Founded in the ninth century, Fez is the country’s spiritual and cultural center. It once attracted scholars, artisans, and imams during the Renaissance. Fez is home to the world’s oldest university and what is believed to be the oldest library, housing a ninth-century Qur’an.
Fez gloriously displays its past even through the bustle and chaos. Pass under the Bab Boujloud Gate with its blue scrolling cut-outs to wander through the car-free Medina of Fez, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Donkeys carry goods through the maze just as they did in Medieval times. It is easy to imagine what life must have been like here many years ago. The Medina is divided into separate bazaars selling meat, spices, leather, and carpets, each with their own unique character. Taste the peaches, dates, and syrupy pastries sold in the little nooks and crannies. Craftsmen bang on copper and make rugs, practicing age old traditions. Wood workers carve spirals and floral designs. Natural cosmetics abound in the El Henna market: rose water and kohl kits are on display under the archways as sunlight peeks through the intricate woodwork frames above. A dizzying array of tiles adorn arched, golden doorways. Gaze at the intricacy of the work, wondering how long it must have taken artisans of day’s ago to complete.
Escape the buzz at the 18th century Jnane Sbil Garden, located in the heart of the city. Squares with bubbling fountains surrounded by pools of delicate tiles sing in harmony with the chatter of the people shopping and going about their day. The scent of saffron-infused dishes wafts through the air. Sit in a cafe and sip on mint tea as you watch life in Fez go by. Green minarets soar into the skies, calling the faithful to prayer. Old caravanserai have been turned into mosques and museums.
Many of the palaces and mosques here date back to the 13th and 14th centuries. The Palais Royale is not open to the public, but even admiring it from the outside is well worth it. Large arched brass doors are covered with glistening patterns and are surrounded by a dramatic display of mint, dark green, blue, and white floral and swirled mosaic of tiles. Get lost in the designs as your eyes travel upwards. Signs of this artistry are easy to find everywhere in Fez. It feels like this ancient place was pulled straight from the pages of the Arabian Nights.