Fes overwhelms the senses: it’s colourful, noisy, doused in scent and inhabited by a lot of people vying for your attention – so you need to srrive armed with an idea of the best things to do in Fes so as not to let them sidetrack you!
The best things to do in Fes for some people is visiting the medieval medina: it’s like nowhere else on earth when it comes to shopping: swamped with olive dealers, water sellers and veiled women from the ancient tanneries to the quiet of the madrasas, many of them architectural wonders.
The medina has over 90,000 streets and alleyways so the best things to do in Fes Medina is to go with a guide, asking them to take you to the places you’re most interested in seeing – Souk Triba has cosmetic and electronics shops, Souk Tallis, is good for wool, wheat and cloth, Souk Selham and the few surrounding it all sell material and haberdashery, but for a really special outfit, and one of the best things to do in Fes you should hop over to Chemmaine Souk, which sells ceremonial garb.
Visitors wondering about the pungent aroma will find the source of it at the tanneries of Fes. One of the best things to do in Fes is to get close to the action on one of the terraces that over look the honeycomb shaped dye and treatment pits of the tanning yards. You might think the leather would be the most toxic scent but it’s the bird droppings used in the curing process that really smells the place out. Remember that when you’re choosing your soft, hand crafted leather slippers, another of the best things to do in Fes.
As well as commerce, leather and carpets, Fes is a city of learning – and admiring some the great Christian, Jewish and Islamic architecture is one of the best things to do in Fes. The Karaouine Mosque is Morocco’s second largest mosque, one of the world’s oldest universities and visiting it is one of the best things to do in Fes. Non-muslims can’t come in, but nobody seems to object to visitors popping their heads in though the gates. The Shrine of Moulay Idriss II, another interesting mosque, tomb and mausoleum is not open to non-Muslims, but again it’s worth visiting for what you can see though the gates.
Visiting the Andalusian quarter is one of the best things to do in Fes – it has some of the city’s most interesting architecture. The influence of the Spanish exiles on the Islamic designs resulted in numerous palaces covered in intricate mosaics. The ceilings are especially impressive. The el Sehri Madrasa has some particularly interesting tile designs, the Seffarine Madrasa has a minaret with a colourful zellige design, and the Sahrij Madrasa has a courtyard with a lovely pool and 14th Century ornate woodwork that even non-Muslims can visit – definitely one of the best things to do in Fes.
You can’t go anywhere in Fes without passing though some kind of market or shopping district, but head though to the Dar Batha Museum, housed in a 19th Century summer palace built by Sultan Moulay al-Hassan I, one of the best things to do in Fes both for the palace and palace gardens, and for the museum’s collection, which is made up mostly of 18th Century Fassi pieces, including intricately decorated furniture in wood and wrought iron, embroidered clothing and textiles, musical instruments and jewellery, as well as some fine examples of carpets made by the Berber tribes.