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Fez is one of the imperial cities of Morocco. It is famous for being home to the world's oldest university, the Qarawiyyin university. It has an ancient walled city, which many compare to the walled city of Jerusalem.
Royal Air Maroc offers daily flights from Casablanca London-Gatwick and Paris-Orly to Fes-Saiss Airport.
Jetairfly offers flight from Brussels Charleroi Airport.
The airport is located about 15 km from the city. One option, if you don't have too much luggage, is to take a 'local bus' or you can choose a 'taxi'.
The train station Fès-Ville. edit is found at the northern end if the Ville-Nouvelle. There is regular train service along the Marrakech to Oujda and Tangier to Oujda train lines.
Fez is about 3 hours' drive by car from Casablanca. The stretch of toll highway from Rabat to Fez is in superb condition. The motorway continues from Fes to Oujda in the far east of Morocco.
Ignore the travel guides that tell you that you'll get lost in the medina and that you must hire a guide. One of the easiest ways to get around is to use the red taxis to take you to the nearest gate (bab) and then walk from there until you get your bearings.
There are some basic landmarks that you can use to get around, and there is a path network marked by signs perched on walls, although these can be hard to locate at times. These signs have a 8-point star shape which will guide you between the main places in the medina.
For more detailed tours and directions, look for the book Fez from Bab to Bab. It has a complete map of the medina and several well-described walking tours.
What to see in Fez
Just walking around, you will see a great deal!
Get a shave in the medina, nowhere is it cheaper than here, and they really pay attention, even trimming your hair.
Bou Inania madersa: a breathtaking 14th-century religious college. The best example of Islamic architecture a non-Muslim can see in Fez, with wooden walls elaborately carved with geometric patterns and Arabic calligraphy, and a beautiful minaret.
The view from the hills surrounding the old city is spectacular- there are two fortresses overlooking the old city, the Borj Nord which contains an armaments museum, and the Borj Sud, which is being developed for tourism.
The Merenid Tombs next to the Merenid Hotel, provide excellent panoramic views over the medina and the wider city, as well as the olive tree lined hills surrounding the city, and sanctuary from the bustle of the rest of the city. Beware of the odd opportunistic tout.
The Sofitel Palais Jamai terrace has an incredible view over the medina if you are willing to pay 30 dirhams for a glass of tea in order to access it. This is particularly worthwhile if you can time your visit to coincide with the call to prayer, as you can hear multiple minarets from the terrace.
Entrance to the Moulay Idriss II shrine, the tomb of Fez's founder, is limited to Muslims, but the view from just outside its doors is still well-worth hunting down. The mosque is just off the Talaa Kbira near the Souk Attarine.
Similarly, the Qaraouyine library and mosque and the al-Tijani mosque have beautifully decorated exteriors and worth a visit even by those who cannot enter them, which includes all foreigners considered to be non-Muslim.
What to Do
One of the most fascinating activities to do in Fez is a trip in the medina (Old City). The medina is so complex to navigate that sometimes it's easier to simply lose yourself in the hustle and bustle of the various markets, and find your way out once you have had enough of all the sights, sounds, and smells that will overwhelm your senses.
Make sure you find an opportunity to escape from the bustle of the streets and see the medina from one of its rooftops - some shops and restaurants have rooftop terraces. The views are particularly spectacular during sunset and after dark.
The Berber pharmacy. in the Medina has hundreds of jars of twisted root and twig neatly lined up along the walls. Don't eat the seed-pod like things the proprietor offers you.
Quartier des tanneurs. . The tanneries in the medina features leather-making techniques unchanged since the Middle Ages. Men walk the narrow paths between huge vats of lye and colorful dyes, water wheels creak as the leather is rinsed, and buildings facing the tannery are covered with pelts hanging to dry.
There are several well-marked trails through the city: follow the green (Andalusian palaces and gardens), orange (walls and fortifications), or blue signs and you won't get lost in all the narrow twisting streets.
Medina Cooking Classes, Riad Verus (1 Derb Arset Bennis). Daily Traditional Cuisine Classes including Ingredient tour inside the Medina, cook and eat from 30 € per person, min 2 people.
Fez is safe, but crowded. Take standard precautions regarding wallet, purse, etc. If you hear "Belek! Belek!" behind you, stand aside because a heavily-laden donkey is bearing down on you! Appear to know where you are going, even if you don't, or you will get offers from false guides. False guides are not dangerous but they can be exasperatingly tenacious. They can also promise to take you to your hostel or hotel... walking a much longer way, so you can expect being cheated. Best technique is to not even acknowledge their presence.
This is unfortunately one of the sad things about Morocco, that you get to distrust every one, even those people who are genuinely friendly and hospitable, because sometimes this is only a facade.