Saturday, December 7, 2019

Morocco Diary - Fez


Hi there, how is your weekend going? I'm enjoying a long weekend off, Friday was a holiday here in Spain so I have time to relax, do some yoga, blog work and visit my lovely friend in Palma later to celebrate her birthday.

Fez and the biggest Medina in the World


Today's post is about our second stop in Morocco. Fez is a place that I have mixed feelings about I have to say. First of all, it is definitely super interesting to see because of its authenticity and culture. The larger part of the city is very modern and organized but what really draws tourists to Fez is its ancient medina which is the biggest in Morocco and the whole world. Fez is also a great shopping destination where you will find lots of artisan craftwork, leather, carpets, lamps and other beautiful things.

Now you might be asking yourself why I haven't enjoyed Fez as much as other places we have visited in Morocco. To begin with, the weather didn't mean it well with us. The only full day we had in the city it was pouring all day so we didn't really feel like exploring too much. It was also quite cold as you can tell from what I'm wearing in the photos, even in the restaurants and hotels, so the city wasn't as enjoyable as others we had visited.

Second, the medina of Fez is a chaotic maze of lots of run-down buildings and narrow, winding alleys packed with people, mostly locals. I do enjoy experiencing the local life very much when traveling. However, with all the rain, mud, lack of wide space and people on the street I felt a bit overwhelmed in Fez. You get completely lost in the maze of the medina and even though I have a quite good orientation we had to check our GPS all the time. It was also quite difficult to stay together as a group. We hired a tour guide for a few hours to show us the most important sights as our time in the city was limited. He had a hard time keeping us all together because the crowds on the streets constantly separated us.

What to see in Fez


Despite these few things we had a great time exploring Fez. In the end, the things I mentioned are what makes the medina so interesting. It's chaotic, authentic and full of life. You can wander its streets for hours with your eyes wide open marveling at all the handicrafts, colors and street life. Below you find a few places that we have visited in Fez with our tour guide:

  • The Tanneries: There are several shops around the tanneries that offer great views of the latter. Take a few flights of stairs in one of these shops to see the tanneries and the people working there from above, it's super interesting. Upon entering you are offered mint, take it! The smell of the fresh leather is quite strong. The only thing I didn't like much about this visit was that the vendors of the leather products became a bit rude and unfriendly when we decided not to buy anything at the shop we had visited. Our guide told us we have to leave a tip which he hadn't mentioned before entering the shop, but ok. We've had several unpleasant experiences with vendors all over Morocco that got upset and rude when we didn't buy anything from them. 
  • Al-Attarine Madrasa: The madrasa (an educational institution) you see here on the next few photos was in my opinion the most beautiful building in Fez due to its detailed architecture. Al-Attarine was founded in 1325. For a 2€ entrance fee per person you get to explore its beautiful patio and the dorms of the students which are also quite interesting to see. 
  • The Andalusian House: I'm not quite sure what the exact name of this place is, our guide called it the Andalusian House. You will find hundreds of beautiful rugs here and can even go up to the building's rooftop to enjoy great views of the medina (when it's not raining like in our case, haha).

Was it worth getting a guide?


Yes. Since we were a group of eight and only had one day in Fez it was worth it. Our guide showed us quickly all the most interesting spots, explained their history and helped us not get lost in the medina. However, most guides (like ours) will also show you some shops where they make rugs or argan oil for example. It's interesting to see how these things are made but you feel kind of pushed to buy something before continuing with the tour. We didn't like this feeling too much but just ignored it. After lunch we had the whole afternoon for ourselves so we could explore a bit more and do some shopping on our own. Even though we didn't buy much we enjoyed passing by all the shops filled with beautiful Berber rugs, lanterns, kitchenware and local spices.

Where to Stay in Fez


We stayed at a lovely guesthouse called Dar Bab Guissa which my sister had booked for us. We were super happy with her choice. The place was cozy, had a lovely patio, spacious and beautifully decorated rooms, and a lovely host who served us hot Moroccan tea at all times. We booked two rooms with private bathrooms, one for three, another for five persons. The guesthouse was located in the medina a bit outside of the busy center which we welcomed because it was a quiet area. However, our host recommended us to not go out alone at night because Fez can become quite dangerous after dark. You can easily get lost in the maze of the medina and not find your way out. He also told us about some groups of young men that are waiting for tourists on the street at night to rob them. We had read about this problem on several travel blogs before. So we didn't want to risk anything but called a pizza place the night we got to Fez and they came pick us up personally at our guesthouse to bring us to their restaurant, what a service! The second night we stayed in and had some food for dinner that we had bought during the day. However, Dar Bab Guissa also offers homemade food at their own place which I'm sure is great as well.

So we spent two nights and one full day in Fez which was quite packed and busy. We saw some of the medina's highlights and fully got to experience the local life which was very interesting and enriching. Despite a few things I didn't like too much about the city I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Fez and would recommend a visit to any tourist because it gives you a taste of the real Moroccan life.

I hope you find this post helpful and had a good time reading it! My next Morocco post is coming up soon, so stay tuned!

























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