The oldest of the Morocco’s four imperial cities, Fes overwhelms the senses. Travelling from our reservation office in Brisbane, Rachna shares what you can expect when you walk through this medieval city on our Totally Morocco tour.
Previously the capital of Morocco for over four centuries, Fes has remained the cultural and spiritual centre of the country. The main medina is a hub of activity and can be a little intimidating at first but if you let a local guide lead you on a walking tour they will unveil to you authentic local eateries and recommend the best shopping hot spots.
Secrets of the alleyways
Walk through the historic maze of alleyways, merchants selling their exotic ware around you and dodging out of the way of donkeys, and you’ll pass an array of doorways – some hidden and easy to miss, others beautifully ornate and decorated with glorious knockers. These are the entryway to riads, traditional Moroccan houses that offer a haven to visitors wanting to experience a quiet moment away from the bustling medina. The alleys occasionally open up to a bright geometrical tiled fountain or a large and grand mosque like the Kairaouine Mosque. While non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the second biggest mosque in Morocco, it’s worth a visit just to admire the stunning facade.
Many bites to eat
Food and travel go hand in hand and this is very true when you’re meandering through the medina, the air full of the aromas of the local delicacies. A breakfast of msemen, Arabian savoury flatbread stuffed with fresh tomatoes, onions, herbs and spices served with mint tea, is a scrumptious way to start the day and a sign of the delicious things to come. Throughout the day, you won’t fail to notice the abundance of fresh produce, the pyramid piles of spices, stacks of dried fruits and the countless varieties of olives on offer.
For morning or afternoon tea a quaint French patisserie, a common find in the medina, will be sure to tempt you in for a café au lait coupled with some sugary palmiers, petite madeleines or some delicate mille-feuilles. A must have dish for dinner while in Fes is a pastilla, which is an unusual but delicious combination of sweet and savoury – a flaky pie stuffed with vegetables, laced with spices, saffron and topped off with a generous sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar.
The array of authentic handicrafts found throughout the medina in Fes are the things of shopper’s dreams. Fes is home to some of the oldest tanneries in the world and they are quite an interesting sight, even though the stench is quite unbearable and the mint provided to deter from the smell may put you off mint tea for the rest of your time in Morocco. As a result a range of leather goods are in the souks including handbags, wallets and sandals, available in a rainbow of hues.
Fes also produces handmade pottery and mosaic tiles, the dyes used on these ceramics painstakingly produced from plants, the skills being passed on from generation to generation. Textile’s including delicate wools and luxurious silks can be found in the markets, made into scarves and throws. The artisans of Fes are also renowned for their metal workmanship and, for me, a trip to Morocco wouldn’t be complete without purchasing a beautiful lantern.
Fes is an inspiring and alluring city that should be on every discerning travellers list. The medina is the soul of the city and has stood the test of time, allowing for great insight into Morocco’s past. A day spent in the medina absorbing the atmosphere truly makes for a wonderful day.