Visitors to Morocco often come in search of the fabled medina experience. Where can you come to find delicious honey covered treats during Ramadan? Where can you locate beautiful leather bags and hand-woven rugs at a fraction of the price you’d pay at home? How can you source antiques passed down through generations of Moroccan families to purchase and take away with you as a memory of your experience? All of this is alive and well in the media of Fes.
The fact is that many Moroccan cities have medinas, which are essentially fortified old sections of villages, that once were, and have since expanded outward from the fortified areas and into modern developments. But not every medina is created equal. In Fes, throughout the huge medina, there are more than 9,000 narrow streets to explore. As you stroll through, past mosques, food halls, fish stalls and learning institutions – you are literally walking through 1,300 years of Moroccan history. This very place is a UNESCO World Heritage site. But, the main difference here, is that this site is very much still in use.
The Fes medina is a thriving center of shopping, meeting, living, schooling, praying and creating – all packed into these small streets. Like a neighborhood, each street has its own mosque and school, where children who live on the street can learn and pray. Within the medina is the oldest existing, and continually operating educational institution in the world, the University of al-Qarawiyyin, founded in 859 AD by Fatima al-Fihri. This medina will assault your senses in the best of ways through its noise, smells, beauty, color and vibrancy.
Our suggestion, as a visitor to Fes, is to hire a guide and have them show you through the place. It will take you at least one day, if not more, to feel like you’ve gotten a sense of its entirety. The medina here is something you will never forget.