Fes is another most impressive Imperial City
Fes is another most impressive Imperial City .Fes has an impressively large and complex old Medina stretching down the hill.
The city was founded by Moulay Idriss I (died 791 AD), but most attribute its early beginnings to his son, Moulay Idriss II. He made the city his capital and welcomed refugees from southern Spain and Tunisia (both capitals of western Islam at the time). The refugees’ skills in architecture and craftsmanship has given he city its glories of today.
It is rewarding, before entering Fes, to first stop above the city at the ruins of the Merenid tombs. From here you can enjoy a lovely panorama of the old city area. On the hillside below you may also see leather drying in the sun.
Once in Fes, enjoy exploring and happily losing yourself in the winding streets of the Medina, much larger and more complex than Chefchaoeun.
Fes is the oldest of the Imperial Cities in Morocco and perhaps the most interesting and exciting to explore. Fes has the most complete Medina in the Arab world and it is now a World Heritage Site.
The city never experienced much colonial development when the French were in power (1912 till 1956) so much of Fes feels like not much has changed in many hundreds of years.
The three main areas are Fes el Bali (old Fes, the Medina), Fes el Jedid (“New Fes”, but not too new), and the Ville Nouvelle (designed by the French during the protectorate from 1912-1956).
There are souks (markets) of every variety, spices, vegetables, leather goods, ceramics, metal, shoes, scarves, medicines, and more in the Medina area. Many are concentrated in different areas and you will see artisans at work in small shops.
Fes is often associated with its tanneries (e.g. Choura tanneries) which still use many of the ancient techniques. The process starts with a soak in a mixture of pigeon droppings and limestone which helps take off any remaining fur and soften the leather. Next, the leather is dyed in the large coloured vats for roughly 1 week before being laid out to dry on nearby rooftops or the hillsides. The smell you can’t escape is from the first step of the process – find some mint leaves to mask the smell!
The Karaouine Mosque was built in 859 and can hold up to 20,000 worshipers inside. It is only open to Muslims, although there are a few places where you can glimpse inside and admire the beautifully decorated interior. Adjacent you will find the Islamic University, regarded as the scientific capital of Morocco and one of the oldest universities in the world.
Madrasas were student houses for those who attended the university and were very intricately decorated and detailed. The two most popular to visit are the Medersa Bou Inania (currently under renovation in 2018), and the Al Attarine Madrasa (built in 1325). Inside the main courtyard you will notice the common design pattern of detailed tile work, dark cedar woodwork and intricately carved stucco patterns. Upstairs you can visit old student dorm rooms.
The Bab Boujeloud is the large gate welcomes you into Fez el Bali from the west side, and it perhaps the most famous of all the gates. The outside is blue (the traditional colour for Fes) and inside is green, the colour for Islam. Heading through the gate you will on the main thoroughfare of Talâa Kebira packed with shops on either side.
The Musée Batha is home to many Moroccan arts, including carved wood and local pottery. It is also worth a visit to see the interior of the 19th-century palace and the beautiful central garden.
Southwest of the old city and up the hill is the “new city” of Fes, Fes el Jedid. It was built in the 13th century during the Merenid Dynasty when it conquered the city in 1248. The Main sights of the area are the Royal Palace (no visitors, but you can view the impressively decorated gates) and the Mellah, the old Jewish quarter.
When the French established their protectorate in 1912, they moved capital from Fes to Rabat. This “protected” the town from modernization. However, there is a modern new city of Fes that stretches quite far and with noticeable architectural styles. Fortunately for us, Fes was protected as a UNESCO World Heritage City in 1981 and can be explored still today.
Just outside the Medina an informative ceramics tour can be taken, from clay to kiln. You will also see tile masters at work chipping away small pieces and fitting together the intricate puzzles forming impressive tile mosaics.