Scroll on Instagram and you will find endless #Morocco posts featuring Marrakech and Chefchaouen. To be honest, I was not that impressed with Marrakech (although I will write a separate blog post featuring some hidden gems there).
#Fez (sometimes spelled #Fes), however, captured my heart! I fell in love with the ancient feel of the city: donkeys with carts coming down narrow alleyways of the #medina and endless decadent doors with massive surprising spaces behind it. You truly get an authentic taste of Moroccan culture here especially because Fez served as the Moroccan capital for more than 400 years and is home to the University of Al Karaouine, the oldest operating university in the world.
Here are 6 reasons why you should visit Fez ASAP!
1. Roam the Medinas:
Fes el Bali Medina (the official name) is comprised of thousands of narrow alleyways -- 9700 streets exist in the medina, to be exact. You have no idea what you are about to experience when you are in front of The Blue Gate (The Grande Porte Bab Boujloud), which is decked out with ornate blue mosaics, representing the color of the city.
Once you enter, you will see why there are no cars. It is too narrow and crowded with people, stores, and animals. There are LOTS of cats (which I loved!) as well as #donkeys. We would have to step aside from donkeys carrying carts so that they could serve as garbage collection.
Fez is the world's largest car-free urban zone and the largest medina in the world! It is no comparison to any other medina in Morocco. There is a lot of sensory overload, so be prepared :-).
Recommendation: It is helpful to have a tour guide orient you in the medina. Without a guide, you are guaranteed to get lost at least a couple of times. We definitely did when we went exploring on our own! If you have an exact location you want to go to, step into a riad and let them call the location. Someone from the business will come pick you up. Oftentimes, people would give incorrect directions in order to steer you to their businesses.
2. Check out Café Clock
I loved Café Clock so much that I went twice in Fez and once in Marrakech. However, the one in Fez is better in my opinion. Although smaller and oddly shaped, the ambiance more than compensated for it.
I tried a #camelburger for the first time, which was actually delish! I also had a sweet date shake. My dessert had the freshest whipped cream and tastiest crumble on top of it.
The second time I went was for the entertainment. They have live music certain nights a week, which was Moroccan lit! You know it's a good spot when all the young, hip locals go there for the live music.
Recommendation: Check out #CafeClock on Wednesdays for live jam sessions. Get there early if you want a seat. If you are interested more for trying the food, then get there an hour before closing as there will be less people.
3. Visit the tanneries
It is worth checking out the tanneries at least once, which are one of the most popular things to do in Fes and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I was awestruck by the palette of colors I witnessed during the ancient process of dying leather using natural dyes from flowers. I will let the pictures speak for themselves!
Recommendation: The smell can be a bit much, so make sure to take the piece of fresh mint to sniff.
4. Get a hammam
Before going to Morocco, one of my close coworkers stressed that I needed to get a hammam. I had no idea what that was and Google did not give me the best idea of it either. It is one of those things that you must experience yourself (but soooo worth it!).
I ultimately did find a hammam that was authentic and clean (which was my biggest concern!). In simple terms, a #hammam is a hot steam bath followed by a massage. However, in reality it is MUCH more than that. It is probably the most exfoliated and deepest massage that you will ever experience. This is for another blog post.
Recommendation: Looking for a hammam? Check out Hammam Ernissi. Make sure to read reviews and check out the price and quality. My hammam cost under $40.
5. Check out panoramic views of the city
Once you find out that there are 187 neighborhoods in the medina, you will be more in awe when you take a moment to step outside and catch a #panoramicview of the city from higher up!
6. Admire doors for days
Need I say more? #doorsgalore