We took a very interesting half day's tour around the medina with Salim, an official tour guide, who we had hired through the tourist office. I usually prefer to explore cities independently, though in a place like Fes, a guide can be a good idea, as the medina, with over 10,000 small streets and alleys, can be a little tricky to navigate on your own. I doubt there even exists a proper map.
The previous evening, when we were walking in the Ville Nouvelle, Salim had approached us - very politely - and asked us where we were from and what we thought of Fes. He showed us his official tour guide card and offered to show us around the medina the following day. We were a little wary after our experiences in Tangier, so we said we'd think about it. He said he'd be sitting at the Cafe Renaissance, near the tourist office, the following morning.
We were still a little worried about being ripped off, but as we felt we needed a guide to properly explore the medina, we went along to the tourist office to hire someone for half a day. The man there asked us to wait a minute. When he returned, who was with him? Salim of course! He was a bit annoyed at us for not trusting him! He explained to us that the tourist office would not use him again until all the other guides had been given a tour. I imagine the tourist oiffice also got a commission, whereas he would avoided all this if we had gone straight to him. I blame our experiences in Tangier....
He did give a very good half day tour of the medina, though he spoke very quickly and it was sometimes difficult to take in all he said. The cost was 120 Dirham (about 12 Euro).
Tagines are a slow cooked stew type dishes which are made up of fish, chicken or meat as well as vegetables, sometimes even with fruit like pears, olives and apples. Wonderful spices like saffron, turmeric, cinnamon, paprika Ras el hanout are added. The very traditional way to cook this stew is over coals and they were used as portable ovens for the nomads. Of course today they can be cooked in the oven.
A Tagine is also a very different type of ceramic clay dome shaped cooking dish which can be very plain and basic to highly decorative and almost too lovely to want to cook with.
Trains run from Marrakech, Tangier, Casablanca and Rabat and arrive at the only train station in Fez. There are overnight trains running from Tangier. The trains are operated by ONCF which run in conjunction with buses to get you to outlying areas. There are two classes – first and second and both have compartments. In first class you can book your actual seat.
Something Different: Moroccan Cooking Lesson to Se
I've been living in Fes for a few months, and probably the coolest thing I've done so far is take a cooking class in the old medina.
A teacher, who is an experienced chef, meets you at your hotel or wherever and takes you into Fes' main souq, not a place any tour guides will ever take you. You pick a menu for the meal you're going to cook (an apetizer, a main course, and a dessert) and the chef helps you shop for your ingredients. You're in the middle of the real marketplace, filled with beautiful fresh produce and ingredients, and are taught about the different Moroccan delicacies you're purchasing. You really get to see a different side of Fes in the souq, which is where real people (and not tourists) shop. Then you go back to a beautiful riad in the old medina where you are taught to make the dishes you picked out.
The chef who teaches it is great, he's friendly and really knows what he is talking about it. He speaks English very well, and also French and Spanish. This is also one of the few things for tourists to do in Fes that doesn't involve anyone trying to get you to buy anything or spend money; the lessons are quite inexpensive and there really is nothing else that they try to sell you. You learn a ton and get to experience something off the beaten path in Fes. Plus, it takes only few hours and you can do it in the afternoon and evening.
I was also told that the same company can also do private wine tastings in Meknes, and I know that they will occassionally throw a huge Moroccan party called a mishwi (basically the best barbeque ever) for guests.
Instead of souviners, I was able to cook my friends a whole Moroccan meal when I got back. Even if you're only in town for one day, I reccomend it.
There is a big chance that any accomodation within the Old Town will have a rooftop terrace with some great views. The best panoramic view I had was from private-home-turned-museum in the Andalous Quarter - I don`t remember the name, it was something like Dar Binouni, but any official guide will probably know about it. Another excellent viewpoint is from the rooftop cafe of the Foundouk Nejjarine (woodwork museum).
The best viewpoints from outisde the city are from the fortress Bourj Nord and from the Merinid Tombs. Another good viewing point is an elevated tomb in the Jewish Cemetery from which you have the best view over the whole graveyard - the gatekeeper will probably take you there anyway.