Fez

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Having visited Marrakech in Morrocco on a number of occasions, Gemma was delighted to have the opportunity to visit Morocco’s third largest city, Fez, in late September.

Fez at night

Fez 2

Fez is an exceptionally traditional city and whilst it welcomes tourists and visitors with open arms it does not compromise on its traditional heritage and culture.

The city has two old medinas, the larger of the which is Fes el Baliand and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  With over 9000 streets, it is believed to be one of the world’s largest car-free urban areas. Al-Qarawiyyin, founded in AD 859, is the oldest continuously functioning madrasa in the world. The city has been called the “Mecca of the West” and the “Athens of Africa”.

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Fez medinaWhen visiting Fez you must take a guided walking tour around the medina where you can wander with the local people many of whom are buying their meat and vegetables in the market.  Others are making their way to places of worship for prayer time and others just passing them time and relaxing outside their humble homes.

Vegetable market in FezFez market 2

Shopping for traditional Moroccan crafts is exciting.  You will not find shops or souks selling tourist trinkets, instead women weave elaborate carpets by hand, men stand behind huge looms, creating wondrous fabrics, materials are dyed in large vats in the street and down every tiny alleyway you will find lanterns and brass wear of all shapes and sizes.

Carpet Fez

Loom FezDye Fez

Lanterns Fez

This imperial city of Fez is the capital of traditional Moroccan culture. A cradle of knowledge, for which its superb medersas are a flamboyant symbol.  A medersa is a school where the Koran is taught along with all the classic subject of learning: mathematics, grammar, history, astronomy, medicine… In Morocco, and especially in Fès, medersas have the important role of integrating students from other regions. Generally they are built around a central courtyard with a fountain. Classes are held under the sumptuous arcades bordering it.  Many are still active, but it is a wonderful experience to visit some of the fabulous buildings now standing vacant.

Medersa in Fez

The al-Karaouine mosque was founded by Fatima al-Fihri in 859 with an associated school (Medersa), which subsequently became one of the leading spiritual and educational centers of the historic Muslim world. It was incorporated into Morocco’s modern state university system in 1963 and is the oldest existing and continually operating educational institution in the world according to UNESCO and Guinness World Records.  The mosque can accommodate 22,000 worshipers and is recognised as the largest in Africa.
The gorgeous Riad Fes (a member of Relais & Chateaux) was Gemma’s home for four days.  Situated within the walls of the medina, the 30 room property is made up of 5 Riad’s joined together, all providing their own unique marbled and mosaic interiors.  A wealth of art, artefacts and antiques adorn the Riad and each bedroom has its own individual charm and decor.
Riad Fes, FezRiad Fes 2, fezGastronomy is at the heart of the Riad and 3 night Gourmet packages are offered as well as individual Moroccan cooking classes.  Guests join the chef for a shopping trip to the souk where they purchase the fresh ingredients for their meal and then spend a few hours in the main kitchen preparing a starter, main course and dessert.  Gemma and her family enjoyed making their evening meal and had lots of fun learning the various techniques used in the preparation of traditional Moroccan fare.
cooking lessons Fez
Cooking lessons Fez 2
cooking lessons Fez 3

After a hard days shopping in the souk and cooking in the kitchen, why not indulge yourself with a Hammam and massage at Riad Fez luxurious spa?  Or sip on a cocktail whilst relaxing by the pool.  The peace and tranquility is astounding, especially considering you are in the heart of a medina with 9,000 streets.

Riad Fez pool Fez

Fez truly does take you on a journey back in time  and is perfect for a long weekend or as part of a larger tour of Morocco, also staying in Casablanca, Rabat and Marrakech.
For further details, or to plan your own unique adventure in Fez, please do not hesitate to contact us on 01428 658777.

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