would say a smart jacket or cardigan is also essential for warmth on cooler nights
4. Bring an extra suitcase, in case you decide to purchase a famous Moroccan room-size rug or other items in the busy souks of the cities.
FEZ’S BEST VIEWS
• A day trip to the middle Atlas, this little range is quite rewarding and awesome and offers some stunning views.
• Atlas Mountains, outside fantastic drive away to Ifrane, Sefrou, L’bhalil beautiful alpine resorts.
• A day trip to Moulay Driss shrine for some spiritual experience amongst the hilly whitewashed village.
• A day trip To Volubilis roman ruins to explore Morocco’s greatest site.
• For some relaxing massage in the hot baths of Moulay Yaacoub.
WHERE TO PLAY
1. Cooking Workshops and before that an expedition into local markets.
2. Ethno art shop, around the souks and alleyways where craftsmen workshops thrive…undoubtedly the best creations.
3. The souks, a stage for some voices, actions and smells.
4. The Quarawiyine Mosque and Minaret, the oldest in town and most impressive Almohads building.
5. Hammams and some scrub in a traditional way
6. Nejjarine museum , Seffarine and most notorious coranic school or university
7. The Jewish quarter and the sole synagogue still in function
8. Sip mint tea at Bab Boujloud, a hive of activity and a great place to sit and people watch.
9. Dig in some experiences while taking part in workshops for pottery, wood carving, carpet or fabric weaving…
FAMILIES: short holidays
• Appreciate the Merrenids architecture at its best at the Bouaanania School and water clock.
• Attarine souks for some wander around the spice place and discovery of the traditional medicine.
• The Museum of Nejjarine is the carpenters’ quarter, dominated by the city’s most beautiful fountain and museum of wooden crafts.
• The Zawia Moulay Idriss II, co-founder of Fez city and revered person who is accredited some great respect that some thousands of visitors express every day.
• Al Qarawiyin mosque /university is the oldest university in the world and is home to the finest and biggest library and a learning center for hundreds of students.
• The Tanneries are most sought-for place for its fascinating feel despite the smells and horrible stories woven around the whole area.
• The Medersa Bouaanania is certainly the finest theological college for its intricate works and elaborate skills still in function until today.
• Around the Royal palace and a stunning gate in front of a collection of golf course, schools, gardens of beautiful architecture.
• The fascinating Jewish cemetery and Habarim synagogue are amongst the few reminders of the Jewish existence in Morocco and in Fez.
• On the north side of Fes the Borj nord stands as the best view of the city especially by night.
• The Medersa El Attarine, next door to the Qarawiyin mosque was built in the 14th century by the Marinid Sultan Abu Said. He built it on the edge of the spice souk – hence, its name, Attarine (from the Arabic air (spices). In fame, it comes second to Bou Inania. Some claim it is more beautiful and delicate, and more perfect than that medersa. It is an incredible structure, with a profusion of fine pattering in blue and white tile, wood and stucco. Verses from the Koran are incised in continuous friezes and are breath-taking in their intricacy.
Medersa Shrij is the third finest of the Fez medersas. Erected in the 14th century, it was named after its beautiful ablution pool (from the Arabic saharaj – pool). Noted for its rich carvings and its aura of calmness and tranquility, it is worth a visit.
ROMANCE: couples and honeymooners
• Fez is beautiful at night. Definitely worth taking pictures of the gate and, if possible, to walk around! The best in Fez is to rent one of those horse drawn Calèches and tour the city ramparts and main outskirts by night.
• After dusk, Bou jloud square and gate come alive with musicians playing drums, mandolins, flutes and a variety of other instruments. In particular, listen to a performance of story tellers and many local styles; watch the outdoor restaurant impressive ambiance and sip mint tea or go for a budget diner.
• Get lost in the maze of shops at the Fez Souks. A great shopping experience in the meandering alleyways of the medina! Be prepared to bargain, bargain hard and bargain with a smile. Take a handful of sweets to hand out to the children, and you will endear yourself to one and all. Great shopping opportunities wait for you.
• Escape the bustle of the Medina and take a trip to the surrounding small towns of Bhalil, Sefrou or even Moulay Yaacoub. The Berber Valleys of the Middle Atlas Mountains are only about one hour drive from the city and you will find yourself amidst stunning villages, spectacular scenery and very welcoming people.
• The walk to the Batha or R’cif square is an adventure in itself. When you come out of the riad, there is a road with no pavement and you have to watch for donkeys overtaking people, mules overtaking donkeys, motorbikes overtaking bikes, then taxis overtaking all of them—all at the same time.
• The royal palace of Fez, Dar el Makhzen, is located very close to the Mellah, and could be a good start for a wander with locals via the new street/ garden Mohamed’s VI avenue during the evening walks.
• A walk through the Medina of FEZ (old town) is a must. It’s probably the only way to explore the true Moroccan culture. It’s best to start at a fixed point in the Medina, such as one of the main gates, and head to one of the main sites, such as the Qarawiyin mosque, so that you can ask people for directions while also exploring
• Rejuvenate in the calm location at a Spa. The spa is an absolutely magnificent place where to relax—some of them offer very professional services.
• Rise, have breakfast and then being your day touring Fes’ souks and the exciting kisserias within them.
• Every souk is reflected in the value of the items sold. The makers and sellers are grouped together according to the products that they offer and every type of craft has its own street or part of the street which is centered around the kissaria, near the Zaouia of Moulay Idriss. The layout of the souk is a complex network of streets selling luxury goods like fine silks and brocades, high quality kaftans and jewelry. There are also souks like the El-Attarine Souk selling spices, a slipper souk and a henna souk, which is set in a shaded area planted with arbuses. We will visit the following places:
• Weavers Cooperative:
We will also visit the Weavers Cooperative located in a residential neighborhood off a main shopping street. The workshop specializes in weaving the finest jellaba fabric, made of silk and wool threads imported from Italy. The shop also makes a quality jellaba fabric from locally spun, textured wool thread called kubba -sometimes referred to as couscous, because it’s nubby texture resembles Morocco’s national semolina dish of the same name.
• Berber carpet demonstration:
The Famous exhibition of antique and modern Carpets is one of the places in Fès el Bali where you can see a Berber carpet demonstration. You will be offered mint tea and follow your guide up a coil of stairs to a small area to watch carpets being made by young girls who come from the mountains to show tourists how Berber carpets are made.
The Chourara or the Tanner’s Quarters is the most lively and picturesque souks in Fès. The
Tanneries are often located near watercourses like the Wadi Fès and at a distance from residential areas due to the strongly unpleasant smells they produce.
• Dyers Market:
The dyers market, located along Rue de Teinturies, is the best place to see the dying vats which have been used for centuries to soak the skins of sheep, goat, cows and camels after they have their hair and flesh removed is best seen from the neighboring terraces. You will see many tanned hides colored with natural pigments ranging from shades of brown, black, turquoise fuchsia, yellow and orange.
• Potter’s Cooperative:
You will also visit the Potter’s Cooperative. Also known as Place el-Seffarine, this kisseria is the most important center for the production Fasiss style ceramics,brass-ware and silverware in Morocco.
• Have lunch at a restaurant that is near to the Bab Boujloud, the Blue Gate of Fes.
• Late afternoon and evening free to explore Fes on your own.
How to Get Around
• Get a certified and licensed city guide to show you around, explain properly the cultural sides of your tour and serve as a shield against the hustles of the market place vendors.
• The Petit Taxis have meters but the drivers tend to forget using them with tourists. It is always good to negotiate the price in advance, but keep in mind that at night, the prices are 50% more than during the day