Walking Tour of Fez, Morocco
Fez (Fes) is another of the Imperial Cities of Morocco. It is considered the most complete walled city in the Arab world and the oldest Imperial City in the country, having been founded in 789 AD. Even the new part of the city (Fez-el-Jedid) dates to the mid-13th century. Fez is 250 miles north of Marrakech (see #6 above).
Fez-el-Bali, the Old City, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and its Medina has almost 30 miles of narrow, twisted alleyways where it is extremely difficult not to get lost. As in other Imperial cities, the Medina is separated into souks. The area is particularly famous for leather and Fez’s tannery is the oldest and largest in the country (it is fairly easy to find because of its smell!).
My walk begins at Bab Boujeloud, the lovely gate into Fez el Bali (Old Fez), a section of the city which dates to the 9th century. Although the gate is much more recent, its predecessor is still visible next to it. Just inside, turn left, and then right to find Rue Talaa Kebira, one of the major thoroughfares inside the walled city.
Ahead is the Bou Inania Medersa. The interior is incredibly rich and magnificently decorated. Fortunately, much of it can be visited by non-Muslims. Rue Talaa Kebira descends and narrows, becoming Rue Cherabliyine. You’ll want to explore the area ahead, both left and right, before continuing eastward. To the left are several notable souks (markets devoted to a specific product), in particular, the Henna Souk, offerring interesting goods, such as love potions and soaps, and the Attarine Souk (perfumes). To the right is the Place Najarine, home of the Carpenter’s Souk and Fondouk Najarine, an impressive 18th century building, now housing a museum. Nearby is the Zaoriah of Moulay Idriss II, a memorial shrine.
Return to Rue Cherabliyine and continue eastward to the Karouiyine Mosque, one of the most famous and important mosques in Morocco. It dates to 859 AD. Walk clockwise around the mosque’s walls to reach the Place Seffarine, location of the brass-workers and coppersmiths. Further east are the Chouaras Tanneries, one of the most popular destinations in all of Fez. They are reached along Rue Dar Debarth.
Now, continue north on Rue Dar Debarth, and then bear left to return to the region of the Attarine Souk. From here, walk south to Rue Cherabliyine and turn right, then bear left onto Rue Souikat Ben Safi, which becomes Rue Talaa Seghira and leads back to Rue Talaa Kebira and the Place Bou Jeloud.
Next, walk west on Avenue des Francais to reach Fes el-Jahdid, the other main part of the Old City. The gardens on your left help to make this road much more tranquil and pleasant. Turn left at the gate and follow Grande Rue de Fes el-Jehdid south along the edge of the Muslim Quarter.
When you reach Grande Rue des Merinides, turn right. The Jewish Quarter (mellah) is the jumble of streets to your left. However, continue west to the Place des Alaouites to see the Royal Palace, to your right. Return to the Semmarine Gate (which separates the Jewish and Muslim Quarters) via Rue Bou Khessissat, and then walk north on Grande Rue de Fes el-Jehdid. When you reach Avenue des Francais, note the Mechouars, a group of parade grounds, still used for ceremonial and special events.
To extend the walk a bit, continue north through Bab es Seba and then left and right to the impressive gateway of Cherarda Kasbah, a huge fortress which now houses a hospital and an annex of the university. Return to Bab Seba and turn left onto Avenue des Francais to return to Bab Bou Jeloud, where the walking tour began.