With its ancient medina boasting 9,000 alleys, Fes (or Fez) is an absolute wonder to any traveler. The city is said to have been founded in 809 AD by Moulay Idriss II and legend has it that it was given its name after construction workers found a golden pickaxe (or fes in classical Arabic) while working. Fes is surrounded by large rolling hills and mountains, often snowcapped, and can be seen in the distance.
The city is divided into two sections, the ancient medina and the Ville Nouvelle (‘New City‘). Visitors to the ancient medina are guaranteed to be amazed by the traditional artisan work found at the tanneries, weavers, and brass workers’ shops. Sights and smells will overtake your senses as you walk through the open markets where you will see sacks brimming with exotic spices, fresh meats cut to order, and the cacophony of fruit and vegetable sellers calling out the day’s prices.
At the heart of the medina is the famous Kairaouine Mosque and University. It is said that this is the world’s oldest university and remains one of the most important centers of Islamic learning today. You can also find the 14th-century Jewish quarters, cemetery, and Ibn Danan Synagogue in Fes el-Jdid located next to the Royal Palace.
Like portals into an ancient world, the gates of the medina provide access to people, carts, and donkeys alike. The most photographed of the babs (doors) is Bab Boujloud, ornately decorated with green and blue tile. The Avenue Hassan II in New City is a popular fountain-dotted boulevard where a leisurely stroll under the palm trees makes a great break from the hustle and bustle of the old medina.