"Cabine crew - be prepared for landing."
I was surprised that the flight from Bxl to Fès only took 2hr40 - and the time difference in June was 2 hours. Ideal schedule to enjoy this city trip in northern Africa
Fondest memory: Just read my tips and travelogues - i hope you will be fascinated aswell
Anyone with (at least) some adversity to risk shouldn't go by himself or with his travelling group wander inside the Medina.
It's just huge and with endlsess small streets, niches, shadows and people. And there's no map of it. Of course, you could just keep asking people for orientation points when returning, but while exploring, it's impossible to know if you've walked for miles in a straight line or just circuled for hours and hours.
So accept when a guide comes to you (even if he shows his driving license saying it's a tourrist guide license!) and let him leed you on your magic trip. Don't be afraid, he'll not make you a touristic tour (there are actually few architectural beauties in Fes). Tell him what you want, either just getting lost with him in the Medina, or just visiting the Monuments, or just this or just that.
One of the qualities of Moroccan people offering services, is they know the client always knows best what's good for him.
It has its name from the the city Kairouan in Tunisia. Either there was a woman with the origin in Kairouan who established it, or it simply got its name from the quarter where immigrants of this town lived.
Kairouine mosque has been the centre of Islamic learning in Morocco for more than 1000 years, but its real growth to importance came in the 10th and 12th centuries, when most of its structures were added to to the rather modest original structures.
As a mosque it is rather unusual. Its large quarters have since long grown together with the rest of Fez, and unless you enter it, it is therefore almost impossible to get a grip of its real size. Fortunately there are sometimes doors open that allows non-Muslims to look inside, so that they can at least make a guess.
But even if you cannot enter the mosque, at least many of the Islamic schools that lies around it are open to visitors. The most famous of these is the Attarin madrasa.
Around the Kairouine mosque, there are many madrasas ? Islamic schools. The most famous of them is the Attarin, right up the main street.
It was built in the early 14th century, and excels in a beautiful bronze door and an elegant courtyard. The school has numerous examples of excellent detail work, in both marble, alabaster and cedarwood.
Favorite thing: Being among the most famed gates of Morocco, the Bab Boueloud is suprisingly young. It was built as late as in 1913 and marked the completion of Fez el Bali and Fez el Jedid. The gate is strikingly beautiful, with the view from the outide as the most impressive. Seeing the minarets and the houses thorugh its opening marks an excellent introduction to Fez. As you enter the gate, note that the colour of the mosaics change: the outside blue reflects the colour of Fez, while the inside green is the colour of Islam.
While the tanning is not considered much of job by most Fassis, the people who bring in skins in to town, remove the hair and fur and bring it out to the tannners' quarter are still a step or two down on the ladder from the tanners.
As you walk into their funduq where the skins are sorted, no happy face will look up at you. And just like subdued convicts none of them will stop you from photographing. But still you get a clear feeling that your photo angles should be made so that no face is revealed: even people who don't object openly deserve to have their privacy protected.
Suuq Dabbaghin, or the tanners' quarter, is situated no more than 50 metres away from the Kairouine mosque. That is quite surprising, since tanning is considered to be an unclean activity and should therefore be as far away as possible from the main mosque. The reason for this proximity might just be that both were located here in times when Fez was no more than a small town.
The tanners' quarter has become one of Fez' main attractions. The reason comes from the platform where you can look down on the entire area, and see how the process is done, and enjoy watching the contrasts between the brownish honeycombs, the white houses and the intense colours of the dye.
Favorite thing: There is not much left from the Merenid tombs anymore, here to the north of the city near the Bab el Guissa. But the view over the city, as well as the knowledge that the Merenid rulers were central in making Fez the cultural and religious capital of Morocco, will make the visit worthwhile.
The Mellah has its name from the Arabic word for salt, "melh", and is the Jewish quarter which now to a large degre is abandoned and taken over by rural Moroccan immigrants. The area had its own architecture which principally tooks its shape in bays and windows which often could be beautifully adorned, a qualkity that was quite striking compared to the plain white walls of the houses in which they were placed.
The Mellah was not always such a nice place to live, as certin rulers of Fez at times imposed ghetto regulations. This served a both as protection and enclosure. While their rights inside the Mellah were good and safe, the Jews of Fez experienced hard limitations outside: they could not wear shoes or ride on horse or donkey.
The main attractions around the Mellah are the windos and some few synagoges. The Habanim synagogue is now being developed into a museum of Jewish lifestyles.
Favorite thing: The Royal Place is closed to all visitors these days – which is sad because it is in little use and has a reputation of being among the mot elegant structures of Morocco. There are the decorations around the gates, which give some indications on what is on display inside.
Fez is divided in three well separated pieces: the new city, the middle-city (Fez Jdid) and the old-city (Fez el-Bali). The main public services are to be found in the new city, the railway station, one of the bus terminal (the second and most important is close to the Old city, though out of the walls), the post office, the banks and most of the hotels.
The middle city is built around the old Jewish settlement, it consists of a large market area along the streets and, more than that, the modern Imperial palace. The large esplanade facing the entrance of the Palace (the King never comes here, except for special protocol meetings...) is a beatiful scenery for the people walking from the new city. The space closer to the main doors is forbidden to local people: yes, even if you're walking with a Moroccan beside you, a policeman will immediately ask him to step away from that space. It's up to you if you want to remain there alone, as a beast in the zoo, or walk along with him/her. The doors are wonderfully decorated in the old fashioned style (in the picture), that is with the mosaic in the typical red, blue, ocre and white colours: the result shows Moroccan artisans still know how to make great masterpieces with their hands.
The old city, mainly the medina, is surrounded by ancient walls and you can enter walking through huge doors. The most famous one, and the most commonly used by tourist buses (it is the one closer to the new city) is the Bab Bou Jaloud (aka: Blue Door). The door itself is wonderful, though it is difficult to imagine you will be left the appropriate time to examine it and let it feel with its spirit before walking through and enter the very special atmosphere of the largest medina of the World. As a matter of fact, this is the area where the meeting/match between the tourists and/versus the guides (or pretended guides) happens.
The new city is a normal Arab modern city, with all kind of services you may want, a lot of shopsand restaurants, lots of outdoor cafes, there are even a couple of juice makers along the external border of the Central Market. It is most likely your hotel will be in this part of the city. It is not impossible to walk from here to the medina - maybe thirty minutes of pleasant walking - but it is easy to go even by public bus or by taxi (take care, you are supposed the so-called petits-taxis, while the grand-taxis are intended for large trips, between cities). Dont't bother the stories about Moroccan taxi drivers acting as burglars... they behave exactly in the same way their colleagues do in any other part of the world, and they are not blaming you if you ask to use the metre.
Fondest memory: If you reach the old city by car, ask the driver to go to the Bab
el-Fouth, i.e. the Southern Door. You will see the medina from the facing hill: it is a great view over the area and it gives you the exact idea of the dimension of the place. The medina is really vast, more than 350,000 people live in it and most of them do not ever exit from this self-sufficient universe. The medina lies as a carpet over the hills, just a few minarets and the domes of the Medressas will appear and once you're inside it, you are totally involved in this world apart, whose limits are very difficult to be percieved.
Favorite thing: Visit FES, the oldest of the imperial cities of Morocco. Its walled Medina is the largest we found in Morocco and you're likely to get lost. It is an incredible maze of twisting alley, blind turns, mosques, medersas and shops. To get lost here is a real enjoyable thing to do. In the end you'll find yourself at one of the gates, the question is only which gate!
Favorite thing: I bought 1 postcard at the Medina 3 Dirham and stamp to Thailand is 6.5 Dirham ... I found out later when somebody at the post office in Marrakesh told me that I have to put at least 10 Dirham! Finally I got my postcard when I back home with 6.5 Dirham stamp!
Favorite thing: When eating in tourist cafes I found that most put extra dishes on your table, such as bread, soup, olives and salads, as though its a free entre etc. Though you haven't ordered it, it will appear on your bill should you touch it. If you don't want it, tell the waiter when he delivers it.
Favorite thing: Whenever you walk around Morocco, you will see mosaics of different qulities. These guys cuts out the smallet tiles, but until water is used for washing no colour will be visible.