It is a long weekend trip to Fes. My first plan was to visit Marrakech, but looking at the flight, Fez has a better schedule, which was ideal for us. Departing on a Friday evening from Brussels and return on Monday morning. Morocco wasn’t on my bucket list, but I wanted to see it once. Since it is only three hours flying from Brussels, I can always go back. So for the first time in the country, we start for a long weekend trip.
We have precisely two full days, which is not enough to get to know the Moroccan culture, but that’s all we have. Maybe next time we’ll abide longer. The plan is to see Fes in one day and make a day trip to Meknes.
To get the most of it, I book the riad Casa Aya Medina in the old town, a walking distance to everything.
Fes has a beautiful and well-preserved old town with impressive souks and mosques, and the people are not pushy, compare to other North African cities. As one of the four Moroccans royal cities, Fez is part of the most visited city in Morocco.
Criss-crossing the medina
On our first day, it was a long day; we’ve done a lot of walking, it’s the best thing we can do. The old town of Fes comprises narrow streets and a car-free zone, which is easy for walking. There are around 9400 alleys; it is like a labyrinth. Some say you need a guide, but we did it on our own. And we’re just fine without getting lost with our walking app partner maps.me
During the walk, we pass through different parts and essential sights in the city. It is also interesting to see how people lived and worked in such a small area and so close together, which made it more authentic than other cities. The scents and colors within the Medina will stay as memory during your visit to Fes.
Go up one of the rooftops for a city view
Besides walking through the Medina, you can always go up one of the rooftops for a city view. Most restaurants and riad (traditional Moroccan house or palace) provide a roof terrace. But it can be packed in the late afternoon; everyone wants to watch the sunset at the same time, but don’t worry; if you can’t find a spot, walk further and look for the sign at the entrance (rooftop)!
Visit one of the mosque
There are several impressive mosques in Fes. Unfortunately, only Muslims are allowed inside. I’m a bit disappointed, as non-muslim we’re able to visit the biggest mosque in the world in Abu Dhabi. But in Fes, you can only see the courtyards. So not every country is the same, some land is strict than the others.
As we didn’t have a chance to see inside the mosques, we ended up going to the University of al-Karaouine. There’s an admission of 20 dirhams, and we’re able to see the chamber of the students. Al-Karaouine is one of the oldest educational institutions for Muslims. It is not an exciting place to see; it gives an image of how the students live in a tiny cubic room.
Visit one of the local craft
Fez is known for its typical crafts like leather, carpet, mosaic, and ceramics. Additionally, Fes manufacturing large numbers using traditional methods, and to see how the leather produced from here; you’ll have to visit a Tannery.
It is a defying spot to see, but you must be able to withstand the smells because it’s a terrible odor.
The animal skins soak for two to three days in numerous stone vessels filled in with corrosive mixture from pigeon stern, and cow urine that helps remove excess fat, meat, and hair. You can see, tanner’s kneaded the surface three hours to reach the desired softness with their bare feet.
Tips: A guide is required because it is not easy to find on your own. You see the sign Tannery, but this brings you to nowhere. Some of the Tanneries, you have to go through inside a leather shop. Is not obligated to purchase anything. If you say you only want to see a tannery and without any obligation, you will able to visit one.
Moroccans and their eating habits
Ever wondered what food might serve in the table during your trip to Morocco? I am a picky traveler when it comes to food, but I always try the local cuisine. I don’t eat lamb and beef.
I know as a Muslim country like Morocco, pork is nowhere to find. But fortunately, chicken served everywhere. Couscous is the national dish, and I’m not fun of it. Tajine is a meat stew cooked in a rounded clay pot with different vegetables. Another tasty dish is a stewed chicken with lemon olives and potatoes.
Morocco is a tidbit country. During your walk, you’ll be passing through a food street where people are preparing the food. The smells give you a watering mouth. International cuisine is hard to find in Fez. There are a few Chinese restaurants if you want a change from tajine.
Transportation in Fes
As we arrive at night, we contact our hotel to arrange a taxi — is a fixed price of 15 euro. Going back to the airport in the day time it was the same price.
The cheapest way to the old town is by bus if you arrive during the day and less luggage because the bus station is outside the Medina.
Getting around the city
For the tourist, the taxi is the best way around the city, and they can be pricey. For a short ride of 3 kilometers, it cost 10 euros on the taxi meter.
Public buses are the cheapest way around, but you should speak French as this mostly understandable in Morocco, besides Arabic.
A Day Trip to Meknes
As we have planned to combine Fes and Meknes, we took a shared taxi to Meknes on the second day. It’s approx 60 kilometers from Fes, which was an easy day trip. Meknes is among of the four Moroccan imperial cities and least visited. The entire town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with impressive city walls and gates. Meknes deserves beyond the title of one of the most beautiful places in Morocco, makes it more pleasant to walk around without hordes of tourists.
Visit the covered market
The covered market is tantalizing. You find a range of tasty sweets and various other local treats. You will notice that the quality of the fruits and vegetables are better than in Fes. The indoor market is not busy, which is more pleasant to roam. Exciting sights to see – the stalls display pyramid trays of olives, the colorful ground herbs, etc. And the vendors are friendlier than in Fes.
Meandering The Medina
The medina in Meknes is relatively small, with several streets connected to the old city. You don’t’ have to worry about getting lost as you will come out on the same road again. You can leisurely walk around without being hassled, and enjoy the essence of this medieval city.
The Famous Gate Bab Mansour Laleuj
This massive city gate Bab Mansour is the most striking structure in Meknes. It was built by an architect who was initially Christian but had converted to Islam. No wonder this gigantic gateway beautifully decorated in the most elegant Islam architecture, the detail of the mosaics, carvings, etc. It’s one of the grandiose entrance gates I’ve seen so far in Morocco.
The heart of the city is El-Hedim Square. The busiest square of Meknes where there is always something going on. A meeting place from all vendors which is enjoyable for strolling around. Here you see all kinds of things that people do for money, like storytellers, barberry monkeys, etc. Moreover, you’ll find some beautiful handmade pottery at a low price.
Getting To Meknes and return
Getting here from Fes is straightforward. For less hassle, and the faster way is taking the shared taxi for 25 Dirhams. You’ll find the taxi stand at the bus station in Fes outside the Medina.
These were a grand vehicle that carries six passengers, not including the driver. Thus were squeezed all together in a car, and luckily it was only one hour drive. If arriving in Meknes, the best way is to get off at the main square as you’re close to everything.
Going back to Fes, the best approach is to take the cab. The station in Meknes Gare Routiere Sidi Said is about a one-kilometer from the main square. You will have to ask which one is going to Fes as there’s no sign.