24 hours in Fez Medina will give you a glimpse into life in the cultural capital of Morocco. From the narrow streets of the Medina to the overtly photographed Chouara Tannery, this article will take you through all the things to see in Fez. Furthermore, I’ll offer first-hand advice on where to shop, what to eat, where to stay, and how much to spend.
In an area of just 540 acres, lies the world’s oldest functioning university, mosques and alleyways, leather merchandise, Moroccan pottery, Berber carpets, and much more. With 24 hours in Fez Medina, you will see how self-sufficient this little town is.
In my current blog, I will elaborate on everything you’d need to know for a comfortable trip to Fez. I hope that my Fes travel blog makes you want to explore this wonderful Arab city for real.
24 Hours in Fez Medina – An Overview
When time is limited, it is important for you to know the region you’re visiting inside out. Consequently, you will be able to see more and do more.
Backpacking to Morocco is one of my favourite travel experiences and visiting Fes made it all the more special. If you are visiting Fes on a time crunch, you need to plan ahead.
Before I delve deeper into my guide on spending 24 hours in Fez Medina, here are a few things that a traveller needs to be aware of:
Staying in a riad for a night would make up for a great experience.
|Ideal Means of Transport|
The cheap way to explore Fez is via bus. But on the other hand, buses in Fez are often crowded and known for pick-pocketing.
Furthermore, taxis will help you optimize your time if you have just 24 hours in Fez Medina.
|Where to Eat?|
Fez offers lots of stalls and vendors for those who want to eat cheap. On the other hand, you can also find fancy sit-down restaurants in most parts of the town.
As you dwell deeper into this blog, you’ll acquire more details on the aforementioned points.
Where to Stay in Fes – Experiencing Life In A Riad
In your trip comprising 24 hours in Fez, I strongly recommend that you stay in a riad in Fes el Bali.
Fes El Bali dates back to 800 A.D and owns the title of a world heritage site. Since it is centrally located, it makes for a great spot to spend the night. Most locations worth exploring are at a stone throw’s distance.
Kids going to school, stray cats loitering around the streets, and the aroma of freshly baked bread characterize the alleyways of Fes El Bali.
If you stay on the other side of Fez, you will miss out on the nuances of this medieval city. Also, it would look like any other 21st Century city in the world.
Tip: Try booking a room on the topmost floor of the riad. Access to the terrace will treat you to beautiful views of the medina from the comforts of your room. Furthermore, you’ll be wake up to enchanting early morning prayers from the nearest mosque.
24 Hours in Fez Medina: Local Commute
Once you reach Fez, the best way to explore is on foot. Fortunately, cars are not allowed to enter the medina, thus making it walking-friendly.
However, to save time on your 24 hours in Fez Medina, buses and taxis are useful outside the medina. I’ll lay down the details for both so that you can choose what suits you best.
Opting for a bus is the cheap route to exploring Fez. Most of the times, you won’t pay more than 4 MAD for a ticket. However, beware of crowds and pick-pocketers.
Taxis are of 2 types in Fez:
1) Red Petits Taxis – These are generally metered, shared and operate within city limits.
2) Grands Taxis – These taxis are bigger, and follow pre-decided routes. They can also be opted for while travelling to the city outskirts.
Both of these are inexpensive since they are shared by three passengers. In case you want the cab to yourself, make a request and be ready to pay more.
Tip: Note that there is a 50% surcharge on taxis post at 8 pm.
In summary, travelling around by shared taxis is a cheaper and optimal way to explore Fez.
24 Hours in Fez Medina: What To See?
History lovers, shopaholics, photographers and romanticists, there are things to do in Fes for everybody. When in Morocco, the following wonders MUST mark your Fes itinerary.
Medina Fes el Bali
Tourists are known to lose their way in the winding alleyways of Fes El Bali. Fes El Bali is almost like a medieval city in its own. Shops, mosques, madrasas (schools), and stalls make up for this largest car-free urban centre in the world.
Locals, load-bearing donkeys, pushcarts and bikes are all that pass through these narrow alleys, making it a walk-friendly location.
Many backpackers skip hiring a tour guide in Morocco since they’re expensive. However, I can vouch for its value.
Bab Bou Jeloud
Bab Bou Jeloud is an ornate city gate, acting as the main entrance to Fes El Bali. It is fondly called the “Blue Gate of Fez,” owing to the bluish-purple mosaic tiles that adorn the gateway.
Bab Bou Jeloud will make you want to enter the medina, despite all the mayhem and chaos. Several eateries mark the entrance. Buy yourself a glass of orange juice the way I did. It’s refreshing and energizes you to explore the Medina.
Tip: If you get lost in the medina and are unsure about where to go, ask any local for directions to Bab Bou Jeloud. Two main alleyways – Tala’a Kbira and Tala’a Sghira lead to the gate.
Bou Inania Madrasa
The Bou Inania Madrasa (schools in the Quran) is used for both educational and religious purposes. Although most madrasas have dedicated space for praying, this one hosts an entire mosque.
Talking about superlatives, it is also the only madrasa in Fez that has a minaret – a beautiful green-tiled one. The art and craftsmanship put into the detailing of this magical wonder are worth appreciating.
20 MAD (2 USD)
|Point to Remember|
Visitors must dress appropriately to respect Muslim laws. Furthermore, it is respectful for women to cover their heads with a scarf.
Finally, right opposite to the mosque is a lane popular for the Water Clock of Fez.
Dar al-Magana / Water Clock
First things first, water clocks are the oldest form of time-keeping in the world. Its genius mechanisms enable calculation of time by means of water flow.
Dar Al-Magana was built back in the 13th century. Currently, restoration works are trying to bring it back live.
Consisting of thirteen windows and platforms holding brass bowls, this water clock is one of the most visited places in the medina.
Talaa Kebira Market
Talaa Kebira Market is the perfect place to shop, photograph, bargain, and simply experience true Moroccan culture.
Here, locals buy their regular supply of vegetables, meat, groceries, and other daily needs. There’s not a single hour of the day that this market is not crowded. You will have to make your way through the swarm of haggling locals and awestruck tourists. But really, in Moroccan markets, true beauty is in chaos.
The Talaa Kebira market is also well-equipped to cater to your hunger pangs. Eateries selling local delicacies like bread, snail soup (yes, it’s a thing) and shawarmas are spread across the market.
|Best hour to visit|
This market is overflowing with people, irrespective of the time. So, visit it as per your convenience.
|What to buy|
Leather goods, jewellery, ceramics, rugs, perfumes, shisha, lampshades, pottery and more
Lastly, in case you feel lost at any point, simply ask. Moroccans are amicable and will try their best to help you out.
The Souks of Fes
The ancient city is more than popular for its artisans, its merchants, its traders and its ever-bustling maze-like alleyways. What all of these make up is a souk – a bazaar, an Arab marketplace. A visit to a souk is a must in your 24 hours in Medina.
One of the many souks in Fes is Souk el Henna – Fes el Bali’s oldest marketplace. While it is widely popular for selling henna (a reddish-brown dye applied on the hand and hair), it doesn’t stop there. Heaps and heaps of spices, intricate handmade tiles, traditional cosmetics and other knick-knacks line this souk.
Additionally, you could purchase typical blue Fassi pottery to take back home. These come in the form of plates, bowls, cups, or a tajine (a utensil traditionally used to slow cook meat, vegetables and spices.)
Souk el Henna is characterized by the presence of an ancient, wrinkled fig tree right in the centre. It fits the scene so perfectly that it almost seems manmade. Furthermore, it also provides the artisans and vendors with a dense shade to set their shops in.
9 am-9 pm on all days, except Friday. Note that most souks are shut or only partly open on Fridays. This is owing to the fact that most Muslims visit the mosque for their prayers.
Get a temporary henna tattoo from one of the many Moroccan ladies.
Maristan Sidi Fredj
Fes is a wonderful treasure box of superlatives.
At the end of the Henna souk is a psychiatric hospital, built by Youssef Ibn Yakoub in 1286. It is the earliest psychiatric hospital in the world, which was functioning until 1944. Furthermore, it acted as a model for the first-ever mental health hospital built in Valencia, Spain in 1410.
Adjacent to the Maristan Sidi Fredj, you’ll find shops that prepare medications to date. A lot of them are natural, organic herbs that supposedly have unusually strong healing powers.
As you approach this alley, you’ll hear the rhythmic clanging of metal being hammered.
While the Henna souk looked shades of blue due to the Fassi pottery display, the Seffarine Square looks shades of brown and golden. All thanks to the copper and brass-ware on display here.
You don’t need directions to go here. The stench of leather is so strong, that your nose will guide you to the tannery.
Unfortunately, tourists are not allowed around the entrance to the tannery.
On the plus side, shops in the vicinity offer great views of the 11th-century wonder. Note that you need to pay about 10-15 MAD to spend some time at their terraces.
It’s an eye-opening experience to see workers dyeing leather pieces under the sun without complaining. The wells are as colourful as they can get. Natural dyes of all different colours add vibrancy to this iconic sight. Blues, reds, oranges, and yellows – it’s a beautiful riot of colors.
Wildly priced shops and boutiques have come up in the area, to attract the tourists. Here, you’ll find anything and everything leather – shoes, belts, bags, wallets, and jackets. If you are keen on making a purchase or two, make sure you put your bargaining skills to use.
I can guarantee this will be the coolest thing you’ll see in your 24 hours in Fez Medina.
The Souk Al-Attarine is another souk worth paying a visit to. It comprises of a line of shops, dedicated to the sale of spices, dry fruits, oils and dried herbs, and colorful rustic clothing.
This place is pleasant to walk by, owing to the aroma that wafts in the air. And finally, at the end of the alley is the Al-Attarine Madrasa.
A remarkable example of intricate Islamic architecture, the Al-Attarine Madrasa was built in the 14th Century. The entrance is surprisingly peaceful amidst all the chaos you experience in the medina.
This madrasa is situated in the very center of the medina – near the spice and perfume market.
The Madrasa is open daily from 8 am to 6 pm.
20 MAD (2 USD)
Dress modestly. Women must cover their heads with a scarf, in order to be respectful.
University of Al-Karaouine
This university, also situated in the medina of Fes el Bali, is the oldest in the world. Furthermore, it continues granting degrees to this day. It’s not for no reason that this university is recognized by both UNESCO and the Guinness World Records.
The university’s library is home to ancient manuscripts and copies of the Quran.
Al-Karaouine was founded by a lady named Fatima al-Fihri in 859 AD. Contrary to popular belief, both males and females are allowed to attend this university. In fact, in recent times, the female student body has grown in large numbers.
Built-in the 9th Century, the Andalusioan Mosque is one of the oldest mosques in the world.
Fleeing suppression in Cordoba, Spain, in 818 A.D., families settled near the river of Fez. The new settlers started building a mosque which till date, has gone through lots of renovation since it was founded.
In addition to the magnificent architecture, the feeling of having stepped your foot into the world’s oldest mosque is priceless.
24 Hours in Fez Medina: Shop Like A Pro
While being spontaneous is rewarding, there are always exceptions. To shop, or to even browse through the markets of Fez, being a little informed would help.
What to buy when you have just 24 hours in Fez Medina?
|Pottery and Ceramics|
If you’re looking out to revolutionize your kitchen, or to add a few Fassi styled housewares, you’re in the right place. Here, you’ll find everything from ashtrays to cups to plates to vases and bowls.
A teapot would cost nothing less than 150 MAD.
When in Fez Medina, heaps and heaps of turmeric, chilli, henna and paprika will grab your attention. If you want to be surprised, ask the merchants for a ‘magic potion’ – a special mix of spices.
Tip: Don’t try too hard to bargain because prices are generally fixed when it comes to spices.
This is something that comes across as a luxury good in most parts of the world. However, not in Morocco. You can buy bags of it and munch of them through the day – it’s cheap, yummy and energy-inducing. Furthermore, you could also take some back home.
You’ll find everything leathers in the markets of Fez Medina. Make sure you check multiple shops and do some haggling before purchasing.
Tip: Look into the quality of the leather. There are varying qualities, and some might easily crack.
Carpets and rugs in Morocco come in a wide variety of shades, designs and sizes. Likewise, prices also vary largely – depending on the craftsmanship and threads used. There are also some shops willing to customize carpets, but that might not be viable with 24 hours in Fez Medina.
Now that you know what to buy in Fez Medina, keep in mind the following tips that will come handy on your shopping shenanigans.
Tips for Shopping in Fes
Shopping in Fes can be a really fun experience. I think the following tips will come in handy when you are shopping in Fes:
|Bargain, bargain, bargain|
Sometimes, the price you actually end up paying will be as much as five times less than what was initially quoted to you. So, as a practice, always bargain. Don’t be afraid to walk away if it seems too pricey.
|Polish Your Vocabulary|
How are you going to bargain if they don’t understand you? While most vendors are well-versed with English, throwing around a few Arabic words might give you an upper-hand.
Ghali bezaf! – (It’s too expensive!)
Bch-hal? – (How much?)
N-kass taman afak – (Can you lower the price?)
Aâjabni / Ma aâjabnich – (I like it/I don’t like it)
Not all shops will accept card payments. Generally, vendors selling carpets and rugs accept cards, but be prepared to pay in cash. Lastly, some shops might be willing to transact in euros and dollars.
To be honest, even if shopping is not your agenda, roaming the markets is an experience in itself. Your 24 hours in Fez Medina would be incomplete without witnessing extreme haggling, language barriers, and sheer frenzy.
24 Hours in Fez Medina: When Hunger Strikes
Fez is widely popular for food brimming with flavour and aroma. Non-vegetarians would definitely have more to explore in this regard, but Fez won’t disappoint vegetarians either. In addition to glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice and cups of refreshing mint tea, you could munch on the following dishes:
|Tajine cooked dishes|
Based on my Morocco budget travel guide, I’d say that any traveller visiting the region must try out dishes cooked in tajines. They are clay pots with a conical lid, commonly used in Moroccan kitchens. Chicken/ beef/ lamb along with vegetables like potato and carrot are slow-cooked together. It is served with bread or couscous.
This might sound disgusting to a lot of us, but let’s accept it – it’s a widely loved dish in Morocco. It definitely smelt good to me, but I wasn’t courageous enough to eat it. Going by the number of shops selling this dish, I believe it’s popular and worth trying.
|Paprika Aubergine slices|
These are deep-fried slices of aubergine to be eaten with garlic-based sauce. It makes for a good snack and is ridiculously cheap. Most stalls serve a minimum of 10 pieces for 1 MAD.
Likewise, other delicacies to eat are pastilla, steamed sheep head, spicy sardines, and Zaalouk.
Also known as Bastilla, this dish is often prepared at fancy dinners and wedding ceremonies in Morocco. In layman’s language, it is a traditional chicken pastry pie.
Most of the best restaurants in Fes can be found in its ancient medina. You literally don’t have to leave the medina during your 24 hours in Fez Medina.
Guided Tours for 24 Hours in Fez Medina
When you can spend just 24 hours in Fez Medina, you’d want to strategize. You’d want to try squeezing in as much as possible. If this seems too tedious, you could simply go for one of the many guided tours offered in Fez Medina.
Since Fez is a popular tourist destination, you can choose from a host of guided tours around the town. These are some of the tours you could take:
- Fes Guided Walking Tours– This short guided tour will take you through some of the most important icons of Fez like the tannery, Royal Palace etc. A typical tour lasts up to 4 hours but is worth the money.
- Fes Shpping Tour – Fes is a wonderland of shopping, with the endless shops. This tour will take you through some of the best spots of shopping while you pass by the city’s historical sites.
- Fes Food tours – Explore the best local food in Fes. The tour lasts for about 4 hours and includes a two-course meal.
With such tours, one day in Fes will prove to be enough. The main advantage of these tours is that the guides will give you insights into the local history and culture of the place. You’ll not only be sure of not missing out on anything but will also get a deeper feel of Moroccan culture and history.
Safety Tips to Follow While Spending 24 Hours in Fes
I’m listing two safety tips to keep in mind while spending 24 hours in Fez Medina. Follow them for a good trip.
Morocco is a conservative country. Fes el Bali is the ancient face of Fez and hence, most men and women are dressed in local attire here. As travelers, dressing modestly and respecting the culture is important when in Morocco.
Men and women can wear full-length trousers and a comfortable t-shirt.
Tip: Always carry a stole, since it can come in handy during the trip.
Always seek permission before photographing the locals. While there are a few people that wouldn’t mind posing, most despise it.
End of 24 hours in Fez Medina
I hope that this blog helps you make the most of your 24 hours in Fez Medina.
You will love Fez so much, that you will be craving to visit this great city again. Maybe for a little longer next time. My 24 hours in Fez Medina just did not suffice. I intend to sign up for a cooking class to learn authentic Moroccan cuisine or to learn Arabic the next time I am here.
Happy wayfaring 🙂
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