Said to be the spiritual heart of Morocco, Fes is one of the world’s best preserved and captivating medieval cities.
Our walk started at the Gates of the Royal Palace located by the Jewish quarter. Built in the 17th century, this palace is still used by the king of Morocco when he’s in town, but it’s closed to the public, so visitors have to be content with the outside. There is plenty of detail to photograph, from the ornate metal doors, arches and delicate mosaic work.
Equally intriguing was the Bab Sammarine, a gateway into Fez el-Jdid (New Fez), dating back to the 13th century.
And then on to the souks in Fes’s ancient Medina…..
In short they are exhausting. A winding labyrinth of damp and dark alleys that never seems to end,
with laden mules and donkeys passing by where you can barely swing a scrawny cat, their owners yelling “balak, balak” – move out of the way or “watch out”. The first two balak’s are a caution – on the third “balak” you are practically bowled over as the stream of traffic through the narrow alleyways forges ahead.
Inside the souk, the harassment and banter alone leaves you feeling like you’ve done a triathalon. The camel’s head dangling from the eaves in a butcher’s shop took my breath (and appetite) away and, and so did the strench of the leather tanneries where pigeon poop is used to fix the dye. And then a co-traveller ordered pigeon pie for lunch, can you believe? (I didn’t photograph the camel’s head by the way – I hurried past as fast as the oncoming stream of jellaba-clad merchants with carts of oranges or heavily laden donkeys would allow).
Founded in the 9th century and home to the oldest university in the world, about 1.1 million people live in Fes, where the ancient Medina has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.