Fes el Bali in the Northeast of Morocco is a prime example of medieval Arabic architecture. This means that there are plenty of things to see in the heart of Morocco’s cultural capital. The city has stood here since the 9th century CE, and is home to the oldest Muslim university in the country.
This is part of a series about Morocco – please click here to read the other parts
According to the UNESCO, Fes reached the height of its affluence in the 13th–14th centuries under the Marinids, when it replaced Marrakesh as the capital of the kingdom. Many of the principal monuments in Fes medina date from this period. Although the political capital of Morocco is now Rabat, Fes has retained its status as Morocco’s cultural and spiritual centre. Both Ryanair and Easyjet fly direct here and with plenty of things to do nothing should stop you from visiting Fes.
What to See in Fes el Bali?
The moment I entered Fes it felt like stepping into a different world. The main gate to the city is at Bab Mahrouk, just next to the market and a large car park. I parked my car here and paid for two nights. After some haggling I brought the price down to 80 dirhams, which is quite a good price. The car park is very safe and two guards stay around 24/7.
The walk from the car park to the main gate in Fes is about 3 minutes. As soon as you enter you will feel like you’ve travelled back 500 years in time! There are cafes on both sides and everyone is trying to sell their wares in the shops. There is a cavalcade of activity and everyone seems to be trying to get somewhere!
As I walked a little bit further down the road I saw some musicians playing their drums and children were dancing around them. On the left a stone mason was just preparing the head stone for someone that died that day, while on the other side a shoemaker was making a leather flip-flop.
Everyone was rushing up and down the streets in Fes el Bali and it all seemed unbelievable. I expected something similar to the Istanbul market but it simply doesn’t compare. I don’t think it is possible to prepare anyone for this, so perhaps best to watch the video below to get a sense of it all.
Riad Tahrya – My Youth Hostel for Two Nights
Riad Tahrya is a typical Moroccan bed and breakfast or youth hostel. It has a covered inner courtyard with a small fountain and a rooftop terrace. The rooms have private showers and windows to the courtyard. I absolutely loved it and would fully recommend it to anyone. The staff were very nice and helpful and they even prepared a takeaway breakfast for me for my last day. If you need directions, the staff will be happy to tell you what to do in Fes el Bali.
Ryad Tahrya is in a secluded sidewalk, which is also a dead-end so it is super quiet. It was a bit of a challenge to find it first but then I realized they had signposts so after that it was much easier to get there.
It is just between Rue Talaa Kebira and Talaa Sghira, which are the two main arteries of the Fes el Bali Medina. There are no cars inside the walled city and the only way to get around is by walking. There are hundreds of streets inside the Medina and many of them are dead-ends so you will spend quite some time walking backwards and forwards finding your way. It is not a challenge to get lost here!
The Labyrinth of the Fes el Bali Medina
If you are worried about never finding your way back to your Riad you can hire a guide in Fes el Bali. I thought it would be a waste of money and they are not cheap at 250 dirham per day so I went it alone. I turned left on Talaa Sghira as I came out of the walkway where Riad Tahrya is. This is where my problems started. I kept walking further down the way and when the road ended I turned left or right or wherever I could. Some of the side streets were only as wide as my shoulder width and it was dark so I didn’t risk those on my first night.
The receptionist told me not to talk to the young boys offering a tour or to take me back to the riad as they might be pick pockets. So instead of asking for help I just kept going. This went on for about two hours at which point I was about to faint. I hadn’t eaten or drunk anything since I checked in so I sat down in one of the small cafes. As it turned out a Polish girl was a regular here, she owns her own Riad in Fes. We started talking and then she pointed me to the right direction to find my hotel.
Read the next episode to find out what to do in Fes – please click here to find the other posts
If you enjoyed this post and want to read a similar story, scroll down to see the related posts section. You might also want to watch some of my other videos on Youtube.