If the word ‘Fez’ brings to mind the little hats members of the Shriners wear, or the little hat on Abu, the monkey from Walt Disney’s ‘Aladdin’, then you’re not thinking of the right Fez. The city of Fes, located in Morocco, is actually the oldest and largest medieval city in the world and it has not stopped bustling since it was founded in 789 AD. It has changed little through the centuries and that is what makes the city so unique and enjoyable to explore.
Fez has its own culture, art, cuisine, and even pride amongst its residents. During World War I, the city’s oldest quarter, Bali, was saved by a French general, Lyautey, who took control and arranged to make sure the old historic buildings were preserved. The entire sector of Bali in Fez to this day is under the protection of the laws the general put into place and the medieval structures are still quite sound as the city moves around it. With narrow streets that only mules, donkeys, and pedestrians can pass, Fes is developed and alive.
Shopping in Morocco, Fez:
Fez is a city that has been stuck in time as many of the house walls that still stand attest to. They have been there since before the Crusades and the first European ever crossed the Mediterranean. The entire ecosystem and organic structure of the city – animals, humans, and flora – has been in place for over 1,000 years and the symbiosis of the city will probably be the same in 1,000 more. Modern visitors may not understand why the city works the way it does and may find it primitive, but Fez is anything but.
As you move through Fes you will find that the older streets have a few shops, namely groceries where the local citizens can buy the usual commodity items like sugar, tea, tin, Coca Cola, and anything else the owners may decide to offer. You will also find small shops and stands throughout the narrow streets of this medieval city selling handmade crafts, fruits, vegetables, and more. More touristy types of shops are found off the wider streets of Fez, but even then, handcrafted goods seem to be the norm.
Some of the more interesting shops in Fez are the clothes shops that dot the city. Even if you do not purchase anything – clothes from this part of the world tend to run on the small side so you may not find anything that fits – the clothes shops are a sight to see with all of the clothes in a myriad of colour, styles, and textures hanging from every free space available – ceiling, walls, everywhere. If there is something you want to see in the shop, the shop keep will retrieve it for you using a long stick that will reach close to 6 meters above your head.
You are also going to want to visit the rug factory where they are woven and maybe even bring one of these beauties home. There are hundreds of carpets to choose from and the family business has made them extremely popular all over the world. The tile shop is where all of the small tiles you see in Morocco in mosaics and other decorations are made. You can watch as the craftsman cut each tile by hand and you will be amazed as the addition of a little bit of water brings the colors to bear. You will even find shops that sell nothing but reels. If you are looking for a special something, you should easily find it here in Fez. The specialty item stores have exploded in this beautiful city.
Other Morocco Places:
If you are visiting a Muslim country you will invariably notice the many mosques that litter the cities throughout. Some of the mosques non-Muslims can visit. The Kairouine Mosque in Fez non-Muslims cannot enter although you can get a glimpse inside if the doors are open. The mosque is the centre of Islamic learning in Morocco and has been for more than 1,000 years. The mosque’s structure grew in the 10th and 12th centuries as it was added to and unless you are able to actually enter the mosque, you cannot get a grip of how large it really is. Make sure you try to peek in one of the many open gates and if you can get a picture, take one. Just make sure you respect the individuals going in and out and do not take their pictures.
The Merenid Tombs just north of the city is where the many Merenid rulers are buried. These are the men that made the city the cultural and religious centre of Morocco and the tombs are interesting to tour. The Royal Palace is another must see although you will only be able to see and enjoy the exterior of this magnificent building as it is closed to all visitors.
Fez is a city that is well worth taking your time to walk through and tour. From the tanner’s quarter to the Jewish quarter, you will find that it is a city made of different religions, traditions, and styles, a virtual Moroccan melting pot and unique on its own.
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