We arrived in Fez on Friday evening: a bit chilly temperature waited for us
outside the airport. A driver, as agreed with the Riad we booked, picked us up to take us to the medina. We booked on AirBnb a nice Riad, but we never got to see it. Apparently the pipes were broken (overbooking?), and we stayed in the end in other two Dars (1 night in the first and 2 nights in the second). The first Dar (Dar Mansoura) was super nice. We particularly liked the fact that we had two rooms, perfect for hosting our little family! Mum and dad loves to have a quite slip without having their bed constantly invaded by the kids 😛
If you have never been to Morocco, you probably don’t know what is a Dar or a Riad (it seems that in the modern time the difference got lost). They are traditional Moroccan houses build around an internal courtyard (Dar) or garden (Riad). They are characterised by balconies (always facing the internal courtyard or garden). No large windows are facing the external part of the house, in this way privacy and shade from the external heat are guaranteed.
After a great breakfast, we went on the top of the Dar to enjoy the view of the medina.
Following some pics taking, we moved to the new Dar (Dar Tharya) with all our bags. Despite being less fancy that then first one (but still very nice), we loved it more: the family hosting us was just amazing! Bouchra and Idriss took great care of us in the two days we stayed at their guesthouse!
Completed the formalities, it was time to go exploring the Medina! Tommy and Giò had endless fun running after cats, while mum and dad got marvelled by colours and smells. Fes Medina is a maze: it is easy to get lost! Anyhow, if you recall how to reach one of the two main roads, you will find your way easily.
Exploring the Medina
As first thing we walked up till Bab Chorfa (Bab means gate) and from there to Bab Bou Jeloud (the Blue gate). Meanwhile we explored the market and the shops around us.
From there we walked back through the Rue Talaa Kebira and visited the Medersa Bouanania. A Medersa (or Madrasa) is a school (not necessarily connected to religious education), where often students had also cells to sleep.
Tommy and Giò loved the fountain at the center of the Madrasa and had a lot of fun running around! Meanwhile mum and dad enjoyed the great decorations on the inner walls and the amazing finely carved doors and windows.
Time runs fast with the kids! Already time for a lunch break (to start we tried as much as possible to follow their home schedule – lunch is at 12.30 at the latest)!
By chance we stopped at Le Tarbouche. There we had the best Chicken Pastilla we had in our Moroccan holiday. For two pastillas, drinks and tip we spent 150 DH.
From there we walked down the street and we had the (un)fortunate idea to listen a boy who instantly self promoted as our guide. He took us to the small tanneries (apparently his father is the guardian). The visit was interesting, but most of the colours, being afternoon, where already gone. Also the strong and direct light was not the best for pictures. On the way out, our little guide made us stop to a spice shop where we bought some spices. Probably for the highest price we ever paid for spices – the guide would have his share late. Finally we paid his services (100 Dh) before getting back on Talaa Kebira.
Al Attarine area
We walked till facing the door of another Madrasa recently restored: Al Attarine. The courtyard of the Madrasa is majestic decorated, but what is even more impressive were the cells for the students. Tommy spent few minutes exploring all of them and enjoying the view of the Medina from the small windows of the Madrasa.
After the Madrasa, we walked around the Al Quaraouiyine Mosque, to reach Place Serrafine, famous for the brass-makers. You can watch the courtyard of the Mosque from the street, but you cannot enter – unless you are muslim of course. After a quick tea break, we crossed the river and reached Place R’cif. From there, we explored the south part of the Medina till reaching Palais El Glaoui and finally our Riad.
For our first dinner we opted for Chez Hakin, good quality price dinner. For a tagine, a couscous, and a plate of brochettes, drinks and tip included, we spent 200 DH.
Finally we got back to our Riad. Bouchra offered us a good night tea and cuddled a bit our little ones before we went back to our room.
Fede woke up very early (before sun rise) to explore the Medina before it gets crazy. He walked around the Medina before entering Chouara Tanneries. Normally during the day you can watch them for free from the top of the shops. Unfortunately, when shops open (around 10), tanneries are crowded by tourists and colours have been already removed from the pots. Not sure Fede bargained a good price with the Guardian, but for 80 DH he was alone in the tannery taking all the pictures he wanted.
Dar Batha & Jnan sbil
He got back for breakfast around 9. After that we all went together to visit Dar Batha. Dar Batha is a nice palace with a lovely garden hosting a small collection of traditional artefacts (potteries, dresses, …).
From Dar Batha we went exploring the Jnan sbil park. We walked around the small lake in the park and reached the nice Bab Dekkakin, and where we explored the market. We stopped in a local “fast food” under Bab Semmarine: a nice lunch of brochettes for 30 DH. During the break, Fede and Tommy got the chance to visit a public bathroom: nothing to compare with Italian ones! A great a nicely decorated building.
From there we started the exploration of the Mellah (the Jewish quarter). As far as we know in Morocco all Jewish quarters are named “Mellah”, that means “salt spring” in Arabic. There reason is that at that time the main trade of the Jewish was salt 🙂
Jews were playing an important role in the economy of the Moroccan sultanate. That’s why the Mellahs are usually positioned near to the royal palace or the residence of the governor: to ensure jews protection in case riots and disorders in the rest of the city. The Fes Mellah is run-down: most of the building are collapsing. A real pity, some are really nice and you can see the remains of great azulejos. It seems that Morocco government got some funding to restore the quarter: let’s hope so! A first difference you note in this quarter is the presence of outward balconies! In the Medina all dars / riads have only inward facing balconies (if they have any). After visiting the Al Fassiyine synagogue, we walked toward the entrance of the royal palace. From the top of the Al Fassiyine synagogue, you have a view on the Jewish cemetery.
Marinid Tombs & Dinner
From the palace we took a taxi: we went to look at the city from the ruins of Marinid Tombs. The light was magic and we really enjoyed seeing local families pic nicking waiting for the sunset. Before sunset, we walked down the hill, till Bab Bou Jeloud. We had dinner at Le Kasbah, one the restaurants with terrace near the gate: the location offered a great view of the Medina at sunset (while the food was nothing special).