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Africa » Morocco » Fès-Boulemane » Fes
May 6th 2017
Published: May 11th 2017
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We arrived in Fes after a four and a bit hour / 200 km bus ride from Chefchaouen. Along the way we drove past more gorgeous scenery and watched the landscape get drier the further south we went. The highlight of the trip was the stop at a bus station midway through the journey where we had the pleasure of observing whole carcasses of animals hanging in the sunshine...yummy..

We were met at the bus station by a taxi driver we had prearranged with our hotel. We hopped in the taxi and made our way to the medina. The taxi stopped at the closest point he could drive to where we were met by a staff member from the hotel who walked us the rest of the way.

Madinat Fas, (or 'Old Fes'), was founded in 789 by Idris I, who was the founded of the Idrisid dynasty who governed northern Morocco between 788 - 974. An adjacent city, Al-'Aliya (or 'New Fes' as it was founded in 808 which is apparently new in this part of the world!), was founded on the opposite banks of the river by Idris II (son of Idris I) in 808. Al-'Aliya became the capital of the Idrisid dynasty after it was founded. Once the Idrisid dynasty began to decline, the city changed hands a number of times before it was conquered by the Almoravid dynasty in 1070 (which also united the two parts of the city Madinat Fas and Al-'Aliya). Fes grew to be the largest city in the world between 1170 and 1180 with 200,000 inhabitants.

When the Marinid dynasty overthrew the Almoravid dynasty in 1250 Fes fell under their control. It remained under Marinid dynasty control until approximately 1472 when it fell to the Wattasid dynasty. They remained control of the city until the 16th century when it fell to the Saadis. After the fall of the Saadis in 1649 Fes became a major trade and manufacturing center. It gained it's independence in 1792 before returning to Moroccan control in 1795. In 1911 Fes was included in the French Protectorate and remained a part of French Morocco until 1956.

After checking into our hotel we headed out through the medina towards the Marinid tombs. We walked through the medina (which was actually pretty quiet as it was Friday) and then made our way up the hill to the tombs.

The Marinid tombs were constructed in the 14th century. The ruins are not particularly impressive as much of the original mud brick construction has crumbled away. However, as the tombs are perched on top of a hill we had a pretty good view of the medina from them.

After we got tired of the wind and direct sun we made our way down the hill, back into the medina and to our hotel. That night for dinner we went to a restaurant recommended by our hotel. We shared some 'salads' (actually more similar to cooked mezze type dishes), a chicken tajine and a chicken pastilla.

The Fes medina is a maze of approximately 9900 streets, many of which are unmapped and dead ends so when we arrived at our hotel we asked them whether they could organise a guide for Saturday morning. Our guide met us at our hotel at 10am and led us out into the busy medina streets.

Our first stop was a palace hidden in the medina which has been converted to a hotel (as have many Dars, Riads and Palaces in Morocco). The palace garden was really nice; it was full of fruit and nut trees as well as flowers and greenery.

From the palace we headed to the fresh produce section which was largely occupied by fruit, vegetables, nuts, dates, cheese, jerky in olive oil or lard and Moroccan pastries. We then headed to an area of the medina where they dye (and re-dye) clothing with natural dyes.

We then headed to an area which specialised in metal work, including manufacture of copper bowls, lanterns and knives. From there we made our way to what is probably the most famous part of the medina; the tannery.

We were given a sprig of mint leaves as we were left up some stairs into a leather shop with a view over the very pungent tannery. The smell, which is largely from the pigeon poo which us used in the tanning process, wasn't quite as horrible as I had anticipated (it definitely wasn't pleasant at all though). We were taught about the process of tanning leather from the initial softening all the way through to dying. We both decided we weren't up for a career change...

After the tannery we made our way towards the much fresher air in the woodworking area. We then stopped to peek through the doors of the Zaouia Moulay Idriss II (which is the shrine to Idris II, the second ruler of Fes). We stopped briefly at a spice / argan oil / perfume stop.

We then walked to the University of Al Quaraouiyine which is the oldest continually operating university in the world. The university was founded in 859; over the years it has taught a variety of subjects but is now limited to religious studies. The entrance exam includes being able to prove that you can recite the entire Quran.

From the university we were taken to the inevitable carpet shop which was located nearby. The carpet shop was (allegedly, but quite possibly actually) a government sanctioned women's collective. We were shown a demonstration of how the carpets are made which was actually quite a lot more fiddly than I anticipated due to the figure eight technique used. We were then led up to the rooftop to admire the fabulous views across the city. We were then shown downstairs were we received a lesson on the various styles of Moroccan carpets...and were then asked about our favourites and shown more which were available for purchase. It was interesting to learn about the different styles but it took a little longer for the "we don't want to buy a carpet" message to get through than we would have liked.

We were then led back to our hotel. By the time we got back it was about 2pm; we both thought the 250 dirhams the tour cost for 4 hours was well worth it.

We bought some roti filled with onion and spices for lunch (a bargain at 2 diraham each). We then explored some more of the medina by ourselves before returning to the hotel to read our books until dinner time.

For dinner we went to a restaurant which received good reviews on Trip Advisor. The food was a more of a Moroccon fusion style (by which I mean there were options other than tajine, couscous, kebab or pastilla). After dinner we headed back to the hotel to pack up ready to leave the following morning for our trip to the desert.

Additional photos below
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14th May 2017
Dye pools, Fes tannery

Fun to watch but it smells. Loved our time in Morocco.

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