There is no other place I've visited that quite captured the mystique of Fez. The traditional, unspoiled Moroccan city is dense in cultural, religious and architectural significance. One can get lost in the bustling medina, appreciate the exquisite Islamic architecture and sample the city's traditional hearty cuisine. The inhabitants of Fez are also one of the most hospitable people on Earth. Simply put, Fez is for those in search of a travel experience marked by unfamiliarity, spirituality, modesty and nostalgia.
SEE & DO
The Madrasas Bou Inania is one of the architectural treasures of Fez. The 14th Century building functions as an Islamic educational institution and perfectly exemplifies the artisanal opulence and intricate detailing that characterises much of the architecture in the city.
Fez has been long known as a centre of craftsmanship and the Chouara tanneries speak to such a heritage. At the tanneries, one can observe the craftsmen hard at work as they attempt to dye heaps of leather. If you're sensitive to foul odours, make sure to bring a handful of mint leaves with you.
The Boujaloud gardens functions as an oasis as its greenery contrasts starkly with the city's sandstone colour scheme. Use the gardens to enjoy a pleasant stroll or to take a short break during an extensive exploration of the city.
An exploration of Meknes makes for an excellent day trip, as it is only an hour's drive from Fez. The imperial city is known to be the 'Versailles of Fez' and is particularly striking for its terracotta-coloured buildings. One can also enjoy a stroll through the city's bustling market and central square, which is filled with entertainers of all sorts, from magicians to snake charmers.
The roman ruins at Volubilis give a peering insight into Morocco's historic past. The well-preserved excavated site, near Meknes, is sure to please the history and architecture buffs!
The Medina of Fez is an inescapable element of the city's fabric. The medina is made up of hundreds (if not thousands) of small interconnected pathways leading to similar-looking destinations, and given that Google Maps doesn't work here, make sure you have someone to guide you through this historic maze. On an interesting note, given the archaic ambience of the medina, it's truly easy to forget what century you're in - the absence of technology in certain parts produces a magical sensation of temporal lingo.
Fez is a city of craftsmanship so make sure to acquire a quality item before leaving. I would personally recommend a visit to Coin Berbere - a specialised shop selling premium rugs. Here, you are provided with the best service and hospitality as you enjoy a serving of mint tea while the knowledgeable vendors bring out tens of rugs till you find just the right one. After all, what is luxury if not the experience that comes with buying a quality product?
Attend a Sufi concert in one of the Fez's lavish venues. The concerts are usually open to everyone (Muslims and non-Muslims) and are a fascinating cultural and spiritual spectacle.
EAT & DRINK
Cafe Clock is right by Fez's famous water clock. The cafe is a hub for young locals and international visitors, which explains its hybrid menu. Also, make sure to visit the rooftop to enjoy incredible views of the city. I would also recommend the cafe's popular camel burger.
The Fez Cafe is another place to pass time with excellent coffee and a good book. The cafe is especially known for its colourful interiors and its charming intimate garden.
Mezzanine is a modern high-end bar and restaurant situated opposite the Boujaloud Gardens. Mezzanine is the bar of choice for young locals in search for a relaxed evening with great cocktails. The restaurant is also decorated with an admirable selection of West African sculpture and pottery.
The Ruined Garden Cafe is another one of Fez's get-away destinations. Like the Fez Cafe, this spot is located in a discreet part the old medina. The cafe stands out with an impressive garden and vibrant West African inspired tablecloths.
WHERE TO STAY
I stayed at the modest but hospitable Riad Les Oudayas. The riad (a Moroccan house with an interior courtyard or garden) typifies the ornate detailing of most formerly aristocratic Fez houses. The courtyard is very peaceful and becomes the perfect sanctuary for late night conversations. The rooms have an authentic lived-in feel with bare naturalistic bathrooms. The rooftop is perhaps the most stellar part of the riad as one can enjoy spectacular views of the entire medina as well as views of the mountains that lie ahead. Also, since eating out is not a big part of Fez culture, the riad catered for most of my meals, which allowed me to savour lots of home-cooked traditional Moroccan cuisine.
Alternatively, Dar Seffarine, a recently converted ornate guesthouse (and former palace) is the perfect destination that merges impeccable design with luxury and intimacy. Each of the rooms has been brilliantly conceived as they pair the vibrancy of Moroccan aesthetics with the restraint of modern design. The guesthouse is also located in the heart of Fez so provides easy access to the most popular sights. Lastly, one can enjoy a fantastic meal in the guesthouse's intimate courtyard.