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 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”.
When 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.
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.
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.