Fes, Morocco



My wife, Keven, and I took a cruise down the Moroccan coast in 2012 and briefly explored Casablanca, Rabat, Marrakech and Tangier. However, we did not visit Fes which is inland from those other cities. We heard that Fes is considered the cultural capital of the country; so we planned a trip there in November. Fes is home to the world’s oldest university, the Madrasa of Al Quaraouiyina, which was founded in 859 AD and is still active today. In 1170 AD Fes had a population of over 200,000 residents making it the largest city in the world at that time.


The heart of modern day Fes is the Médina, a warren of over 9,000 alleys which is the world’s largest car free urban neighborhood. For first time visitors a guide is needed before venturing more than a hundred yards from your hotel. None of the Médina alleys have street signs and none of them are laid out in a grid pattern. Our hotel, Palais Amani, has 15 rooms and is located in the Médina.


A view of Fes from outside the ancient city walls.

One section of the Médina.

A typical alley in the Médina.

The courtyard of our hotel.


Selling home made candy in the Médina.


One of the many craftsmen in the Médina.  This artisan was engraving a copper plate by hand.


Keven and our guide (also a university professor) in front of a public fountain.


Keven and I posing for a selfie in a craft store mirror.


Creating ceramic tiles.


Chouara was founded in the 11th century and is world’s oldest continually operating tannery. We were given mint sprigs to hold up to our noses, but the smell that day wasn’t too bad. As early Christmas presents we treated ourselves to beautiful leather jackets at the tannery store.

One of Fes’s many cats in the garden of the royal palace.


Volubilis, an ancient Roman ruin about 40 miles from Fes.

One day we hired a driver to take us to Volubilis, an ancient Roman ruin about 40 miles from Fes. Volubilis was at the far southwest corner of the empire and flourished between 200 BC and 300 AD.


One of the many mosaic tile decorations from the Roman homes.

A view of the countryside outside Volubilis.  This land has been cultivated for 5000 years.


The holy hilltop city of Idriss which was built near the ruins of Volubilis on defensible high ground with access to the surrounding farm land.


In summary, Keven and I found Fes to be the most exotic city we have ever visited. The challenge of exploring a third world country is more than compensated for by the friendliness of the people, the quality of the crafts and the opportunity to discover an Arabic and Berber culture which most Americans never see.