Welcome to the World’s Biggest Maze: Fez in Morocco

Published October 8th, 2020 - 05:24 GMT

By Ewelina Lepionko

Morocco is famous for its historic imperial cities: Fez, Meknes, Marrakesh, and Rabat. Of the four, Fez is both the oldest and the most impressive but often overlooked by tourists in favor of Marrakech.

Although the political capital of Morocco was transferred to Rabat in 1912, Fez has retained its status as the country's cultural center. This is the spiritual capital of Morocco, famed for its handicraft work. It is an open-air museum, with the largest pedestrian zone in the world and almost 10,000 small streets. Its old town, or medina, is ranked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The walled “medina” of Fez is known to be a maze to everyone who hasn’t grown up there.

Fez was founded in the 9th century and home to the oldest university in the world. The city reached its height in the 13th–14th centuries under the Marinids when it replaced Marrakesh as the capital of the kingdom. The Medina of Fez preserves, in an ancient part comprising numerous monumental buildings, the memory of the capital founded by the Idrisid dynasty.

In the tourist guides, we can read that behind the high crenelated walls that surround the medina, lie 9,000 historical houses, 11 madrassas, around 200 mosques, and more than a thousand handicraft workshops. Even though many “Fessi” trades their medina home for a more modern home in the novelle city, it is still home to 70 000 people. The ancient medina is a live treasure, hidden and secret, which cannot be taken lightly

Today, the medina is known as Fez el-Bali, and its magic remains undimmed by the passage of time. Outside the medina lies the newest part of Fez, referred to as Ville Nouvelle. It is another world entirely, comprised of wide boulevards, modern shops, and busy traffic.

View as a slider
View as a list
The Medina of Fez, Morocco. Hammered metalworks Morocco is well-known for its handicrafts, in particular, their traditional metalwork. There are a few kinds of unique metal objects you can bring home from Fez /Photo Ewelina Lepionko

The Medina of Fez, Morocco. Hammered metalworks Morocco is well-known for its handicrafts, in particular, their traditional metalwork. There are a few kinds of unique metal objects you can bring home from Fez /Photo Ewelina Lepionko

There are no cars. Most of the Fez medina, which contains close to 10,000 streets, is completely carfree, though you might see the occasional motorbike zooming through a crowd of people /Photo Ewelina Lepionko

There are no cars. Most of the Fez medina, which contains close to 10,000 streets, is completely carfree, though you might see the occasional motorbike zooming through a crowd of people /Photo Ewelina Lepionko

Chouara Tannery. The largest of the tanneries is Chouara Tannery and there you’ll find men working away, putting the animal skins into white liquids to soften them and then dyes to give them colour /Photo Ewelina Lepionko

Chouara Tannery. The largest of the tanneries is Chouara Tannery and there you’ll find men working away, putting the animal skins into white liquids to soften them and then dyes to give them colour /Photo Ewelina Lepionko

The Chouara Tannery has been in existence for almost a millenium, and is known for producing high-quality leather goods that are sold throughout the country. Everything here is done manually, and the tanning process hasn’t changed since medieval times /Photo Ewelina Lepionko

The Chouara Tannery has been in existence for almost a millenium, and is known for producing high-quality leather goods that are sold throughout the country. Everything here is done manually, and the tanning process hasn’t changed since medieval times /Photo Ewelina Lepionko

Donkeys in Fez, near Bab Bou Jeloud (Blue Gate), one of the first things you might see. Most of the Fez medina, which contains close to 10,000 streets, is completely car-free /Photo Ewelina Lepionko

Donkeys in Fez, near Bab Bou Jeloud (Blue Gate), one of the first things you might see. Most of the Fez medina, which contains close to 10,000 streets, is completely car-free /Photo Ewelina Lepionko

Souk Tillisse. This souk sells handmade Moroccan rugs at a fair price. It is a market locals often visit and where visitors will see the true colours of Moroccan streets. Rugs vary in colour, fabric, style /Photo Ewelina Lepionko

Souk Tillisse. This souk sells handmade Moroccan rugs at a fair price. It is a market locals often visit and where visitors will see the true colours of Moroccan streets. Rugs vary in colour, fabric, style /Photo Ewelina Lepionko

Colourful Moroccan scarves for sale in Fez's souks /Photo Ewelina Lepionko

Colourful Moroccan scarves for sale in Fez's souks /Photo Ewelina Lepionko

Briouat. This flaky pastry kind of looks like a samosa, but can contain many fillings such as pistachio paste, almond paste, or even meat. The bread is baked in front of your eyes in the traditional way /Photo Ewelina Lepionko

Briouat. This flaky pastry kind of looks like a samosa, but can contain many fillings such as pistachio paste, almond paste, or even meat. The bread is baked in front of your eyes in the traditional way /Photo Ewelina Lepionko

Al Attarine Madrasa (Islamic school) was built in the early 1300s and is next to the spice and perfume market /Photo Ewelina Lepionko

Al Attarine Madrasa (Islamic school) was built in the early 1300s and is next to the spice and perfume market /Photo Ewelina Lepionko

The University of Al Quaraouiyine. This is the oldest university in the world, having been founded in 859 /Photo Ewelina Lepionko

The University of Al Quaraouiyine. This is the oldest university in the world, having been founded in 859 /Photo Ewelina Lepionko

The University of Al Quaraouiyine.  It is not as visually-spectacular but it still has a beautiful design with arched doorways /Photo Ewelina Lepionko

The University of Al Quaraouiyine. It is not as visually-spectacular but it still has a beautiful design with arched doorways /Photo Ewelina Lepionko

Fez. One of the most popular tourist spots in Morocco, life has stayed the same for centuries in this medieval city /Photo Ewelina Lepionko

Fez. One of the most popular tourist spots in Morocco, life has stayed the same for centuries in this medieval city /Photo Ewelina Lepionko

The Medina of Fez, Morocco. Hammered metalworks Morocco is well-known for its handicrafts, in particular, their traditional metalwork. There are a few kinds of unique metal objects you can bring home from Fez /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
There are no cars. Most of the Fez medina, which contains close to 10,000 streets, is completely carfree, though you might see the occasional motorbike zooming through a crowd of people /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
Chouara Tannery. The largest of the tanneries is Chouara Tannery and there you’ll find men working away, putting the animal skins into white liquids to soften them and then dyes to give them colour /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
The Chouara Tannery has been in existence for almost a millenium, and is known for producing high-quality leather goods that are sold throughout the country. Everything here is done manually, and the tanning process hasn’t changed since medieval times /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
Donkeys in Fez, near Bab Bou Jeloud (Blue Gate), one of the first things you might see. Most of the Fez medina, which contains close to 10,000 streets, is completely car-free /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
Souk Tillisse. This souk sells handmade Moroccan rugs at a fair price. It is a market locals often visit and where visitors will see the true colours of Moroccan streets. Rugs vary in colour, fabric, style /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
Colourful Moroccan scarves for sale in Fez's souks /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
Briouat. This flaky pastry kind of looks like a samosa, but can contain many fillings such as pistachio paste, almond paste, or even meat. The bread is baked in front of your eyes in the traditional way /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
Al Attarine Madrasa (Islamic school) was built in the early 1300s and is next to the spice and perfume market /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
The University of Al Quaraouiyine. This is the oldest university in the world, having been founded in 859 /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
The University of Al Quaraouiyine.  It is not as visually-spectacular but it still has a beautiful design with arched doorways /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
Fez. One of the most popular tourist spots in Morocco, life has stayed the same for centuries in this medieval city /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
The Medina of Fez, Morocco. Hammered metalworks Morocco is well-known for its handicrafts, in particular, their traditional metalwork. There are a few kinds of unique metal objects you can bring home from Fez /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
The Medina of Fez, Morocco. Hammered metalworks Morocco is well-known for its handicrafts, in particular, their traditional metalwork. There are a few kinds of unique metal objects you can bring home from Fez /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
There are no cars. Most of the Fez medina, which contains close to 10,000 streets, is completely carfree, though you might see the occasional motorbike zooming through a crowd of people /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
There are no cars. Most of the Fez medina, which contains close to 10,000 streets, is completely carfree, though you might see the occasional motorbike zooming through a crowd of people /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
Chouara Tannery. The largest of the tanneries is Chouara Tannery and there you’ll find men working away, putting the animal skins into white liquids to soften them and then dyes to give them colour /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
Chouara Tannery. The largest of the tanneries is Chouara Tannery and there you’ll find men working away, putting the animal skins into white liquids to soften them and then dyes to give them colour /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
The Chouara Tannery has been in existence for almost a millenium, and is known for producing high-quality leather goods that are sold throughout the country. Everything here is done manually, and the tanning process hasn’t changed since medieval times /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
The Chouara Tannery has been in existence for almost a millenium, and is known for producing high-quality leather goods that are sold throughout the country. Everything here is done manually, and the tanning process hasn’t changed since medieval times /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
Donkeys in Fez, near Bab Bou Jeloud (Blue Gate), one of the first things you might see. Most of the Fez medina, which contains close to 10,000 streets, is completely car-free /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
Donkeys in Fez, near Bab Bou Jeloud (Blue Gate), one of the first things you might see. Most of the Fez medina, which contains close to 10,000 streets, is completely car-free /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
Souk Tillisse. This souk sells handmade Moroccan rugs at a fair price. It is a market locals often visit and where visitors will see the true colours of Moroccan streets. Rugs vary in colour, fabric, style /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
Souk Tillisse. This souk sells handmade Moroccan rugs at a fair price. It is a market locals often visit and where visitors will see the true colours of Moroccan streets. Rugs vary in colour, fabric, style /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
Colourful Moroccan scarves for sale in Fez's souks /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
Colourful Moroccan scarves for sale in Fez's souks /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
Briouat. This flaky pastry kind of looks like a samosa, but can contain many fillings such as pistachio paste, almond paste, or even meat. The bread is baked in front of your eyes in the traditional way /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
Briouat. This flaky pastry kind of looks like a samosa, but can contain many fillings such as pistachio paste, almond paste, or even meat. The bread is baked in front of your eyes in the traditional way /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
Al Attarine Madrasa (Islamic school) was built in the early 1300s and is next to the spice and perfume market /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
Al Attarine Madrasa (Islamic school) was built in the early 1300s and is next to the spice and perfume market /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
The University of Al Quaraouiyine. This is the oldest university in the world, having been founded in 859 /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
The University of Al Quaraouiyine. This is the oldest university in the world, having been founded in 859 /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
The University of Al Quaraouiyine.  It is not as visually-spectacular but it still has a beautiful design with arched doorways /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
The University of Al Quaraouiyine. It is not as visually-spectacular but it still has a beautiful design with arched doorways /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
Fez. One of the most popular tourist spots in Morocco, life has stayed the same for centuries in this medieval city /Photo Ewelina Lepionko
Fez. One of the most popular tourist spots in Morocco, life has stayed the same for centuries in this medieval city /Photo Ewelina Lepionko

You may also like

Subscribe

Sign up to our newsletter for exclusive updates and enhanced content