Fez (also spelt Fes) is instantly captivating. The oldest of Morocco's Imperial Cities, it was founded by Moulay Idriss I in the 8th century. During the reign of his son, Moulay Idriss II, Fez prospered and became a focal point of the newly Arabized nation. Fabulous mosques, medersas and royal architecture attest to Fes' former political and religious significance. The Merenid kings expanded the city, creating the two districts that remain to this day – Fes el Bali and Fes el Djedid. Don't be fooled into thinking Fez is a city of the past – with almost a million inhabitants, it buzzes with energy and industry. In the labyrinth of alleyways, you will see internet cafés alongside cobblers and hear mobile phones while the call to prayer echoes out from a nearby mosque – it's this fascinating blend of medieval and modern that draws thousands of visitors to Fes every year.


Fez is best explored on foot, and a walking tour with an official guide is inexpensive and reassuring for Morocco first-timers. Start in the old city, Fes el Bali, by passing through the ornate blue-and-white gateway of Bab Boujeloud. Descend through the amazing souk, packed with market stalls and livestock, until you reach the beautiful Medersa Bou Inania which can be visited by non-Muslims. Continue on to the cool fountains of the Zaouia Moulay Idriss II, a shrine to the city's most revered son. Don't miss the sights and smells of the Dyer's Souk and the Tanneries, where age-old methods are still used to colour wool and leather.

Head for the new city, Fes el Djedid, to see the stunning Royal Palace, surrounded by beautiful shady gardens where you can escape the crowds. Nearby lies the Mellah, a Jewish quarter crammed with lovely balconied houses and several synagogues.

Visit the Merenid Tombs for breathtaking views of Fes el Bali's honeycomb streets and white minarets. Situated on a hill outside the city walls, the tombs are wonderful at sunset. As darkness falls, hundreds of egrets fly home to roost as the lights flicker on far below.

For something different, sign up for cooking lessons at Dar Roumana, a beautifully restored riad within the old city. Enjoy a trip to the souk to purchase ingredients followed by an introduction to traditional Moroccan cooking.


Trade is fundamental to Fes and there is a bewildering array of goods on offer! Shopping revolves around the markets or souks. What is available depends on which area of the market you are in, so simply explore the stalls and cell-like “shops” until you find what you're looking for. Popular souvenirs include silver jewellery, woodwork screens, leather shoes and, of course, carpets. The prices are low by Western standards and the level of craftsmanship generally high. Bear in mind that haggling is part of the Moroccan psyche and don't be afraid to bargain hard – it is expected and all part of the fun!

Nightlife and Eating Out

Food is everywhere in the old city, and you can eat well from cheap street stalls and local restaurants. The area around Bab Boujeloud is particularly good. Don't miss the following dishes:

  • Harira - a nourishing soup of chickpeas, tomato and coriander
  • Cous Cous Royale - a heap of tasty semolina topped with vegetables and melted butter
  • Tagine - a delicious slow-cooked casserole served in a dish with a conical lid
  • Pastilla – a layered sweet-and-savoury pie made with pigeon, cinnamon and sugar
Concerns about hygiene cause a lot of visitors to eat in tourist hotels and restaurants, yet many are mediocre and expensive - so choose carefully. The best are found in Fes el Bali, often situated in former palaces which offer extravagant menus in beautiful surroundings. Try Al Fassia near the Bab Guissa, Palais de Fes off Place er Rsif, or Restaurant Palais Tijani near the Tijani Mosque.

Outside the tourist hotels there are no bars in Fez, as the Islamic faith forbids the consumption of alcohol. Cafés stay open late and there is plenty of entertainment, particularly during the big religious feasts. During Ramadan, the month of fasting, nightfall is a time of celebration and song – a wonderful time to visit.

Be aware that the possession of kif (marijuana) is strictly prohibited in Morocco. Though widely sold and consumed, penalties are severe if you are caught!

Tourist Information

In the UK:

In Fez:

  • Tourist Information Office, Eastern side of Place Mohamed V
  • Tel. +212 5 62 47 69


Fez' Sais airport is located 15km south of the city. Royal Air Maroc operates a daily service to Fez from Casablanca, with a flight time of 45 minutes. Flights operate between London and Casablanca seven days a week. BA fly direct to Fes from Gatwick three times a week. If you're on a budget, try Ryanair's daily service to Fes from London Luton.

Ryanair starting flying to Fez in October 2006 from London Luton, Marseille and Frankfurt airports. Ryanair tickets are often cheaper than other carriers (although the customer service is generally accepted as poor).

Fez' airport is small, with limited facilities. To reach the train station and city centre, catch the No.16 bus, which departs every 30 minutes and costs 3 dirham (20p). Taxis are also available at the airport, with a fixed fare of 160 dirham (£9) until 19:00, 200 dirham (£12) thereafter.