Insiders Guide to Fes

From glittering winding streets of the Medina and the intricate architecture of the raids to the fragrant smells of spices and cooked meats, Fes is a city full of mystique and beauty enough to excite all travellers. Though it isn’t as widely visited as the city of Marrakech, Fes gives off a more authentic insight into Moroccan culture. It’s a working and living city after all and in my opinion, far more welcoming than Marrakech where every vendor or streetside youth is trying to trick or tempt you for a quick buck. Here in Fes, directions cost nothing (which is not something that is offered in Marrakech!) and smiles are everything. Now without further ado, here is your guide to the City of Fes!

VISIT THE FES MEDINA WITH A GUIDE

With so many gorgeous places to visit and snap in the Medina, it is highly recommended to get yourself a guide. We didn’t think we needed one as I never used one in Marrakech but both me and my friend didn’t have wifi on our phones and it honestly made ALL the difference. We hired the lovely Ben for the afternoon at an extremely affordable rate of £20 for three hours, split between the two of us it was a bargain. Not only did he successfully navigate the medina like a pro and took us to all the places we wanted to see but most importantly, being around him made us (two girls) extremely off limits to any cat-calling and hassling by the locals. I have never felt as protected and comfortable in a Moroccan city as with him. I don’t think it was just that he was a man, but it was also the fact that they recognised him and respected him so everyone was very polite and charming. He even stopped store vendors from over-charging us, bought us the most incredible beef meat ball sandwiches and even carried our shopping for us! All in all, a complete dream and I would recommend him without hesitation and 100% hire him again on my next return to Fes.

Guide Details:
(if you hire him, please mention my name! I don’t get any commission or anything but it would just make me and him so happy!)

Ben Jelloun
Tel: 0021 26673 64576 (ask your hotel to call and book for you
Email: jellounben@yahoo.com

TOP THINGS TO VISIT IN THE FES MEDINA

We only had around 4 hours to explore so we narrowed it down to the places we most wanted to visit and saw them in this order!

RAINBOW STREET

Make sure to pop by the beautiful Rainbow Street (you can actually type that into google and it will show up), a short colourful street bursting with colour and artistic wares. From rugs to paintings, this street is a shopping haven. The floor colours were quite washed out when we visited as it was during the rainy season however I have seen photos during the summer season where it is extremely vibrant. Either way such a cute street to visit in the Medina.

BUY A STRAW BAG IN A STRAW SHOP

Unlike Marrakech, the straw bag shops are few and far between so if you happen to chance upon one, make sure you go inside if you want to purchase any straw goods! I took home some gorgeous little straw baskets to hold my cooking garlic and onions and it’s absolutely darling.

BUY A RUG IN A MOROCCAN RUG STORE

When in Morocco, buy a Moroccan rug! I have always been a huge fan of the monochrome berber rugs and so this was the chance for me to own one myself. Ben, our guide took us to the Palais D’Arts Carpet store for a little respite from the busy Medina and it’s honestly one of the prettiest rug shops I have ever visited! Just look at those tiles and that ceiling detail, I was in awe. Definitely a great place for a carpet shot, but be sure to be respectful and ask if you’re not going to buy anything. I took home with me a lovely fluffy Berber rug (the one I am sitting on!), they usually cost from £200 up to £500 depending on size and quality as the ones found in shops like these not only support local communities and the women who weave the rugs but they are part of a syndicate that guarantee high quality wool and dyes. So yes, you pay a premium for the quality compared to a rug that will look the same, cost £50 but feel extremely different. If you don’t have suitcase space, they also all deliver! Little tip: we came with an empty giant suitcase to shop so we were able to take everything home with us!

EAT A MOROCCAN MEATBALL SANDWICH

While we sipped on Moroccan Mint tea and browsed the gorgeous rugs in the rug store, our amazing guide Ben went into the medina to procure us a little snack and it honestly was one of the most delicious things we ate. He brought us these fragrantly spiced meatball pittas and they were honestly delicious. Gently charcoaled with nice soft meat. So it turns out to ensure that they were of an amazing quality, he got one for himself also, he went to the butchers first to pick up the meat, saw it grinded himself so he knew it was exactly what he wanted before taking the freshly minced meat to the chef to make into our sandwiches. Needless to say it was divine and one of the highlights of our day.

AL-ATTARINE MADRASA

A hidden gem behind an inconspicuous entrance, the Al-Attarine Madrasa is a haven of intricate architecture and emerald green tiles. It takes its name from the Souk Al-Attarine which is the spices and perfume market. Madrasa is the Arabic word for an educational institution, so a long time ago this building would have been a place of learning and religion. It is absolutely stunning inside and quite quiet when we visited (maybe two more couples?) so we managed to get a good shot quite easily. There is a small entrance fee so be sure to have some small change on you!

LANTERN SHOP

A mystical cavern similar to the likes of Aladdin’s cave, the lantern shops in and around the Medina are sparkling troves of gold and silver. This shop in particular was actually right next to the Al-Attarine Madrasa, and the owner was extremely friendly. I know that in Marrakesh you usually have to purchase an item or give the owner a tip for an image but in this case I politely just smiled and asked and he was more than happy for me to snap an image free of charge. Fes is more welcoming than Marrakech in that sense so feel free to snap away! But of course, always do ask just in case.

VISIT THE CHOUARA TANNERY

When in Fes, make sure to visit a tannery, a place where leather prepared in vats of chemicals (and pigeon poo) and dyes and then tanned by the hot sun. The Chouara Tannery is one of the largest, and most photogenic tanneries in Fes and located in the oldest Medina Quarter. Upon entry they give you some mint leaves to smell as a tannery is notorious for it’s odours, however on our visit it honestly was not that bad smelling. Perhaps it was because we visited in wintertime and the weather was not as hot, however the mint is still a nice touch when exploring the Tannery. We each took home with us a leather pouf from the Tannery, we were charged around £50 each so they don’t come cheap but it’s good quality and cute in design!

ENJOY THE BEAUTY IN THE STREETS OF THE MEDINA

Within the winding streets of the Medina you can encounter gorgoeus little donkeys with hamsas on their foreheads, intricate and tiled fountains, carts piled to the top with fresh lemons and oranges and all sorts of beautiful things. So just explore, go back in time and enjoy the wonders this city has to offer.

LEARN HOW TO COOK MOROCCAN FOOD AT RIAD ANATA

One of the highlights of our trip was a cooking class at the gorgeous Riad Anata with their amazing chef Samira. We both agreed that this was most definitely the best Moroccan meal we have ever eaten and couldn’t believe we got to make it from scratch!

To start, we were taken in to the Medina souks to pick up fresh ingredients including fruit, vegetable, lentils and freshly made bread. It was such an insight on how the locals would haggle and shop for their daily groceries, not to mention extremely interesting to see how much everything cost at non-tourist rates! From there we are taken back to the beautiful emerald kitchen at the Riad Anata to begin our cooking. But first, Moroccan mint tea and biscuits to warm up from the cold (we visited Fes in December and it was very chilly and fresh).

Our menu consisted of warm Moroccan salads in the form of eggplant and a garlic carrot, accompanied by a green bean soup. Next was the star dish, a Lamb Shoulder and Quince Tagine which was SO flavourful and absolutely divine. And to end we made a cinnamon sugar pastry that was the perfect sweet finish to our meal. It was honestly amazing to be able to see how Samira navigates the kitchen and we learnt so much in this class! It was very hands on and I now can safely say that I will be making these delicious dishes in London when I get the chance! The class starts around 10am and lasts until 3pm, as Riad Anata is situated right in the medina it leaves a good amount of time for you to go for a shop after! For more information, click here and email info@riad-anata.com to book, you won’t regret it.

STAY AT HOTEL SAHRAI

A gorgeous haven away from the bustling Medina, Hotel Sahrai is a Moroccan Oasis a 15 minute drive from Fes Medina. The hotel offers regular free shuttles that can take you to and from the Medina and they are extremely helpful with any help you may need. The interiors are modern yet with a Moroccan touch and complete with gorgeous outdoor pool and beautiful spaces for drinks and dinner. For breakfast, make sure you try the Khlii tagine, a local Moroccan Egg dish with minced meat, savoury and delicious! We also stayed at their sister hotel Riad Fes which is in the bustling medina, click here to read about my experience staying at Riad Fes. Both hotels are extremely stylish and chic in their own way and I would highly recommend a stay at both for the true experience.

For those looking for a place to visit near Fes, Chefchouen is 100% top on that list. The gorgeous pastel blue city is a must see and one of the highlights on our trip to Fes. Have a look at my guide to Chefchouen: Morocco’s Hidden Blue Gem here!

Thanks so much for reading my blog post, hope this helps in your visit to the beautiful city of Fes!

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