life on pine

how to tackle the medina in fes, morocco

Kate Parrish1 Comment

fes is literally a walled maze of a city and is unlike any place i've ever been. dating back to the year 789, i immediately knew photos would not do it justice so i just started filming. after a 3 hour grand taxi with some friends we had met in chefchaouen, we arrived. interestingly enough right before Eid Al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) – so things were even more chaotic than normal. this is one of the biggest holidays in morocco, and most popularly celebrated in fes. locals were stocking up on sheep for the sacrifice [which we missed, but apparently it gets pretty gory], it was such a crazy time to be in the city. we had a leisurely afternoon relaxing and getting settled with mint tea at our riad [idrissy] followed by dinner at their awesome restaurant the ruined garden.

the next day was spent exploring the entire city on foot with our 20-something year old local guide. we saw everything from the vibrant souks, the oldest university in the world [al quaraouiyine], tanneries, rug and leather shops, argan oil stores, spice markets, meat/produce markets... we were exhausted when it was all said and done. 

fes is absolutely worth seeing if you visit morocco, but it can also be quite overwhelming. some tips/things to know if you're planning to make the visit:

  1. lodging: ranges in all prices / luxuries: if you want luxury, check out hotel sahrai or riad fes [these places are also open to the public for cocktails/food/pool use]. more boutiquey, check out dar seffarine or idrissy.
  2. hire a guide for at least a few hours during your visit and tell them exactly what you want to see. without them, it will be very hard to find your way and they will likely only charge about 20 euros for the day. google does not have the markets in their map – so if you get lost inside, good luck finding your way out. 
  3. local kids will try to tell you you're going the wrong way [even if you aren't] and then proceed to help/guide you through the tiny streets and markets in exchange for money. they get pretty persistent and often won't leave you alone – we found it easiest to just keep walking and not say anything, but if you really are lost – they will help you to your hotel for a few dollars. 
  4. prices here in terms of shopping aren't as crazy cheap as you would think. we were taken to a rug shop where the man tried to sell us a small runner for over $1,000 [um, no]. we ended up buying our very few souvenirs in the smaller towns like chefchaouen and essaouira.