24 Hours in Fez
Fez, birthplace of the Fez hat, is Morocco’s ancient capital and the ancient centre of Islam for the whole of Africa, housing hundreds of mosques from the which the call to prayer rings out magically at dusk and at dawn. It is a great centre from which to explore the north of Morocco and from here
you can easily strike out to the ancient Roman ruins of Volubilis, the grand imperial city of Meknes and Chefchaouen the ‘blue city’. Its medieval medina is now the largest in the world, and with its maze of narrow streets you could easily get lost without a guide and can often find you need to squeeze to the side to make way for a horse or a donkey. Most famous for the leather from its tanneries the colorful vats of dye and traditional tanning process makes for an interesting if aromatic visit!.
Fez is a wonderful city, packed full of history and charm and although we are giving you just 24 hours here, honestly, we think you should stay longer! Here is the Epic take on Fez in 24 hours – we can, of course, provide very knowledgeable epic approved guides to share their knowledge and experience with you, and tailor each experience to the needs of the individual or group.
Wake for the Call to Prayer
The sound of the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer five times a day permeates life in Morocco. For our 24 hours in Fez, we are going to make the most of every minute and get you up at 5 am to hear it as it echoes across the rooftops and then take you up to the Merenid tombs just outside the old city to watch the sun rise over the city. Like Rome, Fez is built on hills and the sight of the city spread beneath you, with the elegant spires of the mosques punctuating the pinks and golds of dawn is unforgettable.
History on the Hoof
Fez is the intellectual and religious centre of Morocco and here you will find some of the most beautiful buildings in the country. Al Karouine university is the oldest in the world and notably was founded by a woman. It still attracts students from every corner of the globe and houses one of the largest collections of Islamic texts in its library. You reach it through the winding alleyways of the medina and if you haven’t eaten too much for breakfast, the tour can take you through the narrowest street in Fez, which is only just wide enough for one (slimmish) person to walk down at a time. Non-Muslims are not allowed into mosques in Morocco, but you can visit the Quranic schools where boys were brought from the outlying village and from the city itself to study. The Medersa Bou Inania is arguably the finest with its gorgeous zelig tile work and delicate Quranic inscriptions. As
we walk, you will see (and probably want to photograph) some of the dozens of beautifully-tiled water fountains that are found at every corner. These were donated by rich merchants so that the citizens could always have access to drinking water and many are still in use.
Fez is rightfully famous for its leather. The leather is all hand cured using techniques that have been handed down from father to son for centuries. You will have seen the animal hides drying on the hill behind the Merenid tombs and now it is time to see them being cured and dyed. The tannery has a series of dug clay pits filled with water and different natural chemicals through which the animal hide is taken to rid it of its hair, cure it and then, if it is for colored leather, dye it.
Prepare yourself, though, the smell can be bad – take some perfume or something nice to sniff, locals will often hand you mint leaves which we suggest you accept. Of course, also the chance to buy some of the leather goods made in the workshops adjoining tanneries.
Lunch at Bab Boujloud
The medina has two main streets running through it from top to bottom and we will walk back up to the top to the magnificent blue gate (Bab) of Boujloud. Here, there is a cluster of local restaurants and a chance to sample some of Fez’s local specialties. At the juncture of the two main streets is a stall where you will see a cook swathed in clouds of steam, stirring two enormous steel pots. One is for boiled sheep’s heads, and one is for chickens. The sheep’s heads are actually delicious but if you are not feeling that adventurous then the chicken is an excellent choice. Tell the cook what you want and sit down at the cafes next door who will bring you all the extras like tea, chips, bread, and salad – and also cater for the non-meat eaters.
Try your hand at Tile Creation & the Drums
Having seen the exquisite tiling of the medersas and drinking fountains, we give you the chance to create your own and to learn the principles at the Fez school of zelig (tile) making. As well as its leather, Fez is famous for its pottery and tiles and so you will be learning at the hand of masters!
Another really interesting activity is to spend a couple of hours with the local drummers at a drum workshop making some drums and having a go at drumming a Moroccan beat!
Fez has a long Jewish history. At the height of its influence, it was a centre of fine art and design and its excellent leather, pottery, metalwork, and art was exported globally. Many of the traders and artisans were
Jewish and although the Jewish population has now almost entirely left the city this is still a very interesting sector to explore and also to hunt for treasures. Two spots to visit are the Ibn Danan Synagogue and the Jewish cemetery. Afterward, you can spend your time shopping in the antique boutiques that line the area.
Time to Relax
It has been a long day on foot so we are giving you a break. The views from Riad Fez over the city are stunning, take a sun-downer on the terrace and watch the city as it descends into dusk. The light in Fez is very different to anywhere else, a great time to explore your photography skills catching the yellows and midnight blues.
In recent years, Fez has made a name for itself as a real culinary hotspot so where to have dinner is going to be a difficult choice. There really is a fantastic variety of places to eat but we are going to highlight two very different options: Café Clock offers a cool vibe and a menu ranging from hummus and freshly-baked bread to camel burgers and is a great place for a relaxed evening. At the other end of the scale is Nur, with Michelin-starred chef Najat Kanaache. The food is exquisite – this really is a fine dining experience and a real treat.
For more information on how to make the most of your time in Fez within an epic designed trip, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’d like to read a personal account of a Fez experience, click here for Alice Morission’s blog.