The Ancient Medina of Fes

Tannery2Perhaps one of the most authentic sites of Morocco is the Fes Medina, the ancient walled city. Over 1200 years old, the Fes Medina is one of the top three largest walled cities in the world with over 9000 small streets and alleys, creating a labyrinth of hidden treasures.

As you approach the Fes Medina through the Bab Bou Jeloud, the famous Blue Gate, you will enter into life as it was 1000 years ago. The ancient city is full of traditional and culture, starting from the amazing souks (markets), the public baths, tanneries, to the traditional architecture.


The Ancient Bab Boujloud (Door) to the Fez Medina

Imagine walking through a 30 foot gate, decorated with blue tiles, welcoming you into the cultural and spiritual center of Morocco. As you turn onto the Talaa Kabira (Main Street), you will be met by the sights and sounds of the market place.  Stalls full and overflowing with fresh fruits and vegetables; the colors are vivid and seem to be something straight out of a photo magazine. Local people are our buying their produce for the day, bargaining for each item on the menu.

As you wind your way deeper into the medina, you will go through several neighborhoods each consisting of a mosque, Qaranic school, bakery, fountain, and Hammam (public bath).  The Arabic Proverb says, “You know a house from its door!” In part this is true, but behind even the most simple could lay a treasure or palace.


Tanneries are co-ops made up of sometimes hundreds of families.

Fes is well-known for its leather tanneries. As you explore the medina, whether on your own or with a professional guide, you will not want to miss the tanneries.  Climbing up the stairs of a house, turned terrace, you will be able to get an aerial view of the vibrant reds and browns soaking in the vats.  Your host will provide you with a piece of mint leaf to help tame the smells, however, the visit is well worth it.


Your next stop should be the weaver! As you duck your head through the small tunnel like alley, you will enter into a world of color and tocks (the sound the shuttle cock makes as it races back and forth by hand on the loom). Three types of thread (wool, cotton, and synthetic silk) are used to create the materials used for the traditional jalaba (robe).  All made with natural dyes, these pieces of fabric are perfect for bed spreads and curtains.

“Three-hundred thousand knots per square meter,” is what you will be told makes up the Extra Superior carpets of Fes.  As they begin to lay out these masterpieces, you will quickly fall in love with the hand-made carpets of Morocco. As you sip your mint tea, offered as in hospitality, you will enjoy a show like none other.  Morocco is a bargaining culture, so make sure you come prepared to negotiate for any purchases.  Some prefer spending time in a small Berber shop like the Berber Coin on the Talaa Kabira.  Mohammed Bouzidi and his family will show you some very lovely Berber Kilims – hand woven rugs.


Perhaps one of the most popular places to visit is the Fes Blue pottery factory. Lying out on the edge of the medina, these factories are notorious for their hand-painted creations.  You will have a visit to see the expert craftsmen painting the plates and pots to perfection.  Don’t be fooled, it is much harder than they make it look. As you enter into Zeleig (tile) section, young men will be chiseling tiny tiles into geometric design used for covering the floors, walls, and fountains. One piece at a time; thousands of pieces per month – Enjoy the creativity of Islamic art!

As you return home to your traditional Riad (house with a garden) or your hotel for the night, you will be able to sit back and digest the lovely feast that your eyes have tasted.  Hopefully you will have some beautiful pictures and treasures to remember it by!

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