Most travelers to Morocco visit the imperial city of Fez, which has been described as Morocco’s intellectual and religious capital. Fez is home to many mosques and medersas (theological schools), some of which date back to the 9th century. One such example is Karouine University, whose Moorish architectural style is similar to that found in Spain. Any visitor to Fez however, will not want to miss visiting the Fez Medina, one of the largest medinas in the world. The Fez Medina is perhaps one of the most fascinating places to visit in Morocco.
Morocco’s Fez Medina is an UNESCO World Heritage site. Inside this walled city you will find commercial activity that both supports its residents and attracts visitors. Before we ventured inside the medina we observed it from a panoramic viewpoint overlooking Fez. Given the medina has thousands of alleyways it is important to visit with a guide who knows the area. We were lucky when we visited the Fez Medina that we had a local guide who knew the area well.
Inside the Fez Medina
When we walked through the medina we saw many souks(vendors) selling their goods. Amongst the souks that first capture your attention are those selling camel meat and other meats. We also observed animals, such as donkeys and mules being used for transportation inside the medina. These animals are the best means for the transportation of goods through the narrow alleyways. When the medina is crowded it is very important to listen for calls to warn you that a donkey or mule is approaching with a heavy load.
Every day life in the medina is often hidden behind closed doors. While you cannot venture inside in most cases there is often great beauty inside the door. However, during our walk through the media we gained some insights into everyday life, such as children playing in the alleyways. We were also able to interact with some of the residents. A few of these encounters included an elderly lady with a cat and a vendor and his cat called Chausettes (socks).
You will find small factories, such a tanneries inside the medina. We visited one of the tanneries during out tour. Inside the medina you will also find hotels and restaurants. In recent years it has become quite popular for tourist to not only visit the medina but stay there as well. Our lunch stop during our visit was at the restaurant Le Patio Bleu.
Beyond the walls of the Fez Medina
Besides visiting the medina we also visited the outside of the Royal Palace. The Royal Palace was being prepared for the king's visit the day we visited. One can only imagine the beauty behind the Royal Palace doors because visitors are not allowed inside the palace.
Found near the Royal Palace is the Fez Mellah, or Jewish District, which dates back to the 15th century. In this area we did a walk and discussed life in earlier times. We later visited a pottery shop where they make mosaic tables, with tiles made from grey clay from the Rif Mountains. No matter where your travels take you in Fez you can help but catch a glimpse of the Fez Medina.
It is without doubt that Moroccan markets, such as the Fez Medina, are amongst the most interesting places to visit in the world. I invite you to join me in my travels in Morocco and elsewhere in search of the best in Spaswinefood. You may also visit my travel column at the Examiner.
© Sharon Parsons
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