Recalling the bustling souk in Disney’s Aladdin, Fes El Bali is an ancient medina replete with bold, vibrant colours and the fragrant aromas of exotic spices. The air rings with the vendors’ cries as they jostle to attract the attention of wandering customers. Here, you’ll see the local culture is at its most resplendent, and utterly unmissable site in which ancient history comes to life.
Like a medieval city, the Medina is surrounded by high walls inside of which the narrow streets are lined with sand-coloured buildings packed tightly together. A little exploring opens up plenty of opportunities to discover hidden gems with every nook and crevice revealing a sparkling jewel of intrigue. A particularly unique aspect of Fes El Bali is that it is believed to be the biggest car-free urban area in the world.
The Marinid Tombs are old monumental tombs that sit on a tall hill above Fes El Bali, from which you can take in a spectacular view. Contemplating the vast cityscape allows for a feeling of deep connection to the history of Fes El Bali, an opportunity that is definitely not to be missed. Not only is it a great spot for photography, but this tranquil hilltop is also rarely frequented by tourists.
Authentic handicraft and more …
Fes El Bali has preserved the use of many of its artisanal trades and is considered the handicraft capital of Morocco. Here, many traditions have been passed down through generations, such as tannery. The Chouara Tannery is an absolute must-see with its large colourful vats and aromatic scents. Don’t worry, visitors are given sprigs of fresh mint to hold under their noses to mask the rather pungent rotting smells! Later, head to the shop to discover rows of colourful leather goods made as a result of an ancient tradition of craftsmanship.
The exotic charm of Fes El Bali does not end there. Let’s continue on to Tala’a Kebira, a narrow street that spans the city from east to west and is lined with stalls. Famed for both shopping and for its delicious street food spots, a walk along this street is a treat for all five senses. You’ll be amazed at the variety of fabrics on display such as silks, satin and leather. Don’t forget to haggle to be sure of a good deal! There is a huge selection of shops selling all sorts of wares, from jewellery and ceramics to leathers and lampshades. Coin Berbere (67, Tala’a Kebira) sells beautiful carpets, including the sought after Azilal carpets, known for the unique way their patterns tell a story. The owner is friendly and also sells antiques at reasonable prices, he can even post your purchases to you.
Treat your mouth
You’re probably pretty hungry after all this shopping, so why not pick up some local food. Take a break from the meat-heavy cuisine and head to Veggie-pause, where the chef will rustle up some bright and colourful veggie dishes that are extremely tasty. If you are looking for something with a larger variety of options, try the quaint and charming Café Restaurant Al Oud, an affordable place with an incredible array of mouth-watering food.
Fes el Bali of Medina of Fez is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and contains the oldest operating university in the world: The University of al-Qarawiyyin.