Posted in:

Fes, Morocco: How to Go, What to See, Attractions

A bit of geography

Although second in population to Rabat and Casablanca, Many people start the 4 dias desde Fez a Marrakech via Desierto. Fes is of great importance not only to the culture but also to the economy of the Kingdom of Morocco. Fes is at the crossroads of transport routes connecting cities such as Marrakaesh, Tangier, Casablanca and Rabat, making it an important center of trans-Saharan trade. From west to east the city is crossed by the River Fes.

Located at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, Fes has a distinctly Mediterranean climate, but with some peculiarities. Once every three to five years the city gets a snowfall, but frost is not uncommon in the region where Fes is located. Sometimes winter temperatures drop to -8 degrees Celsius, while summer highs reach +46 degrees.


Ancient History

The city of Fes is thought to have appeared in the second half of the fifth century, but at first it was two small settlements, competing with each other. A significant change came to the city at the beginning of the lX century with two thousand Arab families, which gave the city a very different character.

After the fall of the long domination of the Idrissid dynasty over the lands where Fes is located, the city found itself successively under the rule of several empires until it became part of the Almoravid state. The new dynasty was Berber, which means that the mix of cultures in Fes was only intensified.

But the city’s true grandeur was born under Emir Yusuf ibn Tashfir, who ended the rivalry between the two small towns by building a new city between them. Today the historic quarter of Fes el Bali, also known as the Medina, is a reminder of that time. Most of the historical sites of the city of Fes are located in this area. However, after Tashfir’s reign came an even more productive period.

The beginning of the golden age of Fes

The city in Morocco received a new impetus for development with the advent of the Marinid dynasty. Another Berber dynasty came from Ifrikia, which is localized in the lands of present-day Tunisia. Entering southeastern Morocco, the new conquerors gradually took possession of all the lands of the previous rulers, establishing power for more than two centuries. Fes became the capital of the new state.

The description of the city of Fes will inevitably include the many historical and architectural monuments built during the two hundred years that it was the capital of the Berber Empire. It was during the Marinid era that the city acquired a reputation as the greatest center of Islamic scholarship in North Africa. But the settlement of the city by its new masters began with a most unfortunate event: the massacre of Jews in the city in 1276, and only the military intervention of the Emir prevented the extermination of all the Jews in the capital.

Development of the city under the Marinids

After the Marinids took root in Morocco, Fes began to develop vigorously. Under the new rulers, another district, El Jdid, was founded, which, according to the original plan, was to become the administrative and military center of the new empire. Around the same time the first madrasah appeared in the city, which was also the first such institution in the whole country.

In general, it is worth saying that the main attractions popular among tourists visiting Morocco and Fes were built during the Marinid dynasty. Numerous commercial courtyards, administrative buildings, madrassahs, palaces and military barracks belong to this family. The Berber dynasty was succeeded by the Wattasids, who, however, retained Fez’s status as the capital.   to go to the Merzouga Desert you have to do a 4 Days desert tour from Fes.

What is famous for Fes?

What to see in Morocco is not an easy question, because this exotic country has so many different sights. For example, Fes is famous for the special headgear, known as the “fes”. This article of clothing is a small felt hat, reminiscent of the shape of a cone. Before the nineteenth century, such hats were made exclusively in Fes and the dye was extracted from berries growing in the city’s surroundings. Since the nineteenth century, however, the fes has been produced in Turkey and France.

In addition, for a long time Morocco and Fes remained the last stronghold on the Ottoman route to the west coast of Africa. This situation was made possible by the diplomatic games of the Saadi dynasty, which clashed with competing Portugal and the Ottoman Empire.

As for traditional crafts, in addition to the fes, it is common to buy leather and metal products, the production of which the city is famous for more than a century. The most famous product is considered to be the traditional adargah shield, which is made of antelope leather.

Monuments of Fes

Among the most famous landmarks of the city of Fes is the royal palace, the oldest parts of which were built in the XlV century. The main part, however, was built in the seventeenth century, and the current king of Morocco still occasionally uses these chambers.

The palace complex includes not only the royal bedrooms, but also madrasahs, mosques, a museum and amazingly beautiful gardens. The walls and ceilings of most of the rooms are decorated with mosaics, inlays and paintings in the traditional Islamic style that uses floral ornaments as the main decoration.

Another architectural monument well known to travelers is the mosque of Sultan Moulay Idris. Despite its extremely unassuming appearance and lack of any decoration inside, it is important for the spiritual life of Muslims because it is where the ashes of Moulay Idriss himself, who is considered to be one of the founders of Fes, are buried.

The oldest university in the Arab world

As already mentioned, Fes in Morocco and throughout the Arab world is famous for the many theologians and scholars who have lived there. This is because this city is home to the oldest continuously operating institution of higher learning in the world. It is the Al-Qarawiyyin University. Although the institution is very different in structure from the European ones, it is nevertheless much older than its European counterparts. Traditionally, Al-Qarawin taught Islamic law and theology, and its graduates are still the glory of Muslim scholarship.

The history of the university goes back to 859, when a Tunisian merchant family settled in Fes and founded a mosque there, which later gave birth to a theological school that gradually grew to the size of an entire university town. It is believed that even Pope Sylvester II studied mathematics at the university, which indicates the high status of the institution even among Europeans.

The modern city

The population of Fes today is 1,120,000 people, the vast majority of whom are Muslim. However, the ethnic composition of the population is more diverse; in addition to the Arab population, the city has a significant number of indigenous Africans, Berbers and descendants of European colonizers. In addition, the city is popular among Europeans as a place of kind of downshifting.

The city has its own airport – Sais, as well as a railway station, from which you can get to Casablanca and Tangier. It is worth remembering that from Tangier you can take a ferry to Spain.

In addition to religious education, in the city you can also get a secular education at the state university, founded in 1975. The university is named after Sidi Mohammed Abdullahi and is an important center for training highly qualified personnel not only for Morocco, but also for the whole of North Africa.

Today Fes is a mix of styles, times, lifestyles, languages and cultures. Here, five-star hotels for pampered Europeans rub shoulders with the shacks of the local poor, and modern cars are parked next to the ancient dye houses of the Choir.