From the hustle and bustle of the souks to the peaceful oasis of the riads, Fes is a cultivating mix of sights and smells. Morocco’s oldest city offers a great introduction to Moroccan culture and although less popular than Marrakech, you will gain a much more authentic and local experience. Fes is also a photographers dream, with so many corners to snap pictures.
The medina is a car-free zone, making it easily walkable. But, with over 9000 alleyways in the old town of Fes el Bali, you will no doubt find yourself getting lost (even with Google Maps).
I would highly recommend booking a tour guide on your first day to show you around the sights and help navigate your way through the busy streets of the medina. We hired a wonderful guide, Ben who is very knowledgeable and knew all the hidden gems you might not easily find on your own. He also helped us haggle during our shopping pit-stops and even helped carry our shopping bags.
A 3-hour tour starts at £20/US$26, not including a tip.
Tour Guide Details:
Tel: 0021 26673 64576
Stay in a traditional Riad
We zig-zagged our way through the alleyways at midnight to find the charming Riad Fes tucked away in a quiet corner of the medina. It boasts a rooftop terrace, perfect for sunset drinks overlooking the old city of Fes as well as a spa and outdoor swimming pool.
Not only is the riad beautiful and full of intricately detailed corners, but the staff are also super friendly and will help you with any bookings and queries during your stay in Fes.
Admire the architecture at Al-Attarine Madrasa
Behind an unassuming entrance in the chaos of the souk is the stunning Al-Attarine Madrasa. A secondary school built in the 14th century, located at the edge of the spice and perfume market. The architecture and intricate details are simply stunning.
Entrance fee – 20 dirhams (around US$2)
Get lost in the Souks
Test your bargaining skills in the souks, where you’ll find everything from straw baskets, leather goods to traditional rugs and colourful ceramics. Make sure you bring a big suitcase for all the Moroccan trinkets and treasures you’ll no doubt buy here.
Follow your nose to Chouara Tannery
Fes is probably best known for its tanneries. Chouara is the largest of three in the city, situated East of the medina. The best view of the dyeing vats is from the balcony of one of the surrounding leather shops. You’ll be handed a sprig of mint to help with the strong smells that come from the traditional process of leather making.
Note: you do not need to pay to enter these shops nor must you buy something, just smile and say thank you!
Take a Moroccan Cooking Class
Our best meal was no doubt the one we helped cook with chef Samira at the lovely, Riad Anata. The class runs for 4 hours and begins with a trip to the local market. You get to help pick which fresh ingredients are used for the four-course meal based on your tastes.
Arriving back at the kitchen, chef Samira brewed us fresh mint tea and served delicious biscuits before going through the recipes.
On the menu:
– Green bean soup
– Zaalouk (Moroccan cooked eggplant & tomato salad)
– Chermoula marinated carrot salad
– Lamb tagine with quince
– Cinnamon apple tart
We quickly got to work chopping vegetables for the salads. We learnt how to smoke eggplant on the stove and used a pressure cooker for the lamb tagine. The smells that wafted from the kitchen were a blend of aromatic spices including turmeric, cinnamon and saffron. Save to say, we were super excited for our meal!
I would totally recommend taking a cooking class whilst in Fes. The experience at Riad Anata is available to both guests and non-guests.
To book a class, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Take a day trip to Chefcahouen
The famous blue city of Morocco is a 3.5-hour drive by car from Fes. A must visit if you have a day to spare. See my guide to Chefcahouen here.