Fez. Is a city in Morocco famous for being home to the world’s oldest university (Qarawiyyin University), dating to 859, and the world’s oldest library, dating to 1359. It has an ancient World heritage listed walled city, which many compare to the walled city of Jerusalem.
Fez is the medieval capital of Morocco, and a great city of high Islamic civilization. Fez has the best-preserved old city in the Arab world, the sprawling, labyrinthine medina of Fes el-Bali, which is incidentally also the world’s largest car-free urban zone. Transports of goods is provided by donkeys, carriages, and motorbikes.
The main street is the Talaa Kbira, which runs from Bab Boujeloud to the Kairouine mosque in the heart of the medina. The Talaa Sghira also begins at Bab Boujeloud and eventually merges back into the Talaa Kbira. Once you get into the narrow, windy heart of the medina, you can also find your way out again by constantly heading downhill, which will eventually lead to the Place R’cif, a dropoff for buses and taxis, where you can get a petit taxi out of the medina.
For more detailed tours and directions, look for the book Fez from Bab to Bab (Hammad Berrada). It has a complete map of the medina and several well-described walking tours. It can be found in most bookshops, both on the Talaa Sghira or at the large bookstore on the Avenue Hassan II in the ville nouvelle. However, be discreet taking out your map or you will have many offers from false guides.
One of the most fascinating activities to do in Fez is a trip in the medina (Old City). The medina is so complex to navigate that sometimes it is easier to simply lose yourself in the hustle and bustle of the various markets, and find your way out once you have had enough of all the sights, sounds, and smells that will overwhelm your senses. You will eventually find your way out via lots of dried fruit, leather goods, ceramics, textiles and food stalls!
Get a shave in the medina, nowhere is it cheaper than here, and they really pay attention, even trimming your hair.
Make sure you find an opportunity to escape from the bustle of the streets and see the medina from one of its rooftops – some shops and restaurants have rooftop terraces (see the food section below for some useful tips). The views are particularly spectacular during sunset and after dark.
Sofitel Palais Jamai terrace. Terrace has an incredible view over the medina if you are willing to pay 30 dirham for a glass of tea in order to access it. This is particularly worthwhile if you can time your visit to coincide with the call to prayer, as you can hear multiple minarets from the terrace.
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