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Fez

The cultural and spiritual capital of Morocco... and a beautiful tourist destination to be discovered.

Fez is largely considered the spiritual and cultural capital of Morocco, thanks to its rich past. And that has an advantage from the tourist point of view: there are many places of interest and buildings full of beauty, which we list on this page for you to take good note. In addition, we explain its location, its history and the most interesting proposals for a premium traveler. All this, with the wisdom that comes from experience: we are an agency specialized in this destination and in organizing exclusive trips for our clients.

Table of Contents

Where is Fez?

Fez is located in the heart of Morocco, not far from the main tourist destinations in the north, but very close to Rabat and Casablanca, the two main cities of the Atlantic Coast. It has well over one million inhabitants and its region is Fez-Mequinez, of which it is the capital. It stands out for its fertile soil, widely exploited by means of a wide variety of crops: from argan to caper, including different cereals and fruit trees.

How to get to Fez?

Many people arrive in Fez by road, as part of a larger circuit through the north of the country or on longer distance routes. Its bus station is modest and is used mainly by the local population, while private transportation is more common among tourists. Fez enjoys good communications with other areas of Morocco, as the major A2 highway passes through here (a sort of east-west axis from Oujda to Rabat) and the national road N8 (a north-south axis, from Al Hoceima to Marrakech).

This is a list of distances between Fez and the major tourist destinations in Morocco, which will be useful to know if you plan to make a tour of the country:

  • Meknes: 60 km
  • Chaouen: 210 km
  • Rabat: 200 km
  • Al Hoceima: 270 km
  • Casablanca: 300 km
  • Asilah: 360 km
  • Merzouga: 460 km
  • Tangier: 400 km
  • Essaouira: 665 km
  • Ouarzazate: 720 km
  • Agadir: 750 km
  • Marrakech: 530 km

In terms of mass transportation, Fez is connected directly or indirectly by rail to other cities in Morocco (Meknes, Rabat, Casablanca, Tangier, Marrakech), but does not yet enjoy a high-speed line, which is expected in the coming years.

On the other hand, it does have its own international airport: Fez-Saïss, with about 1.5 million passengers per year. Therefore, it does not have as much air traffic as other airports in the country, such as Casablanca or Marrakech, but it is an interesting gateway for travelers from countries such as Spain, France, Italy or Germany, among others, since it is mainly used for tourism.

Vista de Fez

Fez: history and context

Along with Marrakech, Rabat and Meknes, Fez is part of the Imperial Cities of Morocco, as it was the capital of the kingdom at some points in its history. However, Fez has been a thriving city, at least culturally and religiously, at all times of its existence. The result is a varied and ample historic center, which pleasantly surprises all those who dare to visit it.

The history of Fez begins in the year 791, when Mulay Idris ibn Abdallah established his capital here. This monarch, of the Idrisid dynasty, was a descendant of Muhammad and is known as Idris I, revered as a founder and great religious figure. His son, Idris II, consolidated his decision, extending the city along the Fez River.

The city was soon nourished by two large groups of Muslim exiles: those who came from the Umayyad emirate of Cordoba (Al-Andalus) and those who came from the Aghlabid Kairouan (present-day Tunisia). This led to the creation of the first two districts of the city, each with its own mosque: the Andalusian and the Karaouine, as well as its own souks and fortifications. In addition, hammams emerged,
fonduks
or inns and other premises that denote its primitive dynamism.

With the Almoravid dynasty, which dominated the territory of present-day Morocco, the capital of the new political entity went to Marrakech, but these rulers (and their successors, the Almohads) always had this city very much in mind, improving its defensive infrastructures and its mosques.

Around 1250, the Merinids (or Benimerines), originally from the east of the Maghreb, conquered Fez and made it the capital of their sultanate, enlarging the city. Thus arose what is known today as Fez el-Jedid or ‘new city’, as opposed to Fez el-Bali or ‘old city’. In this new city a large royal residence, souks and, in the following century, the Mellah or Jewish quarter was created.

In fact, the 14th century is considered the period of greatest splendor for the city, especially with the Merinid sultans Abu er-Rabi and Abu Said Othman. Houses and palaces were sumptuously decorated, madrasas (or medersas) were built, trade links with the West and Al-Andalus were strengthened, the University of Karaouine was enlarged…

The 15th century, on the other hand, was more convulsive, with civil unrest, which led to changes of dynasty in the 16th century: first the Watassids and then the Saadids, who took the capital to Marrakech, more socially and politically stable.

However, the capital status of Fez returned later: it was with the Alaouite dynasty in the 18th century, which led to a new process of transformation in terms of infrastructure and civil and religious buildings, which continued even in the 19th century. In this regard, it is worth mentioning Mulay Ismail (Alawite monarch who ruled from neighboring Meknes) and, above all, Mulay Abdallah, his successor.

However, 1912 is a bittersweet date for Fez: here it was agreed the establishment of the French Protectorate which, despite this, meant the transfer of the administrations to Rabat, becoming the capital of this new political entity, something that remained after the independence of the Kingdom of Morocco in 1956.

Since then, Fez has been trying to find its place, both politically and economically, given that its religious and cultural role remains a reference in the country. In this sense, we can cite the strength of the textile sector a few decades ago and, at present, the growth of international tourism.

Circuito 8 días desde Fez

Why travel to Fez?

There are plenty of reasons to visit Fez, either as a quick getaway of several days or as part of a larger tour of the country. If you need to know some of them to convince you of your choice, here are some compelling arguments:

  1. Its cultural prestige is still appreciable today, with historical and visitable educational institutions (madrasas) and with an incipient language tourism for those who wish to learn Arabic.
  2. It is an essential city to learn about the religion of the country, as it has sacred places of great veneration among Moroccans.
  3. Its medina is the largest in Morocco, with an explosion of commercial and popular life really fascinating: neighborhoods of artisans, stores for all tastes, themed souks, etc..
  4. The craftsmanship of Fez is one of the most prestigious in Morocco and, therefore, is a tourist attraction in itself. Among the highest quality works are ceramics, leather, cabinetmaking, etc., and many other traditional disciplines.
  5. It is recognized as a World Heritage Site by Unesco, which is the clearest and most objective proof that this is a beautiful destination full of history.

What not to miss in Fez

As in other cities in Morocco, in Fez one can speak of an old city and a modern city. However, the old city can be further divided into two areas: Fez el-Bali (the foundational core of the city) and Fez el-Jedid (which was the ‘new city’ in the 13th century, although today it is considered an old and historic quarter). All of them have a special character and are well worth a visit to discover their essence and places of interest. The modern city, on the other hand, has a commercial character and does not stand out for the monumentality of other neighborhoods called ‘Ville Nouvelle’, so it has no great monuments to add to the travel list.

Fez el-Bali or historical medina

Fez boasts the largest historic medina in Morocco, and one of the largest in the entire Arab world. And his name is Fez el-Bali. One of the advantages for the traveler is that it is very well preserved, with many of its monuments still standing, as well as its walls and gates. This is a list of places of interest within the historic medina:

  • Andalusian Mosque
  • Karaouine Mosque
  • Mulay Idriss Mausoleum Mosque
  • Medersa or madrasa of Chahrij Bouinania
  • Medersa or madrasa el-Attarin
  • Medersa or madrasa es-Seffarin
  • Henna Souk
  • Chuara Tanners’ Neighborhood
  • Walls and access gates to the historic medina:
    • Bab Ftuh
    • Borj Nord
    • Bab el-Guissa
    • Kasbah of the Cherarda
Barrio judio de Fez

Fez el-Jedid

This is another historic and medieval district, which is called Fez el-Jedid or ‘new city’. In addition, its character and development are unique, as they are closely linked to the Merinid monarchy that returned the capital to the city. But this space is also closely related to the Jewish population, often close to power because of its high qualifications. Here is a list of places you should not miss during your stay in the city:

  • Merinid tombs
  • Kasbah en-Nuar
  • Walls and gates:
    • Bab Smarine
    • Bab Dekaken
    • Bab Segma
    • Bab Mahruq
  • Moulay Abdallah Mosque
  • Red Mosque or Jama el-Hamra
  • White Mosque or Hama el-Beida
  • el-Azhar Mosque
  • Small Mexuar
  • Old Mexuar
  • Alauitas Square and Royal Palace
  • Jnan Sbil Garden
  • Mellah:
    • Ibn Dayan Synagogue
    • Jewish Cemetery

Museums of Fez

The cultural prestige explains why this is one of the cities with the greatest variety of museums in the country. In many cases, focused on traditional crafts, given the expertise and exquisiteness that their masters have always shown. But in other cases they are exhibition centers related to episodes of their history and society. This is a list of the most important ones, which are distributed in different areas of the city:

  • Nejjarine Wooden Arts and Crafts Museum
  • Batha Museum of Moroccan Art
  • Borj Nord Weapons Museum

Fez for a premium traveler

Although Fez does not have the fame of other Moroccan cities as far as exclusivity is concerned, it does have interesting proposals for the most select travelers. There are more and more providers of premium services, both in accommodation and catering and wellness and leisure experiences. If you need some ideas to find inspiration, you can take note of the following:

  • Most luxurious hotels in Fez:

    • Riad Fès: A luxury hotel that combines Moroccan tradition with modern comforts. It has a swimming pool on the terrace overlooking the medina.

    • Palais Faraj Suites & Spa: This palace has been transformed into a luxury hotel with stunning architecture and panoramic views of the city.

    • Sahrai Hotel: This hotel offers a mix of traditional and contemporary design, plus an infinity pool overlooking the medina.

    • Riad Laaroussa: A luxury riad in the heart of the medina with a traditional spa and terraces overlooking Fez.

    More luxurious restaurants:

    • Restaurant at Palais Amani: Offers modern Moroccan cuisine in an elegant setting. It is located inside a riad and has a beautiful garden.

    • L’Ambre at Riad Fès: A restaurant that combines traditional flavors with modern culinary techniques. It has panoramic views of the city.

    • Dar Roumana: Located in a riad, this restaurant offers signature dishes in an intimate setting.

    Other luxury experiences:

    • Spas and Hammams: Visit a traditional spa or hammam such as Spa Laaroussa for a relaxing and rejuvenating experience.

    • Golf: Royal Golf de Fez is a beautiful and quiet golf course where you can enjoy a game while admiring the views of the surrounding landscape.

In any case, you can leave this aspect in the hands of Chic Morocco: we are an agency specialized in premium travel and we have the best portfolio of suppliers in this regard. So we encourage you to contact us if you need to set up a tailor-made trip, with the highest quality services, both in Fez and in other Moroccan destinations.

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