Having flown into Fes, it was my first taste of Morocco before I embarked on my three weeks of travelling in this fascinating country. Having reflected on my journey through Morocco I can’t think of a better place to start than Fes, as its mazy medina and historic buildings embrace you into the spell binding Moroccan culture.
‘Would you like some mint tea?’ was the first question I was asked on arrival to my budget hotel, a question that any traveller in Morocco will become very familiar with by the end of their trip. Whilst I am not a fan of hot drinks in warm weather the sweetness of the Moroccan mint tea does a surprisingly good job of quenching your thirst and cooling you down. Something you need on a regular basis as you explore the old medina of Fes el Bali.
Usually I don’t like using tour guides and try to be as independent as possible. However with limited time and plenty of people advising me to do so it seemed the best option was to get a guide in order to see all this imperial city had to offer.
Borj Nord sits pretty on top of a hill overlooking the city of Fes and offers stunning views over the medina. Whilst the walk up in the sticky heat wasn’t welcomed, the end result made it all worthwhile. It also offers a welcomed respite from the bustling streets of the medina. Back down into the madness I then went as my tour guide hurried through narrow alleyways and under crumbling buildings. The appeal of a tour guide was becoming more apparent by the second.
Whilst you are there take time to explore several medersa’s, wandering through their grand squares filled with beautifully decorated walls and marvel at the craftsmanship involved. The tanneries are likewise a must see in the city as most people will tell you that Fes’s are more impressive than the regularly visited tanneries in Marrakech. Despite the strong and rather off putting smell (which you will now have become accustomed to having walked through the medina) it is fascinating to see this old technique still being used and to then see the end product hanging up for sale. The other perk of having a guide is that after I finished at the tanneries he then took me around shops where they demonstrated how they go about making Argan oil and silk clothing. However if you are looking to buy some souvenirs then it is best not to do so here, you can pick up the same quality goods if you brave the madness of the souqs for a cut of the price.
At the top of the medina you then come to the small main square of Bab Boujeloud where you can enjoy a meal on a picturesque restaurant terrace overlooking the square and the majestic blue gates, another impressive bit of architecture that is a regular feature in Fes. The surrounding market stalls and shops are also worth a look even if you are not planning to buy anything, just be aware of the salesman’s rather persuasive selling techniques.
The medina of Fes really made an impression on me which I think set the tone for the remainder of my trip through Morocco. Here you get a great insight into the locals’ way of life and a real taste for their culture. It is almost like you have walked back in time as you explore the walls of the medina with its narrowly winding cobbled streets, navigating your way past heavy loaded donkeys and old fashioned craftsmen going about their work. There is no guide book that can quite prepare you for the sights and experiences you will encounter as you meander through the medina. The best bit of advice I can give is to embrace everything it has to offer and don’t be afraid in doing so. If you manage to relax you will be swept up in this majestic city and its abundance in character will leave a lasting impression on you.