Fez, Morocco – Imperial City (18.03.19)
Surrounded by high ground, positioned as a centuries-old stepping stone from the Sahara Desert and High Atlas Mountains to the Mediterranean and old Silk Road trading routes, Fez’ bombastic mix of Old Medina treasures holds a candle to any other large or small caravanserai trading post on the planet.
Historically it has been important to traders, scholars, religious Mullahs and politicians, and enormously welcoming to just about anyone else. Fez is Morocco’s spiritual and cultural capital, mesmerising and thrilling in equal measure, attracting visitors from all over the world.
Having travelled through all the other north African and Middle East countries (Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Yemen, Oman), for me Fez stands out as one of the region’s true jewels in the crown. It offers visitors a chance to step back in time, and marvel in a history that stretches all the way back to the Idrisid dynasty (789-808 AD).
Car-free and only accessible on two or four legs, the old medina quarters of Fez el Bali and Fez Jdid stun and bedazzle at every turn. An Aladdin’s Cave labyrinth of Old Medina streets twists and turns to create one of the world’s largest urban pedestrian zones. With your eyes on stalks you soon surrender to the ancient charm of the World Heritage Site’s Moorish Maghrebi minarets, mosques, madras, mausoleums and markets.
The hustle and bustle of the Medina stretches out towards the surrounding countryside like a huge quilted magic carpet, surrounded by impressively high fortifications and ramparts.
Grand Old City Gates, the Royal Place and distant hillside fortifications underpin the splendour of this old Imperial City. It spreads through the maze of streets and alleys, via the iconic 11th century Chouara Tannery to the life blood of the Kasbah’s Fez River (Oued Al Jawahir).
It is only a few hours’ flight from most European destinations, and easily accessible by surface from the Atlas Mountains, Atlantic or Mediterranean. Once here, it doesn’t take long to navigate the fertile inland regions. Arriving at one of Africa’s true gems, you will find it difficult to carve out enough time to truly explore all that you want to.