Fés, the second largest city in Morocco, is situated in the northern part of the country. It is a charming city which claims to have the oldest living Medina (medieval city) in the world. It isn’t a tourist haven like Marrakesh, but this city has its charms and can be a serious setback for those with a shopping problem!
Here are some of the highlights of this colourful Moroccan city…
The Medina in Fés is the main attraction and can easily take a whole day to explore. There are so many alleyways and streets, that you feel like you are in Agrabah! Some of the streets are large with stalls and stores spilling out on either side, while others are so tiny, that you think only a child can fit through. There are different route markers throughout the Medina that take you on different mini journeys: the shopping route, the parks route, the sightseeing route etc. Spend the day in the maze shopping, exploring, visiting mosques and mini palaces, and eating.
The one word I would use to describe Moroccan food is tantalising. Once you enter the Medina in the morning, find a little stall that serves breakfast. Order some mint tea and Moroccan bread with honey. The bread melts like butter dancing a trail of deliciousness across your mouth, while the piping hot tea seems to wash away all your troubles with its strong aroma, leaving a cool feeling in your throat. For lunch, stop and order anything that comes in a tajine. Tajines are made of clay and are used for making meat and vegetables that are slow cooked to perfection. The meat is so tender and the vegetables so infused with flavour that you die from the tastiness right in your seat. And when the heat has gotten too much for you by midday, grab some freshly squeezed orange juice – nothing refreshes you like some OJ after a long day of sun and shopping.
Some typical items you will find in the Medina of Fés are leather goods (bags, belts etc), trinkets, ornamental tajines, fake Converse shoes and Moroccan clothing. The other specialties are available from the artisans that dot the alleyways in the forms of leather tanneries, carpet makers and apothecaries. On my trip there, we were taken on a tour of a carpet store to see how the carpets were made (as well as given a sales pitch afterward) and two boys who wanted us to visit their father’s tannery led us. After refusing, they led us to their mother’s shop where she sold spices, soaps and oils. Beware of children like this as they always ask for money at the end of their little tour on top of the high pressure sales at any shop you are ‘led to’. That being said, you can really practice your haggling skills in the Medina. If you don’t get a good price at one store, move to the next store that sells identical products.
Spending time in the Medina can give you the experience of tasty food, mint tea and unique culture. Of course they contain tourist traps with overpriced Converse shoes and leather bags. But when you step into this ancient city, you can’t help but feel a connection with the thriving society that once existed there.
About the Author
Nithya Ramachandran, who is originally from Canada, is an avid 20 something traveller and serial expat who has lived in Spain and India in the last year alone. She is the creator of a website that is aimed at the 20 something women expats and travellers (Check it out here). She is passionate about travel stories and adventures and is collecting tales from all over the globe. To follow her more closely on her adventures you can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.
Please ask us any questions you have on Fés or Morocco below in the comments section.