Known as the Mecca of the West and the Athens of Africa, the city of Fez is the heart of Morocco’s rich culture and heritage.
During July 2014 I had the pleasure of visiting Fez during Ramadan, one of the holiest times of the year for the Islamic world.
Here are some of the life lessons that I learned from beyond the city walls of Fez. I hope you enjoy them and remember to always keep an open mind when it comes to experiencing new cultures.
Sometimes, the things you learn from the locals are even more amazing than the ones the locals learn from you!
Fez, the Heartland of Morocco
To talk about Fez is to talk about Morocco itself, a country located in the northern part of Africa in a region known as the Maghreb, Morocco is a country that has experiencing the best and worst aspects of colonialism after being part of the French intervention.
Come on, who doesn’t remember the movie Casablanca?.
And yet, in the end, Morocco has learned to maintain their own cultural identity thanks to the efforts and sacrifices of their citizens who always managed to overcome all odds in order to preserve their unique heritage and the best place to experience that is at Fez, home to the oldest university in the entire world.
Are you ready to explore this amazing city beyond the city walls?
Tales from beyond the city walls of Fez
The city of Fez used to be the capital of Morocco up until 1925 when it shifted to Rabat. Today, Fez is one of the most popular destinations for travelers to the country and it features an amazing Medina (word used to describe the historical old town) as well as a modern and vibrant district where young people party during the weekends.
One of the main features that sets Fez apart from other Moroccan cities is the beauty of its landscape in which you will find symmetrical buildings surrounded by the imposing city walls plus the mountains that lie beyond the limits of the city itself.
However, the true beauty of Fez lies not in the beauty of its buildings but rather, on the spirit of its citizens.
If you want to experience the daily hustle and bustle of Morocco, then Fez is your best choice.
Morocco is a country torn apart between the West and the East in the sense that even though Sharia Law dictates the way the country is run, the young citizens want to establish a secular government influenced by the ideals of freedom and equality that the French post-colonialism has left on them and Fez is the silent witness of this slow progress towards a social change.
In the end, one could say that venturing beyond the city walls of Fez is a challenge itself since you will end up with more questions than answers as you’ll ponder about higher ideals of equality and comprehension.
One of my favorite experiences while in Fez was taking a walk along the modern city district with a local friend of mine.
Our conversation about the future of the people of Morocco really left me with such a high hope for the locals of the country since it was comforting to know that the world is changing for the good. And we’re all social agents for implementing said change. As John Lennon once said “Imagine no religion, above us only sky”.
Practical information about traveling to Fez, Morocco
Most hotels, hostels and guesthouses of Fez are located within the city walls. During my time at Fez I was invited to stay at Riad Verus, one of the few places to serve alcohol during Ramadan. In fact, during high season, the upper level of the riad transforms into a nightclub where you can party until the sun rises.
Close to the hostel you will also find cheap restaurants and shisha (hookah) bars where you can enjoy the traditional Moroccan hospitality that characterizises the country. Just be careful with the scams of Morocco and you’ll have the best time of your life!
Fez is connected to Meknes (1 hour), Rabat (3 hours), Casablanca (4 hours) and Marrackech (7 hours) by train and to Chefchaouen (5 hours) and Tangier (4 hours) by bus.
You don’t really need to make reservations and please, be assured to know that the quality of Morocco’s trains and buses is one of the best ones in the world.
Have you ever been to Fez? Would you like to? Share your thoughts and let me know what you think!