Fez or Fes is a busy city that is home to over a million people. The narrow streets are often only as wide as your shoulders and the roofs are all topped with dated satellite dishes all pointed in the same direction.
The medina (old city) in Fez has one of the largest pedestrian only zones in the world which consist of over 9,700 streets.
The best way to describe Fez is a giant beautiful maze. The car-free streets are not donkey free, one donkey with a wide load can create quite the traffic jam. The streets shoot off in all directions and you never fully know where you are. A big of part of coming here is just the experience of walking around in this maze, we were told that even the locals who have been here for 50 years still get turned around. Did we mention that those 9,700 streets don't have names, your phone doesn't work, and there are no maps...let the walking begin!
We stayed at Dar Seffarine which was reccomended by Ang's sister and Jeff's mom and was one of our favorite riads in all of Morocco. This old riad was restored to it's former splendor, by the amazing owners. They made us feel right at home. One of our favorite things about the riad was the rooftop terrace. The view from here was unlike anything we've ever seen before.
When the sun starts to set the call to prayer echos throughout the city. This was a breathtaking travel moment.
Fez is one of the best preserved ancient cities in the world and the old medina is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Inside the city walls you can find over 100 mosques, unpaved streets, covered bazaars filled with shops, madras, tanneries and craftsman workshops.
The tanneries in Fez are almost 1,000 years old and the leather here is still dyed using traditional methods. The colored dye pits spread out like a tray of water colors. Its a beautiful sight to see but the smell is quite pungent. A good guide should give you a handful of mint that you can smell as you look out over tannery. We saw how they stripped the leather clean and then packed it onto donkeys which would carry the leather outside of the city where it would be laid out in the direct sunlight to dry. After drying it is carried back to the tannery where it is dyed and processed into workable leather.
Life inside the medina goes on as it always has. You will see men going to and from the mosques constantly. These mosques are spread throughout the city and can be tucked into unusually narrow areas, one small door often leads into a giant open area the size of a football field that is surrounded by beautiful tile. Although we were not allowed inside the mosques we were able to get a glimpse at some of the beautiful decorations.
One of our favorite parts of traveling is being privilaged enough to see how other people live.
One of our favorite stops inside the medina was the Al Attarine Madrasa. It is located near the perfume and spice bazaar, the intricate tile work and chiseled plaster is all done by hand. It is an absolutely stunning and peaceful place.
Fez is regarded as the pottery capital of Morocco and we were lucky enough to venture outside the city walls to where some of this famous pottery is handmade and painted.
The Blue Gate is one of the many elaborate entrances to the old city.
Getting lost in Fez is a guarantee. Maps are useless here because none of the streets have names and your iPhone map doesn't show all of the tiny alleyways you come across when wandering around. This can be a little overwhelming at first but getting lost is all part of the fun here. When you are ready to head back to your riad ask a local kid and they should point you in the right direction, sometimes for a small fee.
After a long day of wandering through the medina we made it back to our riad for sunset on the roof.
While gazing out over the city rooftops it is crazy to think that this city has barely changed for centuries. A visit to Fes is like taking a step back in time.