Fez has been called "the most complete example of Oriental civilization". It is three cities in one: The pearl-gray rampart-enclosed ancient town Fes El Bali is on the right bank; the New Fez Fes El Jedid is on the left. Then there's a newer town called Fez Debibagh. Fez is on the north-south caravan route between the Sahara and Tangier. It stretches out between low hills, and is crowned by ruins of old fortresses.
Founded in 808, Fez is the most ancient of the Imperial Cities. After Granada fell to Isabella and Ferdinand, Fez became a center for refugees, who brought with them spectacular knowledge of arts, science, and crafts. Those crafts are still practiced today. In fact, a walk through the Medina (old section) is like plunging back to the middle Ages. Fez also became know as a "city of mosques" as there are more than 300 here, including the world-famous Karaouyine.
Fes El Bali: The ancient part - or Medina, where you'll find the greatest collection of palaces, mosques, souks (shops), and national monuments. A qualified guide is absolutely essential, even for those who pride themselves on getting around without hired help. Easy to get lost forever! The streets are a labyrinth maze of alleyways and are extremely narrow. The houses rise high, blocking sight of the sun. Except for the mosques and private houses, you can wander past almost any door and watch the craftsmen practice their age-old secrets. Throughout the Medina are a maze of souks, with hustlers trying to lure you inside. Each craft has its own section. For the Tanner's Quarter, just follow your nose. You'll first go through the section of vats where the animal hides are treated by scantily clothed men. The stench from the slain beasts will rise to greet you. You'll proceed to a terrace where you can look down at the many-hued dyes resting in vats in which the treated hides are submerged. You will not want to linger. Potter's Quarter where the potters practice their craft with skill, and most of the workers were trained by their fathers who in turn were trained by their fathers.
Mosque of the Andalusians: This was built for the refugees from Cordoba and dates from the 9th century. You can't go inside. Admire the porch roof over the south doorway,
Bab Boujeloud: This is actually two gates where one traditionally enters the Medina. The outside has blue designs and the inside has green designs. Just inside is the Dar Batha, a 19th century palace turned into the Museum of Moroccan Art and Handicrafts. It is in the Hispano-Moorish style. Daily except Tue-sunset. Tip the guide.
Bou Imania Medersa: A former college complex dating from the 14th century and a fine example of Merinid Architecture. Note the mosaic-covered walls, the carved plaster, and the elaborate friezes. Its penthouse is superbly decorated as well, and its courtyard is paved with onyx and pink and white marble. Men only are admitted to the Hall of Ablutions. Daily except Friday morning.
Attarime Medersa: Another college, even older than the Bou Inania. It's also a smaller complex and more graceful. It also dates from the 14th century. If you climb the terrace, you'll enjoy a view of the monumental Karaouyihe Mosque, founded in the 9th century and still the largest in North Africa, with its 270 columns and 16 naves. It literally dominates the Medina.
Neijarine Square: One of the most delightful spots in the city. The plaza is known for its mosaic fountain. The Neijarine Fondouk (Stable) here has an entrance surmounted by a handsome pent roof. This one dates from the 18th century.
Zawiya of Moulay Idriss: This is a sanctuary dedicated to the founder of Fez. It is a much-revered sight, sacred to Moroccans and visitors are asked to respect that. Wooden beams bar the streets leading to it, marking the limit of the so-called holy asylum. Do not go too close to the holy asylum.
Seffarir Medersa: The oldest college in Fez, dating from 1255.
Cherratine Medersa: Dating from 1670, this is the largest college.
Tetuani Fondouk: Named to commemorate its past function as a way station to serve the merchants and their camels who came down from Tetuan. See especially its delicately carved wood ceiling from the 14th century.
Fes El Jidid (New Fez): Less colorful, but still interesting.
Dar El Makhzem: This imperial palace where King Hassan II stays when he's in town occupies nearly 200 acres.
Mellah: The old Jewish quarter, enclosed behind its own walls. It dates from the 14th century, and today this former ghetto has far fewer Jews than Muslims. In addition to a Jewish cemetery, there are a few synagogues.
Old Mechaquar: This courtyard is surrounded by high walls. On an afternoon, jugglers, fortunetellers, soothsayers, acrobats, and dancers entertain. It's chaos time!
Great Mosque: Founded in 1276. Mosque Moulay Abdellah is nearby.