Fez, also spelled Fes, is located in the interior of Morocco and approximately 300 km (200 miles) from its north coast, being the second most touristic city in the country, just below Marrakech. It’s also the oldest of the imperial cities and current religious capital of the country, with a population of approximately two million inhabitants.
Fez is divided into three main areas. Within the walls there’s the first medina, also called Fez el-Bali and the second medina or Fez el-Jdid, and outside the walls the French colonial area or Ville Nouvelle, located to the northwest.
It’s impossible to talk about what stands out about Fez and defines it if we don’t start with its oldest medina, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Once we enter and walk through its labyrinthine streets, while we dodge donkeys and motorcycles transporting different things, we’ll feel like we’ve taken a journey to a different time.
We see a series of stores and workshops that, in the vast majority of the rest of the world, have disappeared: potters, goldsmiths, weavers, etc. The leatherwork is especially notable in the tanners’ neighborhood, a place where many feel fascinated and bothered at the same time by the hard work that is done there.
Although not everything is crafts in Fez, and inside its medina we can see real architectural jewels such as the Bou Inania Madrasa, the Al Karaouine Mosque or the Mulay Idris II Mausoleum. And if we leave the wall behind and go into the new area, we can marvel at the bronze doors of the Royal Palace or tour the Jewish quarter.
However, in Fez you can also enjoy more contemporary urban landscapes, such as the wide avenues and modernity of the French area.
Another example of modernity is its famous Festival of World Sacred Music, where in addition to hosting traditional Moroccan music groups, Spanish artists such as Paco de Lucía or Carmen Linares or even international avant-garde musicians such as Ben Harper or Björk have performed.
That is why Fez holds the honor of being the Moroccan city that has best managed to modernize without losing its identity in the course of time. A city where the roots of tradition are combined with a healthy open attitude towards contemporary culture.
Fez enjoys mild temperatures most of the year. The only possible exception is summer, hovering around 85°F (30°C). Try not to expose yourself too much to the sun and to wear sunglasses and/or a hat in summer during the day.
Around wintertime you’ll need a jacket for the day and perhaps a coat for the night, and there’ll be some probability of rain (around 20%), so take a small umbrella if traveling at that time.
The plane is the usual way to get to this city for people coming from Europe, partly because Fez has frequent passenger travel from European airports and also because low-cost airlines have been establishing themselves there for some time.
Another option is to land at an airport with more international traffic (for example Casablanca or Marrakech) and from there go to Fez (the following sections detail transportation between Fez and other major cities in Morocco).
Fez airport is very close to the city (just 12 kilometers or 7 miles). Once we land, it is best to get to our accommodations by taxi, probably costing around 150 dirhams, although if we’re skilled in the art of haggling we can close the deal for 120 dirhams.
Another cheaper option is to take one of the buses that leave the station regularly every half hour, and which cost 4 dirhams per person, although they only go to the train station.
Thanks in part to being one of the capitals of Morocco, as by plane, getting to Fez by train is very easy. It has good transportation connections with a many important cities, such as Casablanca, Marrakech and Tangier.
Timetables and prices based on the point of origin can be found on the page of the Moroccan train company, the OCNF (the page is in French). However, although you can buy tickets online, it’s only possible if you have a Moroccan credit card.
Being a city located in the center of Morocco and of major domestic importance, it has highways that go almost anywhere in the country. The best roads (most of which are motorways) connect with other important cities such as Marrakech, Rabat, Casablanca or Tangier.