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Going to Medina at Fès

Although I live in Doha, with it’s “traditional” Arabian souq, the real souq I have seen and which fascinated me was the souq in Aleppo.   However, we are in Fez today, our tour started from the Jewish Quarter, and our guide said that this is the ‘organized’ area of the city compared to the real Medina. I thought this facade in the alleyway is similar to the alleys of Mykonos in Greece only this one is not in white and blue.   However, this is far busier than Mykonos.

To my surprise, the road was not that long, soon we were back on our bus again…. that’s it; it turns out that the fabulous Jewish Quarter is located outside the Medina, as we rode the bus heading to the real Souq.

The Jewish Quarter in Fes

The Walled City of Fès ,

OK, a bit of information about the city which I copied from Wikipedia, that Fes is the third or fourth largest city in Morocco today but it was the capital of Morocco during the Moroccan Empire, and as many historic places, Fes also has bits of the Old City called the Medina.  It comprises three distinct parts, Fes el Bali (the old, walled city), Fes-Jdid (new Fes, home of the Mellah) and the Ville Nouvelle (the French-created, newest section of Fes). “Fes el Bali” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; this medina, the larger of the two medinas of Fes, claims to be the world’s largest contiguous car-free urban area.

This is Fes el Bali, in set is map of  greater Fes, including the new French’s Fes, Fes el Jdid, and Fes el Bali

To see Fes el Bali, one has to be there, feel the life and vibrant of the life of Fes, but we can see Fes from the distance as well, that is from the ancient walled city is from the ruined Merenid Tombs on a hilltop to the east of the city.   From here you can see the skyline with its profusion of satellite dishes, and a general mass of palaces, green-roofed holy places, the tanneries, as well as the adjacent Karaouine Mosque.

View of Fes el Bali from the hilltop

Behind the Medina’s high walls is a magical, medieval city just teeming with life in every one of its 9000 narrow streets. As Fes today is the cultural and spiritual capital of Morocco what I experienced there was really different, the alley ways were smaller, there were no cars at all as the streets are not wide enough, the idea of the visit is getting lost in the labyrinth of the Medina. When our guide took us for a whole day tour, I was amazed that he did not got lost in the very small alleyways all over the place.

Fes is a colourful old city, everything is interesting: the vibrancy of the people doing their daily life activities, the noise of  buying and selling, the elusive traditionally dressed Moroccans, veiled women going about their work and bell-ringing water sellers as well as the main transportation inside this Medina, the donkey.

The entrance to Fes el Bali

To avoid getting lost, a guided tour is the easiest way to tackle the buzzing hive that is traditional Fez, but if you are brave, you can negotiate the tiny alleyways, too narrow for cars whilst risking getting lost and then haggling with a local to be guided back out!

The hustle bussle of Fes’ Souq

More picture could be seen on my Facebook Page

Filed under: eJournal, Travel Notes

About the Author

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I used to live as an expat and travel around the Middle East. After 10 years working in the Arabian Gulf I am now retired and living in the UK but still retain my interests of further travels and exploring new horizons.


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