24 HOURS IN FEZ
FEZ was initially a means to an end for us. We started our trip in CHEFCHAOUEN, our next destination was the SAHARA DESERT. We needed a place to stay in between the two destinations, which was FEZ. That being said, I wish we would have spent more time in this sensory overloaded city.
The contrast between CHEFCHAOUEN and FEZ is intense. You go from strolling the quiet, peaceful & beautiful alleyways of CHEFCHAOUEN to wandering through the loud, chaotic & even narrower alleyways of FEZ.
You will 100% get lost, embrace it, enjoy it – there is no preventing it, unless you are on a tour group or pay for a private guide. The Medina in FEZ, called Fes el-Bali, feels & looks like you are navigating through a labyrinth. It is sensation overload- herds of people walking through the alleyway, shops lining the streets and horses + donkeys coming through the alleyways every so often. It is one of the most traditional Medinas since it has not changed in centuries.
Once we got to FEZ, we found out that it is the artisanal capital of MOROCCO. Craftsmanship is grouped by trades in different districts within the Medina. These districts bear names of the trades, for example blacksmith district, potters district, leather district, etc. It was beautiful to see them all grouped in one area. MOROCCO is handmade heaven, you see everything being made by someone right in front of you. If I could do it all over again, I would spend time shopping in FEZ for two reasons – prices are cheaper and you have more variety of handmade items since they are the artisanal capital. More on shopping + bargaining in my upcoming post on MARRAKESH – MOROCCO.
FEZ is famous for its leather which is made in leather tanneries. The largest and oldest leather tannery is called Chouara Tannery, which is almost a thousand years old! This is a MUST SEE.
To get to the leather tanneries was difficult. Not only do you get lost within the Medina, but you have people on the street offering to take you to the tanneries left, right and centre – of course for some money. We read that this would happen. We said no for an hour, and when we still couldn’t find them, we caved and let someone take us to the tannery. They took us to their “families” tannery, not Chouara Tannery. We got suckered. Picture down below.
Heads up – GPS doesn’t work the best within the Medina. We navigated with an actual map & by asking the local merchants & craftsman who pointed us in the right direction. I would recommend getting a private guide to take you to the tanneries since it would cut the time in half and eliminate people smothering you 24/7. Once you FINALLY get there, the only way to see the tanneries is to go into leather shops, pay them and they bring you to their private balconies which provides you with a view of the tannery. You are welcomed with a pungent smell, which they give you peppermint leaves to hold up to your nose in order to mask the smell. They explain how the tannery runs and how the leather is processed. Fun fact, they soak leather in pigeon poop for three days to soften the leather before dying it – hence the smell.
TIP #1 – The leather shops have numbers on top of the entrance. Go to shop 64 or 10 which provides you with the best view of the tannery. We went to shop 10.
TIP #2 – We were told by a few locals to not buy leather from the shops at the leather tanneries since they jack up the prices. Rather, buy leather within the leather district. We were told that the quality of leather were no different but were significantly cheaper. I purchased two handmade leather bags from a shop within the leather district, each for $20 CAD. Pictures below.
Their are fountains throughout all of the medina’s in MOROCCO. FEZ is specifically known for them and they have over 60 hidden throughout the Medina that are regularly used by the locals to this day. All of them are intricately designed and handcrafted.
MOROCCO is known for its Riads/Ryads. Riad in arabic means “garden” and is a traditional Moroccan house – two or more storeys centered around a courtyard that has a fountain in it.
Hundreds of Riads now exist throughout MOROCCO as “boutique hotels.” Most of them only have six to eight rooms offering a very private & relaxing experience. I strongly encourage you to stay in a Riad to experience the beauty, tranquility & intricate detail that they offer.
RYAD SALAMA – Walking through the doors you are welcomed by the sounds of birds, surrounded by tropical plants (banana leafs being one of them) and walking on intricate tile that guides you to the courtyard. Every Riad greets you with Moraccan tea (yes, they pour it from up high).
We were really lucky and had the actual owner of the Ryad greet us since the manager was on holiday. He was a French man (meaning great good + wine) who walked us through everything we needed to know about FEZ.
RYAD SALAMA was beautifully created. Everywhere you look, thought and intent went into it. From the hand carving detail on pillars, to immaculate wooden doors, to stainless windows, to tiles everywhere you look. Each room is crafted differently and has a different theme. Our room was called the “brown room” and had gold accents everywhere. Our friends room was called the “orange room” and had orange accent everywhere.
Booking a Riad always includes breakfast. MOROCCO goes all out for breakfast, each Riad provided a delicious start to the day. It encompasses freshly squeezed orange juice, tea, coffee, croissants, savoury crepes, eggs, fruit, jams & butter.
We stayed at three different Riads throughout our time in MOROCCO, each Riad had something special to offer. I don’t think you can go wrong with any one of them.
CAFE CLOCK – One of the most known restaurants in FEZ, has a cozy rooftop terrace. It was hustling + bustling with people. I would recommend making reservations to get a good seat, we were lucky and got a table right away, but many people did wait for a table to become available. Not only is the food was authentic & delicious but the view is spectacular. I highly recommend this spot.
RYAD SALAMA – TIP, we were warned by several people to not stay out late in FEZ and to head to the RIAD at around 7 pm. Most people in MOROCCO eat dinner at around 8 pm. Good thing was RYAD SALAMA (like most Riads) offer food/are also restaurants. It gets better…their food is equally as delicious. We had a private dinner at RYAD SALAMA indulging in the beef + lamb tajine. This was the first delicious tajine we had on the trip, full of flavour – exactly what he hoped for. PLUS, since it was a French mans house, he had an impressive wine list. We tried Moroccan wine and also indulged in some French wine.