We visited the Royal Palace in Fes. It was built in the 17th century. You can’t go in into the palace but the outside is interesting for the tourist. The king of Morocco stays at the palace when he visited Fes. The palace is one of the major attractions and is of great historical value. When tourists visit the palace they can take photos with the royal guard, we did.
Borj Nord is one of those attractions that you can see from anywhere in the town but nobody seems to visit! Borj's North and South were built, not to protect the town from invaders, but to control the unruly inhabitants of Fes. To extract taxes and duties form the free spirited Fassi.
Borj Nord houses a museum of arms and militaria. Fascinating and deadly. The grounds are beautifully kept with many large and small cannon in the grounds.
Borj Nord is sadly missed off the usual Tourist trail. The last time I went there I had the whole museum to myself. Trip Advisor doesn't list it.
The grounds are extensively used by the locals - I suspect it is a local trysting place. A place for people of opposite sexes to see one another and to be seen.
Walk along the road from the main entrance in the afternoon and you will find the local men playing cards. Not gambling I think but playing whist/bridge, and boy, do they get excited about their games.
The Mellah was the Jewish Quarter. The well-to-do Jews (craftsmen, etc.) lived just outside the palace walls in nice apartments with cedar balconies. Some of them even had a view of the palace gardens. The families lived upstairs and had workshops on the ground level. When the Jews were forced out of Spain in the 14th Century, they were welcomed in Morocco. Many were employed at the palace. Centuries later, their descendants moved to Israel, but they kept the apartments which are now very valuable.
(The poor Jews lived in a section of the Medina that wasn’t beautiful then or now.)
Go up a winding road to the North Borj (16th Century fort) for a great view of the Medina. From the hilltop we could look down on the sprawling old city with its surrounding walls and pick out some of the landmarks.
The oldest tannery in Fes has been at that same location, using the same all-natural processes, since the 14th Century. Pigeon droppings (acid) are combined with pomegranate rinds for the tanning process. They don’t use any chemical dyes—poppies provide red color; saffron is yellow; indigo is blue.
To see the tannery operation, visitors go up on the roof and look down at the courtyard. As you go up, you are handed some mint leaves to hold under your nose! I dealt with the smell, but my eyes were watering by the time we came back down the stairs. The men who wade around in those vats all day have one of the worst jobs ever.
Worth seeing - it is like a scene out of the Bible.
Guess they don't have a health & safety culture, yet.
Useful information -
- they change the colour of the dyes they use every few days (today red, next time yellow)
- the dyes are all natural (allegedly)
- this means they don't harm the workers
- the workers cover themselves with olive oil before starting, and this helps stop their skin changing colour
- they only work 4-5 hours per day in the dying process
- the smell is quite something
Of course your visit is all about getting the opportunity to be sold some leather goods...
This dates back to the 800s! It was built by a refugee from Tunisia for fellow refugees. For centuries it has been highly regarded as a centre for Islamic studies.
Again, not open to non-Muslims, but you can see in the gate!
This is the mausoleum of Moulay Idriss II - the son of the founder of the country's first dynasty - and a highly significant place for all Moroccans.
Although it may have been his father, he is often credited with founding the city.
Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter, but you can (as I did) take a picture from the entrance.
A medersa is just a school - let's not forget that!
This one is beautiful, between the mosaic tiles and the intricately carved cedar.
Currently being restored (with UNESCO help, if I remember well).
As I had left myself a bit short of time to "do my own thing" in exploring the medina, my riad manager helped me to organise a 3 hour guided tour - my own guide for 250 mad.
In almost all respects it was a smart move. I learned a lot and saw a lot, plus no time was wasted getting lost!
I saw the tanneries, the Medersa Bouanania, the Zawiyya Moulay Idriss II, the Kairaouine mosque, a couple of souks, as well as being subjected to the hard sell in carpet, leather, metalwork & antique places.
The latter were the downsides. I don't like paying a guide to take me to his favourite haunts so he can pick up commissions.
Also known as the Museum of Moroccan Art, and the Museé du Batha.
It was originally built as a Hispano-Moorish palace over 100 years ago. The building and garden are worth seeing in themselves. You come out of the bustle of medina into this oasis of calm.
Cost 10 Mad for entry – it won’t take you long to get round.
Exhibits include carpets, pottery, jewellery etc.
Moulay Idriss II was the founder of Fez and the mausoleum where he is buried is in the centre of Fez. He died in 791. The Mausoleum which was built in the 18th century and restored during the 19th century, it is the most venerated in Morocco. Non-Muslims cannot enter unfortunately.
The Mellah is the old Jewish quarter of Fes and it was in this city that the first official mellah was established in 1438. It is set within walls near the Royal Palace for protection from the Muslim population.
The Jewish population in the Mellah came close to annihilation in 1465 when the Merinid Dynasty was overthrown. Prior to this time the Jewish population had been protected within the Mellah. The name Mellah comes from the word salt. Today the old quarter is mainly inhabited by Muslims.
Built between 1350 and 1355, this is the largest Medrassa every built by the Merinids and the most highly decorated. The Sultan Abou Inan was actually the one that ordered the construction. The complex incorporates a mosque, school and students residence. It is the only Medrassa in all of Morocco which has a pulpit and minaret.
The mosque is right in the heart of the Medina and while not easy to see from outside because of its location, from up above it can be identified by the rows of green roofs. It is the second largest mosque in North Africa and the first university to be established in Morocco.