fez medina

Discover the medina of Fez





The Medina of Fez is one of the best preserved Muslim quarters in the world. Its appearance has hardly changed since the 12th century.


Navigating the Mazy Medina in Fez, Morocco – Jonistravelling


The medina is an intense and extraordinary urban experience. You will have to leave the busy streets and climb up to the rooftops whenever you can to feel the magic of the neighborhood.


The medina includes most of the most beautiful and interesting places in Fez.

1 Map of the neighborhoods of Fez
2 Main attractions of the Medina of Fez
3 Hotels, hostels and Airbnb in the Medina of Fez
4 Fez, Morocco’s oldest medina
5 Medina of Fez : A history of gates
6 The two banks of a valley
7 The Andalusian shore empty of tourists
8 The medina by night
9 Map of Fez : Tourist guide sites


Map of the neighborhoods of Fez

The medina of Fez is divided into 2 banks: the Carthusian bank (n°1 on the map) and the Andalusian bank (2). The first concentrates most of the monuments and museums and receives most of the visits.


To the west of the Medina is El Jdid (3), the former quarter of the servants of the Royal Palace, and the Mellah (4), the former Jewish quarter.


Carte des quartiers de Fès : 1. Medina rive des Karouanais (the most touristic) 2. Medina rive des Andalous 3. Quartier El Jdid 4. Mellah, old Jewish quarter 4.


Map of the neighborhoods of Fez: 1. medina of the Karouanais shore (the most touristic) 2. medina of the Andalusian shore 3. El Jdid quarter El Jdid quarter 4. Mellah, the old Jewish quarter New City of Fes



Main attractions of the Medina of Fez

Bab Boujloud Gate or Blue Gate

It is the most majestic and crowded entrance of the old city of Fez and the gateway to another world.


In front of it, a ballet of cabs between several terraces of cafes facing each other. Behind it begins the Medina, the picnic areas, the restaurants for tourists (generally to be avoided) and the beginning of a market.

Blue Gate, the most touristic entrance to the Medina, old city of Fez.



Royal Palace of Fez

The Royal Palace of Fez, built in the 14th century, is one of the largest and oldest in Morocco.


Due to its large size, this palace was built outside the old medina. Therefore, a new medina, Fez el-Jdid, was created to house the palace.

Nearby is the Jewish quarter (Mellah) which, after having known days of glory, is now in poor condition.


We will stay at the gates

Like most Moroccan mosques and palaces, it is impossible to visit the royal palace, or even to contemplate its exterior. Once again, the visitor must content himself with the sight of the impressive gates that give access to the palace: the seven gates of different sizes represent the seven days of the week and the seven levels of the monarchy.


The huge bronze doors are framed by thousands of small ceramic tiles, in which the blue colors of Fez and the green of Islam predominate.


The palace and its surroundings

Approaching the gates of the Royal Palace of Fez is worthwhile, not only to contemplate its grandeur, but also to visit the surrounding neighborhoods and discover its contrasts. The houses of the Jewish quarter, located nearby, offer a completely different aspect to the Muslim style.

The old grain market is another point of interest, which will take you back in time. It is located behind the Bab Sammarine gate.


Religious architecture.

The most beautiful buildings in Fez are the Muslim places of worship. If you are Muslim, you can visit the mausoleum of Moulay Idriss or the Karaouiyne mosque and pray there. For other atheists, Christians, agnostics, Jews… the mosques have been closed since the French Protectorate.


What remains are the medersas, sublime and austere Koranic schools that are both places of instruction and residence for students. You can visit several, the most beautiful being the Medersa Bou Inania, the Medersa Attarine and the Medersa Sahrij.


Mausoleum of Moulay Idriss II in the Medina of Fez

Five centuries after the death of Moulay Idriss II, in 1308, a body found in perfect condition, attributed to the patron saint, transformed the area into a sacred place (Zaouia).


The mausoleum, located in the Marche Verte square, began to be built in 1717 and was completed in 1824, date from which it is considered the holiest place in the medina.


Over the centuries, the building has been modified and almost completely replaced. In the 18th century, Moulay Ismail modified it to give it an Alawite style.


The building is part of an architectural complex composed of the presumed house of Moulay Idriss, the Al-Araf mosque, the fountain and the masion where ablutions were performed. The complex, known as al-haram (the forbidden), was a place where Muslims could find refuge and asylum.


The shrine is open 24 hours a day, always available for hundreds of Muslims from all parts of Morocco to obtain their blessing.


A sacred quarter


The streets surrounding the mausoleum constitute the famous sacred quarter, delimited by wooden barriers in the streets, which served to prevent the entry of Christians, Jews and donkeys.


A view from the gate


As in most places in the city, non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the shrine, but one must approach the gate to see it from the outside and get a small view of the imposing building.


From any of the highest points in the city where you can enjoy a panoramic view of Fez, the green pyramidal dome of the Mausoleum of Moulay Idriss will always stand out.


Nejjarine Museum

The number of artisans working in Fez and their level of excellence are impressive.


You will get a glimpse of the work in the 10,000 workshops in the Medina. For an in-depth knowledge of wood craftsmanship, don’t miss the Nejjarine Museum.


The building is magnificent, the collection is interesting, the view from the rooftops too. You can even have a mint tea or a strong coffee there.


It is the most interesting museum in Fez. Unlike Marrakech, Fez does not yet have a museum worthy of its rank.


Al Quaraouiyine Mosque

The Al Quaraouiyine Mosque is known for housing the oldest university in the world, one of the most important centers of Islamic learning.


Built in 859, under Fatima al Fihriya, and constantly expanding since its construction, the Al Quaraouiyine Mosque, also known as Al Qarawiyyin, is one of the largest architectural ensembles in Fez.


The Quaraouiyine Library

Sultan Abu Inan endowed the Quaraouiyine University with a very rich library which, in 1613, exceeded 320,000 works and manuscripts. It was then that students and scholars began to settle in Fez, which became the capital of science and knowledge in the Maghreb.


Today, the library still preserves more than 30,000 works, including some rare copies and manuscripts that are unique in the world.


View from the door

Despite the remarkable size of the Al Quaraouiyine mosque, it is difficult to find it because, over the centuries, the houses in the neighborhood have covered the perimeter of the building, thus hiding its shape.


As in the rest of the mosques of Fez, only people of the Muslim religion can access the interior of the Quaraouiyine mosque. Tourists must therefore be content with the small space visible from the door.


Medersa Attarine
Built between 1323 and 1325 on the orders of Sultan Abu Said, the Medersa Attarine is the most beautiful of Fez.


The Medersa Attarine was one of the main schools of Koranic religion where students could reside during their studies.


As most of the classes were held in the Al Quaraouiyine Mosque, most of the medersas (or madrasas) in the city were located in its vicinity.


This Attarine medersa, named after the neighborhood in which it is located, remained in use until the early 20th century, when the 60 students who resided in the 30 rooms had to leave for good.


The interior of the medersa

The medersa extends around an inner courtyard in the center of which stands an imposing marble fountain. At the end of the courtyard, a cedar wood dome with abundant ornaments covers the prayer hall where one can contemplate the mihrab indicating the direction of Mecca.


The walls of the medersa are decorated with beautiful mosaics inscribed with phrases from the Koran.

Impressive floral motifs can be admired on the upper part of the walls.

The upper floors of the Medersa of Attarine are occupied by the small rooms in which the young students spent their years of study.


One of the most beautiful

Although other medersas can be visited in Fez, Attarine stands out above all for the elegance and harmony of its architecture. It is one of the best preserved and best decorated medersas in Morocco.


Souks in the medina of Fez

It is impossible to talk about the medina of Fez without mentioning its various souks.


What to say? The stalls are numerous, the offer abundant and of quality, the prices are softer than in Marrakech and bargaining is otherwise more pleasant in Fez. I am generalizing but this is my experience.


Fondouks, fondouqs. Or caravanserai were places of storage of goods and rest for the caravan of merchants and their animals. They often consist of a courtyard crowned by a forged balustrade.


Several fondouqs (Chemmaïne-Sbitriyine, Barka and Staouniyine) have recently been renovated to house artisan cooperatives, exhibition spaces and cafés.


The other gates: Bab Guissa and the others. Fez is surrounded by numerous ramparts and fortifications. To leave the medina, you have to go through gates. If the most famous is the blue gate, there are many others sometimes just as monumental.



Tombs of the Merinids

You will have to climb a small hill in the north of the Medina to take your breath away.


If the Merinid tombs are a ruin without much else of interest, the view over the old city of Fez is insane. This tangle of terraces, alleys and minarets is an endless spectacle.


You have before you one of the most prestigious cities of the Muslim world next to Mecca, Cairo, Damascus or Baghdad. It is a moment to appreciate at its true value.


Tanneries of Fez.

The tannery of Chouara is the largest of the four traditional tanneries still present in the heart of the medina of Fez el-Bali. You will find countless pits full of natural dyes that are responsible for the production and coloring of lamb, cow, goat and camel leather.


Leather manufacturing process

The first step in traditional tanneries is to introduce the skins into large vats filled with lime and pigeon droppings, where they rest for several days.


The remaining hair is then removed and the skins are dyed by placing them in large vats filled with natural dyes.


Once colored and dried, the skins are passed on to artisans who transform them into bags, suitcases, shoes and coats for sale to the public.


A spectacle of colors and smells

The tanneries are surrounded by tents with terraces where you can observe the hard work of the artisans. At the entrance of the tanneries, you receive small sprigs of mint that barely serve to mitigate the very strong and often unpleasant smell.


Despite the unbearable stench, the tannery of Chouara is one of the most typical and representative places of the city and it is essential to visit it to know Fez.


It is very common for vendors to try to get tourists to buy a piece of leather to attend this show, but with a small tip will be satisfied.


Bab Guissa Cemetery

The cemetery borders the Medina and the Marinid tombs. Beyond the unusual side of seeing flocks of sheep clearing the site, it is the rural scenery that is to be enjoyed.


The green and flowery hills, planted with olive trees, give the surroundings a timeless, sweet and enchanting mythological aspect.


The medina. The most beautiful attraction of the old city remains its urban organization. It is extraordinary. 14,000 buildings, 700 of them of great value, spread over 350 hectares.


Every major Arab city in Africa or Asia has a medina, but Fez is one of the oldest, most beautiful and largest in the world.


As the medina is first and foremost a labyrinth, here are some orientation tips and maps of Fez to download.


Fez, Morocco’s oldest medina

Medinas are the ancient Arab cities built around a mosque that marks the spiritual but also economic heart of the city. The luxury stores are closer to the mosque (kissaria). The industries considered dirty (tannery) are as far away as possible.


The Medina of Fez is characterized by a great mix of human activities. They form a space where residential, economic, social and cultural functions are juxtaposed:



In the commercial districts of the souks, the squares allow the exhibition of products and the conclusion of sales.
Residential areas, on the other hand, are sheltered by windowless walls, at the end of cul-de-sacs around courtyards and gardens invisible from the street.
In the industrial districts, the noise of the weavers, the blacksmiths, the shoemakers competes for attention with the smell of the miller’s oils or the tanner’s hides or the passing donkey.
Among the craftsmen of the Medina, you will find: carpenter, tanner, coppersmith, blacksmith, saddler, leather worker, bellows maker, still maker, leather worker, baker, butcher… 10,000 workshops in Fez. The opposite of a museum city.

The urban planning of the medina invented in the Middle Ages includes the concepts considered today as the most innovative in terms of environment: bioclimatic architecture, pedestrian city, high density, compactness, low environmental impact?



Medina of Fez : A history of gates
There are several accesses to the medina through the ancient fortifications and ramparts.

The medina is a closed world where the doors respond to narrow streets.
> The medina is a closed world where the gates correspond to narrow streets.
The blue door (or Bab Boujloud) located to the west is the most famous.


Main gate of the medina, several cafes face each other, a cab line is constantly renewed in the center. People enter and leave the old city, pause, adjust the frame and immortalize the beautiful blue door.




A few steps inside the medina is a small square with many snacks and restaurants. The hungrier and less curious will not drink more to eat. Unless they have already turned around and returned to the starting point.

The Bab Guissa gate is located to the north, near the Marinid tombs.

It opens onto a less touristy and more residential neighborhood marked by its heady smell of wood. It is the neighborhood of the carpenters and the streets smell of an invisible forest of cedars, thuja and pines.

Wood is still a raw material widely used throughout the Old City: for construction, renovation, the manufacture of tools and various objects. It is not uncommon to see a narrow cart loaded with heavy beams rolling down the narrow streets. The man in a hurry and his docile horse at work. Both today and 1,000 years ago.


In the carpenters’ quarter, near the Bab Guissa gate, in the medina of Fez.


The two banks of a valley

Behind the ramparts and the dust of the old city, one would almost forget that Fez is a city of water drowned in a green countryside.


The medina is built in a valley (or basin). The lowest part of the medina corresponds to the river that separates the Karouanais bank (west of the medina, the most touristic part, n°1 on the map) from the Andalusi bank (east, n°2).


If you want to go in the direction of Bab Boujloud (the blue gate, main entrance to the Medina), be careful to go west (hence the need for a compass).

Bab Boujloud is indicated on the directional signs on the west bank, the signs disappear on the east bank.

In other words, it is not enough to climb the slope to take the right direction, as both banks are inclined.


The Andalusian shore empty of tourists
The Andalusian shore (n°2 on the map above) is rejected by tourists for “practical” reasons. Most of them arrive in the Medina, to the west. The western part therefore concentrates accommodations, western style cafes, restaurants, but also monuments and museums.


The Andalusian riverside also has a rich architectural heritage, but its discovery is not particularly facilitated by the opening of sites to visit, by the establishment of a signposting or the edition of a map.


The Andalusian riverside remains “Moroccan”, more sandwiches than restaurants, cafes with only men, almost no one to “guide” you without you knowing it or selling you something.


And once again, almost no tourists. Unknown, this bank has less good reputation, hard to tell if it is good or bad. Stick to the main streets and you won’t get any bad surprises. And there probably won’t be any bad surprises when you leave the main streets either.


The medina at night
Fez goes to bed early. This does not preclude listening to some music.

If the daytime medina experience has left you perplexed. Avoid wandering around at night or lingering in the main streets. Orientation is less easy, open stores rarer, situations more distressing.


Women, children and the elderly have disappeared and what is left are young men, beggars and madmen. Many smoke hashish or kif, some sniff glue, fewer are drunk.


There are also people just passing through. But here it can be a nice romantic stroll for a couple or a bit stressful. Heads or tails.


To stay in the Medina: Our selection of nice riads with good value for money in Fez.


Map of Fez : Places of the tourist guide
Find all the guide places to visit on the map of Fez (Morocco): Riads and accommodations according to your budget, monuments not to be missed, interesting museums, relaxing parks and natural sites, tasty and cheap restaurants….

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