Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Lifting the veil on the Athens of Africa






Fez is perhaps one of the most intriguing cities in the world, it has a long and rich history, dating back to as far as 789. Through the years Fez has attracted more than its fair share of philosophers, artists, mathematicians, scholars, lawyers and craftspeople. 


It was previously the capital of Morroco and is steeped in history, so much so that it still retains a self-confidence that can both delight and disarm the casual visitor and tourist. Much of that history is evident in the medieval areas of the old city that is a car-free urban area where loads are still carried on heads and donkeys. Where a warren of alleyways lead to everywhere and sometimes nowhere. Turn another corner and you'll find large open squares where life continues in the same it has for centuries.


Some find this utterly beguiling, charming and instigating a lifelong fondness for the city, others are perhaps less enchanted by the experience, yet either way, it is a city like no other. Through the years this Moroccan crossroads has been called many things, 'the Athens of Africa', the Mecca of the west' are but two, yet neither adequately describe everything the city offers.

Let's take a little look into this vibrant and enchanting city.




Leather goods are always popular buys and the tanning industry has been continually operating in the same fashion as it has since the early centuries. Today, there are three main tanneries in the city all of which are big tourist attractions, the largest is Chourara which continues in the traditional ways. 


The Madina and Madrasas of the city are like their own worlds where history comes to life and has to be experienced to be believed. The Fes Madina is considered to be the biggest and best-preserved historic towns in the whole of the Arab world. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1981 and is one of the best in the world. The best way to experience this city within a city for the first time it to hire a local official guide from the tourist office, that way you'll get to experience everything this delightful controlled pandemonium in perfect safety and without the worry of getting lost. 


Often overlooked is the amazing food scene in Fez, which is really quite remarkable. Like much of Moroccan cuisine it takes influences from many countries and cultures and as such is bound to have something for most tastes. Couscous is of course widely served as are tajines of bubbling beef and lamb dishes. But, try the wide variety Pastilla's which are filled pies - either sweet or savoury and are widely sold in both restaurants and street food vendors. Bissara, is another great value item that can be picked up from numerous food street vendors and is a soup made from split broad beans, which is oddly tasty and a great way to start the day. Another good idea is to try the pancakes which are often grilled out in the open on the street, which can be so filling, you'll gladly miss out on lunch! 




Places to stay

Riad Le Calife

Riad Le Calife is located in the historical centre of the Medina of Fez, the Riad is a traditional home of the last century recently converted into a charming little guesthouse. The house includes three prestigious suites and four charming rooms, three lounge areas, a well-being space and two terraces with a stunning panoramic view of the Medina.
More details, reviews and ways to book are available here






Riad Fes Maya Suite & Spa
Riad Fes Maya Suite & Spa is an excellent choice for travellers visiting Fes, offering a boutique environment alongside many helpful amenities. The Riad is in close proximity of all the popular landmarks, such as Moulay Abdellah Quarter and Attarin Medersa. Guest rooms offer a flat-screen TV, a minibar, and a refrigerator. 

More details, reviews and ways to book are available here








Riad El Yacout

Nestled in the Old Medina Riad El Yacout is an ancient private residence of a rich merchant that was restored by a group of talented Fassis craftsmen to its former glory. When you arrive, you will be mesmerized by the serenity and tranquillity that reign in the Riad and by the chanting of the birds and water sounds coming from the marble fountain that is gracefully centred in the courtyard. The winter garden exhales soft and refreshing scents. Take time to taste the mint tea in the comfort of the Moroccan living tradition. Admire the Arabo-Andalusian architecture which detects an art of refined living. Columns and arcades set up meticulously with floral and cursive sculptures marvellously engraved on Plaster and cedar doors. Discover the Moroccan gastronomy and enjoy the delights of the rich and varied Moroccan art of cooking. The dishes are prepared with the finest spices and organic ingredients to give guests a taste of the real and authentic Fassi cuisine. The meals can be served in patios, Moroccan living room, terraces or in the intimacy of your residence according to your choice.

More details, reviews and ways to book are available here









Flights to Fez from 17.86

A journey through time exploring this mysterious, labyrinthine medieval city.
Fly at the best price with Vueling
Fez is the most ancient and mysterious of Morocco's four Imperial Cities, and is especially renowned for its cultural and religious heritage.

The Medina is home to most of the treasures in Fez, such as the ancient Al-Karaouine mosque, Moulay Idriss mausoleum or El Mokri Palace. And be sure to take a good map so you won't get lost in the maze of narrow streets

You'll be amazed at the intense aroma and colour of the Fez tanners, the flavour of the kebabs and meat skewers... An unforgettable treat for your senses!










Lonely Planet offers a great guide to Morocco which will be useful to all visitors to the country and Fez, more details available here.


Travel information from the UK's FCO:
Almost 700,000 visitors from the UK come to Morocco every year. Most visits are trouble-free.
Morocco is a Muslim country which follows Islamic laws and customs. You should respect these at all times. See Local Laws and Customs
Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Morocco. You should be vigilant at all times. Two foreign nationals were murdered while hiking near Mount Toubkal in December 2018. Moroccan authorities arrested 4 individuals in connection with the murders, including one individual they say had links to “an extremist group”, following the release on social media including Daesh affiliated media of a video apparently showing one of the murders.
There is an increased threat linked to the number of Moroccans sympathetic or belonging to Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL) and other extremist groups. Authorities regularly report the disruption of terrorist cells across the country. Crowded areas, government installations, transportation networks, businesses with Western interests, and areas where foreign nationals and tourists are known to gather may be at higher risk of attack. You should be vigilant in these areas and follow any specific advice of the local security authorities.
Protective security measures, including security personnel, may be visible in certain areas, including hotels and sites popular with tourists.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time. Protests take place occasionally across the country. Most of these are peaceful, but you should take sensible security precautions and avoid all demonstrations. Incidents of violent crime occasionally occur.
There have been incidents involving the use of knives against tourists in street attacks, thefts and burglaries in the major cities and along beaches, where you should avoid quiet areas and be vigilant at all times, particularly after dark. Don’t carry large amounts of money or valuables around with you.
Petty crime is common, especially in tourist areas like the medina quarter of towns/cities and on beaches. Crimes include pick-pocketing, bag snatching and drive-by motorcycle theft of visible jewellery and handbags. Be vigilant when asking for directions and using ATMs as crime and aggressive begging can occur. Credit card fraud and scams like substituting inferior goods for those that were actually bought are common. You should remain vigilant and alert to potential confidence tricks.
When visiting the medina quarter of a town or city, make sure any guide you use is operating with the agreement of the local tourist authorities and displays an official badge. Harassment of tourists by people posing as official tourist guides is common.
Women should exercise caution, particularly when travelling alone as they could be vulnerable to unwanted attention or harassment by men. Exercise caution when travelling to Morocco for a relationship initiated via the internet. There have been incidents of marriage fraud and attempted extortion affecting foreign nationals. When travelling for a first visit, make sure you keep your return ticket, passport and personal belongings safe in case problems arise.
Morocco has a poor road safety record. You can drive in Morocco with a valid UK driving licence for up to one year. You can also drive with a valid International Driving Permit for up to one year of your temporary stay in Morocco. From 28 March 2019, you will need to have a 1968 International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in Morocco. 1949 IDPs previously issued by the UK may no longer be accepted for use in Morocco after this date. From 1 February 2019, you can only get IDPs over the counter from 2,500 UK Post Offices. You will not be able to buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel.
For any longer periods, you need to apply for a Moroccan Driving Licence as per laws and guidelines set by the Moroccan Ministry of Equipment, Transport and LogisticsIf you’re planning to hire a car, check with your car hire company for information on their requirements before you travel.
Morocco has a poor road safety record. In 2018, 3,485 people were killed and approximately 100,000 injured in traffic accidents. The road fatality rate is approximately 9 times higher than in the UK. 
Drive carefully, especially in poor weather conditions, on secondary routes and on mountain roads. Driving at night can be particularly hazardous due to poor lighting. Lorries and trucks may be overloaded and you should take extra care around them. It’s common to encounter pedestrians crossing motorways. You should take extra care when overtaking, particularly where there is no hard shoulder. Leave plenty of time to reach your destination and respect speed limits. If you’re involved in a road accident, you should complete a ‘Constat Amiable’ form, to be signed by both parties. Blank forms are available on arrival at Tangier port from the insurance company booths and from tobacconists in all cities.
If you’re involved in a road accident resulting in a fatality and the Moroccan authorities consider you responsible, you may be detained pending a trial hearing. If you enter Morocco with a vehicle, the registration number will be recorded. If you’re not in possession of the same vehicle when leaving Morocco, you’ll be refused exit and detained. You’ll need to provide evidence of adequate motor insurance. You should always carry your insurance, licence and registration documents with you.
If you’re travelling to Western Sahara, you should read our travel advice for this disputed territory.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.




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