The Medina of Fés is large. We think it would be wise to book an official guide if you are short in time. But if you have a few days and you like to walk around just read this blog. Find oud what you should see in the Medina.
The most chosen entrance is that of Bâb-Bouljoud. This gate leads directly to the narrow, busy streets of the Medina, full of merchandise. If you want to start quietly we advise you to start at a different gate. For example at the most eastern gate of Bâb Khokha or Bâb Ftouh. In this blog we will immediately throw ourselves into the pleasant chaos around Bâb-Bouljoud. And describe the most travelled route from west to the east side of the medina.
1. The Bâb-Bouljoud.
Also called Bab Bou Jeloud, originates from the 12th century. The French wanted a larger gate. They built this Moorish architecture inspired gate in 1912. Next to this gate you can admire the orginal smaller gate.
2. the Talaâ Kbira and the Talaâ Sghira
The gate gives access to two streets: the Talaâ Kbira and the Talaâ Sghira. Both lead you to the Al Qarawiyyin mosque. In the first street, which is less touristy, you’ll find many small food stores, butchers and small craft and art stalls. On the other side of the Bou Inania Madrasa you’ll see wooden beams sticking out of a wall. This used to be a hydraulic clock, and comes from the 14th century. The clock was powered by running water in the building. Unfortunately the clock does not work anymore, it is said that the clock has stopped after a pregnant woman was so frightened by the noise that she lost her baby. The clock stopped then and never worked again. The Madrasa itself is also from the 14th century. If you are a non- muslim you can visit the courtyard.
3. Place de Nejjarine.
Around the place de Nejjarine you can see the old crafts. The Nejjarine museum costs about 20 dirhams. You can look at woodwork handicraft here. The museum itself has also been beautifully crafted. You can have a drink and use the clean toilets. In this part you will also find tanneries from Guerniz. They are less touristy and you can get closer to the pools.
4. The Henna Souk.
If you want to buy natural beauty products, walk to the Henna souk. Men, that does not mean it's only girls stuff. Rhassoul or Ghassoul is a cleansing clay that is also used by many men. You can wash your hair and it will soften your skin.
5. The mausoleum of Moulay Iris II
This is the resting place of Moulay Idriss II. And kind of pilgrimage place. His father founded the place and he build it into a bigger city.
Although this is not a mosque , only Muslims can enter. The doors (7 total) are open so everyone can look inside.
6. The Al Qarawiyyin mosque.
This is a mosque with the oldest university in the world and founded by a women: Fatima.
30,000 writings are kept in the library and this library was closed with four separate locks. The keys were kept by four individuals, so each person had to be present to open a library. If you want to read more about this mosque: read our blog: Fés / Fez; why go and what to see.
7. The Choura tanneries: skins, cow urine, pigeon droppings and colours.
These tanneries are more touristy, but there is more to see here. Unfortunately, the tanning of the leather does not go without stench. The skins are first soaked in a mixture of cow urine, lime, water and salt to remove all the meat. Then the hairs of the skin must be removed and the skin has to soften. For the latter they use pigeon droppings. You can imagine that clay wells with urine and wells with pigeon droppings do not smell like roses. The tanneries are known for the enormous ammoniac smell.
People work around the tanneries put some mint leaves in the nostrils to mask the smell.
If the skins are soft enough, they are dyed with natural materials. Henna = orange, Mint = green, Saffron = yellow, Indigo = blue, poppy = red. You will see that the workers are standing in the wells. Sometimes up to their waist. These are hard labour conditions that cause you to worry a bit about the price of the leather in the store. This is much cheaper than in most Western countries while this labour is so hard. The tanneries are best admired from the roof of the shops around them. The owner will expect a small fee to use his roof. They will also do their utmost to ensure that you’ll buy something in the store. This is not necessary. The same products are offered for sale throughout the medina.
8. The place de Seffarine.
This is a nice place to see how copper is made and processed. The copper is worked on with hammers. If you want to steal the show at home with a special hair comb then stroll a bit further down. Here they make combs from bovine horns.
9. The Andalusian district.
The Andalusian mosque is located in this district and you will find even fewer tourists. This district is located west of the medina. The Andalusian mosque is the sister of the Al Qarawiyyin. Mariam, the sister of Fatima, founded this mosque.
10. El Mokri and El Glaoui palaces
In the south, near the Bâb Ziat, there are two large palaces.
Those of Si Tayeb el Mokri, who worked as a minister and was the pasha of Casablanca. He built a new palace in 1906 and was known for his worldly knowledge and used those influences in the construction of his palace. The palace is now in the hands of his heirs, and although it no longer has the grandeur of the past, they try to maintain the palace as well as possible. You can visit the palace and it is definitely worth it. Note that the signs in the city can point you to the old Mokri palace. This palace is no longer accessibele.
However, the palace of El Glaoui shows some serious decay. Thami El Glaoui was known as a nasty man, who helped to send the sultan (Mohammed) into exile when the French took over. It is said that the workers who built the palace were locked up during construction. They did deliver some really lovely work. The mosaic motifs are very interesting. In the palace it is also clear that many different religions were still influential in that time. You can see a star of David in the woodwork, but also crosses in the mosaic. The heirs do not fully agree on the restoration of the palace and they also lack the means to do this well. You can go inside this palace by giving some tips. 25 dirham is certainly desirable.
Experience The Medina of Fés with Morocco Round Trips
Of course there is much more to see Fés. If you like to read more about Fés. Just read our blog "Fes: why go & what to see.
If you want to see this beautiful city: we offer several tours that include Fés. If you you like Moroccan history; then our 7 or 8 day tours from Casablanca are perfect for you. Not so much time: join us for a 4 day Northern Morocco tour.
If you want to see all the royal cities and don't want to miss out on the Sahara experience: our 11 or 14 day tour will give you the best of both worlds. Or are you excited to see Fes and the Sahara: our 3 or 4 day tours will take you there.
We also have tours from Marrakech to Fés.