Fes Old Town Walking Tour (Self Guided), Fes

North and west of the fabled Atlas Mountains of North Africa is the ancient city of Fes, or Fez. It is centered on the Fes River.

In the year 789 Idris I founded the city and the Idrisid dynasty. The city was two settlements on either side of the river. In the 11th century, Sultan Yusuf ibn Tashfin established Almoravid rule. He united the settlements into Fes el-Bali. The Almoravids were followed by the Wattasids, Saadis, and the Marinids in 1250.

Fes had a golden age in the 13th-15th centuries. During this time many of the surviving mosques and madrasas were built. Fes Jdid was established in 1276 by Sultan Abu Yusuf Yaqub as a royal district. The Marinids were overthrown in 1465. The Alaouite dynasty ruled until 1912.

The city is the two old town quarters Fes el-Bali and Fes Jdid and the modern town Ville Nouvelle. The Ville was founded in the French colonial era. It is a cosmopolitan district, home to affluent citizens and european ex-pats.

Beyond the Blue Gate (Bab Bou Jeloud), there is much to see. The Bou Jeloud mosque dates from the 12th century, the Mosque of the Andalusians was founded in 859. The great Mosque of Fez el-Jdid was built in the Marinid era in 1276. In addition to the many ornate, imposing mosques are the madrasas, schools, hammams and synagogues.

The oldest university in the world, madrasa al Qarawiyyin, is still awarding degrees. There are tanneries, palaces, souks. And in the center of it all is the Jnane Sbil Gardens, the Lalla Mina Gardens of the Royal Palace and the gardens of the Dar al-Beida.

Ever recreating itself and yet retaining the serenity of Islamic traditions, Fes awaits the traveler who looks beyond a golf course or a bar. It has many secrets and mysteries to be unraveled.
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Fes Old Town Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Fes Old Town Walking Tour
Guide Location: Morocco » Fes (See other walking tours in Fes)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 15
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.7 Km or 2.3 Miles
Author: leticia
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Bab Bou Jeloud (Blue Gate)
  • Dar Batha Museum
  • Mnebhi Palace
  • Nejjarine Museum of Wooden Arts & Crafts
  • Cherratine Madrasa (Cherratine School)
  • Place R'cif and R'cif Mosque
  • Place Seffarine (Seffarine Square)
  • Chouara Tannery
  • University of al-Qarawiyyin
  • Al-Attarine Madrasa (School of the Perfumers)
  • Souq al-Attarine and the Kissaria Markets
  • Zawiya de Moulay Idriss II (Moulay Idriss II Shrine)
  • Rue Tala'a Kebira (Great Slope Street)
  • Dar al-Magana (Water Clock)
  • Bou Inania Madrasa (Bou Inania School)
1
Bab Bou Jeloud (Blue Gate)

1) Bab Bou Jeloud (Blue Gate) (must see)

There was a hero in a French movie called "Pepe Le Moko." Pepe was famous for his seductive plea, "Come with me to the Kasbah." Pepe was on the lam. He took refuge in his Kasbah, a densely populated fortified section of the old city. In Fes the gate to both the Kasbah Bou Jeloud and Kasbah en-Nouar is Bab Bou Jeloud, "The Blue Gate."

The original Blue Gate was a simple gate with a pointed arch built in the 12th century. In 1912, Morocco became a French Protectorate. The new administration wanted a more imposing gateway to the old city. Next to the old gate they built the new Blue Gate.

The new Blue Gate is a triple arched structure with pointed arches and a crenelated top. The inner and outer facades are finished with multicolored tiles. The outer facade is blue, the inner, sort of green. It is odd, but the gate locks from the outside. Possibly the French authorities wanted to keep the unruly old city bottled up at night.

On the other side of the gate is a small square with access to Tala'a Kebira and Tala'a Seghira, two main streets leading to the Qarawiyyin Mosque. The new gate copies classic Moroccan Architectural styles. The center arch is the larger, but the streets and alleys of the old city will admit no car traffic.

In the end Pepe was lured out of his hiding place in the impenetrable Kasbah by a woman. Outside the protecting Kasbah he met his doom. What a pity!
2
Dar Batha Museum

2) Dar Batha Museum

Dar Batha Museum is on the Rue de la Musee, near the Bab Boujeloud, the main west entrance to the ancient, walled Fes el-Bali. The museum is a former royal palace of Fes. After the tenancy of the French authority in the palace ended in 1915, Dar Batha was converted to a museum of national art. It was the first museum in Morocco.

Dar Batha was commissioned and built in the reign of Hassan I, sultan of Morocco from 1873 to 1894. It is a one-story building of wood, brick and tiles. The style of construction is a mixture of Alouite, Moroccan and Moorish. Another palace, the Dar al-Baida, was a part of the same compound but it is now an unassociated official residence.

The initial collection of native art was transferred to the new museum from the Dar Adiyel, a former mansion in Fes el-Bali. In 1924 Dar Batha was classified as a national monument. The main entrance leads to a large courtyard. The courtyard is lined with galleries. The two wings of the museum are at the east and west ends the courtyard.

The courtyard is fitted with mosaics of colored zellij tiles and ornamental fountains. The galleries at the east and west ends have horseshoe arches of brick. The galleries at the other ends of the central garden are of painted wood. The garden has palm trees, jacarandas and hibiscus. It is often a venue for religious ceremonies and concerts.

Why You Should Visit:
While the museum doesn't have a huge collection on display, the palace itself is majestic and the Andalusian gardens are a tranquil haven if you want to get out from the bustle of the medina.

Tip:
As you go around the museum's exhibitions, don't forget to look up because the ceilings are amazing.

Opening Hours:
Wed-Mon: 9am-5pm
3
Mnebhi Palace

3) Mnebhi Palace

The Mnebhi Palace or Menebhi Palace, also known by its French name Palais Mnebhi, is a historic early 20th-century palace in Fes el-Bali, the old medina of Fes. It is notable for both its lavish architecture as well as for being the place where the 1912 Treaty of Fes was officially signed. It is located on Tala'a Seghira street, one of the main souq streets of the city.

The palace was built by Mehdi Mnebhi (who also built another palace which hosts the Marrakech Museum today) at the beginning of the 20th century. Mnebhi was the defense minister of Sultan Abdelaziz between 1900 and 1908, replacing Ba Ahmad as the sultan's favourite. In 1912, the palace hosted the signing of the Treaty of Fes which established French colonial rule over Morocco. It then served as the first residence of the French resident-general, Lyautey, before this function moved to the Dar al-Baida and Dar Batha palaces to the west. Today it is used as a restaurant venue for tour groups.

The palace is among the most lavishly decorated in Fes. It features a vast reception hall with a high wooden dome-like ceiling upheld by four columns, as well as a large wall fountain decorated with intricate zellij mosaic tiles. On the western and eastern sides of the hall are two other ornately decorated rooms.
Sight description based on wikipedia
4
Nejjarine Museum of Wooden Arts & Crafts

4) Nejjarine Museum of Wooden Arts & Crafts (must see)

Since the 17th century the Inn of the Carpenters (Funduq al-Neijariyyin) on the Place An Neijarine has been an inn for caravans and traveling merchants. Today it is home to the Neijarine Museum of Wooden Arts and Crafts. While the Museum is dedicated to preserving artistry in wood, it is itself a glorious artifact of wood.

The building of the old caravansary has been carefully restored. The rooms that once harbored merchants and their goods now provide a backdrop for exhibits of wood art. The Museum opened in 1998. The exhibits include ancient craft tools, prayer beads, carved chests, and musical instruments.

The displays are found in the inner courtyard. The courtyard has galleries on three floors with intricately carved archways to rooms with cedar ceilings. Visitors can observe and examine the wooden carvings on the gallery columns lining the courtyard. Within the courtyard is the inn's elegant mosaic fountain.

The museum is relatively easy to find within the Labyrinthian Media section of town. The arts and crafts featured here once flourished in the cities of Fes, Marrakech, Essanouira and Tetuan. In the 1990s the government of Morocco declared the Neijarine Museum a national museum.

Opening Hours: Daily: 10am-5pm
5
Cherratine Madrasa (Cherratine School)

5) Cherratine Madrasa (Cherratine School)

Cherratine Madrasa is an Islamic school or madrasa that was built in 1670 by the Alaouite Sultan Moulay al-Rashid. The madrasa is also called Er-Rachidia Madrasa or Ras al-Cherratine Madrasa.

Construction of the madrasa began on 17 December 1670 CE (1 Sha'ban 1081 AH) under the reign of the Alaouite sultan Moulay al-Rashid. The newly built madrasa replaced an older one, known as the Madrasa el-Lebbadin or Madrasa el-Ebridin, of unclear origin, which according to traditional sources was demolished because it had been desecrated by raucous students. This reconstruction on the site of a former madrasa may explain why the current madrasa was able to be built on a regular rectangular floor plan despite being located at the heart of the already densely-built old city. The name Cherratine (esh-Sherātīn), meaning "rope-makers", referred to the presence of a nearby market where rope-makers were established.

Like other madrasas in the city, it was used to host students and teachers from outside the city who came to study or work at the nearby University of al-Qarawiyyin. By the 19th century or early 20th century the madrasa, the largest of the madrasas in its neighbourhood, was mostly dedicated to housing students from Algeria, the Rif region, the Tafilalt, and other eastern regions.

The madrasa has been classified as historic heritage monument in Morocco since 1917.
Sight description based on wikipedia
6
Place R'cif and R'cif Mosque

6) Place R'cif and R'cif Mosque

The R'Cif Mosque is a Friday mosque of Fes el-Bali, the old city of Fes. It is located in the Place R'Cif in the heart of the Medina, one of the few squares in the city accessible to cars. The name means "Mosque of the Paved Road." It sits on a cliff beside the Bou Khareb River, which runs underground from the square to the city's south side.

The mosque was built during the reign of Alouite sultan Moulay Slimane in the late 18th century. The sultan also installed two marble fountains and a basin in the courtyard of the mosque. The mosque covers an area of about 1500 square meters. It has a tall minaret with a square base, decorated in green faience.

The main entrance of the mosque is on the west side facing a small square. The gate is carved in a geometric patterns in a square frame. It is filled with green and mosaic tiles and it has a carved wooden canopy. The east side of the courtyard of the roofed prayer hall has rows of horseshoe arches. There are arabesque motifs in painted colors.

The mosque was a rally point during the protests against French occupation in the 1930s. The rallies and protests were violently repressed by French troops and people were killed. Crowds of protesters marched from the R'Cif and Qaawiyyin mosques. The protests led to the awakening of Moroccan nationalism and independence.
7
Place Seffarine (Seffarine Square)

7) Place Seffarine (Seffarine Square)

Place Seffarine (Seffarine Square; also spelled Saffarin) is a small square in the medina (old city) of Fes. It is located on the south side of the Qarawiyyin Mosque, close to the Bou Khrareb River which runs through the heart of the medina. The square dates back to the Middle Ages but has also undergone renovations in modern times.

The square was historically the main souq (market) of the city's coppersmiths, who gave the square its name. They are still present today. Their workshops have been established here since at least the 16th century, when Leo Africanus noted their presence. The Saffarin Madrasa, whose entrance is on this square, was built here in 1271 CE by the Marinid sultan Abu Yusuf Ya'qub and is the oldest purpose-built madrasa in Morocco.

It is still in use today and was most recently renovated in the late 2010s. The Qarawiyyin library on the northwest side of the square was first built here in the late 16th century by Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur, although the Qarawiyyin had an earlier library built further north in 1349 by Abu Inan. The Saffarin Hammam also dates to the 14th century during the Marinid era.

The square underwent a significant set of renovations in the 1930s and 1940s during the French protectorate period due to a request by the manager of the habous (endowments) of the Qarawiyyin, as well as on the initiatives of King Mohammed V. This program of restorations, which affected many of the surrounding buildings and boutiques, has given the square much of its present-day appearance.

In the process, the library of the Qarawiyyin was significantly expanded and was reopened in 1949 in its current form seen today. The Madrasa Mohammadia, an annex to the Saffarin Madrasa added in the 18th century, was also significantly renovated and expanded at this time. More recently, in the 2010s, several of the surrounding structures were again renovated, including the two madrasas (Saffarin and Mohammadia) and the Qarawiyyin library. The Saffarin Hammam was also recently undergoing restoration, under the supervision of architect Rachid Halaoui, as part of an Austrian-led project to restore various historic hammams across the Mediterranean region.
Sight description based on wikipedia
8
Chouara Tannery

8) Chouara Tannery (must see)

Chouara Tannery (sometimes spelled Chouwara) is one of the three tanneries in the city. It is the largest tannery in the city and one of the oldest. It is located in the Fes el Bali, the oldest medina quarter of the city, near the Saffarin Madrasa along the Oued Fes (also known as the Oued Bou Khrareb). Since the inception of the city, the tanning industry has been continually operating in the same fashion as it did in the early centuries. Today, the tanning industry in the city is considered one of the main tourist attractions. The tanneries are packed with the round stone vessels filled with dye or white liquids for softening the hides. The leather goods produced in the tanneries are exported around the world.

The most notable feature of Chouara and the other local tanneries is the numerous stone vats filled with different colored dyes and white liquids. Hides of cows, sheep, goats, and camels are processed by first soaking in a series of the white liquids – made from various mixtures of cow urine, pigeon feces, quicklime, salt, and water – in order to clean and soften the tough skins. This process takes two to three days and prepares the hides to readily absorb the dyes.

They are then soaked in the dyeing solutions, which use natural colorants such as poppy for red, indigo for blue, and henna for orange. After the dyeing, they are dried under the sun. The resulting leather is then sold to other craftsmen, who use it to produce Morocco's famed leather goods, such as bags, coats, shoes, and slippers, prized for their high quality. The entire leather production process comprises manual labor only and involves no modern machinery, and has retained methods unchanged since medieval times.
Sight description based on wikipedia
9
University of al-Qarawiyyin

9) University of al-Qarawiyyin (must see)

The University of al-Qarawiyyin or Al Quaraouiyine is the oldest existing, continually operating higher educational institution in the world according to UNESCO and Guinness World Records and is occasionally referred to as the oldest university by scholars. It was founded as a mosque by Fatima al-Fihri in 859 with an associated madrasa, which subsequently became one of the leading spiritual and educational centers of the historic Muslim world.

The al-Qarawiyyin played a leading role in the cultural and academic relations between the Islamic world and Europe in the middle ages. The cartographer Mohammed al-Idrisi (d. 1166), whose maps aided European exploration in the Renaissance is said to have lived in Fes for some time, suggesting that he may have worked or studied at al-Qarawiyyin. The University has produced numerous scholars who have strongly influenced the intellectual and academic history of the Muslim and Jewish worlds.

Compared with the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul or the Jameh Mosque in Isfahan, the design of the mosque is austere. The columns and arches are plain white; the floors are covered in reed mats, not lush carpets. Yet the seemingly endless forest of arches creates a sense of infinite majesty and intimate privacy, while the simplicity of the design complements the finely decorated niches, pulpit and outer courtyard, with its superb tiles, plasterwork, woodcarvings and paintings.

Why You Should Visit:
Non-muslims can see the traditional courtyard with the washing area (only for men) and the prayer area. The mixture of indoor and outdoor space truly makes the place amazing.

Tip:
In exchange for a little tip, the Muslim guardians can take your camera/phone and walk inside the mosque taking random photos, which can give you a feeling of what you're missing.
10
Al-Attarine Madrasa (School of the Perfumers)

10) Al-Attarine Madrasa (School of the Perfumers) (must see)

In the golden age of Fes, when it is said that Fes was the largest city in the world, the ruling Marinids were building schools called madrassas. Madrassas originated in Iran in the 11th century. They were schools training Islamic scholars and professionals who would later run the state's bureaucracy.

The Al-Attarine madrassa was built in 1323 on the order of Sultan Abu Sa'id Uthman II. It was built near the al-Qarawiyyin Mosque, the main intellectual center of Morocco. The name Attarine refers to the Souk al-Attarine, a neighboring perfume market.

The chronicle Rawd el-Qirtas claims the sultan himself watched over the laying of the madrassa foundation. The madrassa has undergone many restorations, but always the original architectural style has been preserved.

The madrassa is located on the east end of Tala'a Kebira Street in Fes. It is a two story building with a courtyard. It has a fountain and galleries with square pillars and marble columns on the south and north sides. The pillars and columns support carved wooden and stucco arches.

Above the galleries are facades of the second floor with 30 rooms for students. At the eastern end of the yard is the ornate archway to the prayer hall. The madrassa is considered to be an outstanding achievement of Marinid architecture for its lush ornamentation and efficiency of space.
11
Souq al-Attarine and the Kissaria Markets

11) Souq al-Attarine and the Kissaria Markets

The Kissariat al-Kifah or Kissaria is the historic central bazaar of Fes el-Bali. It is located between the Zawiya of Moulay Idris II and the Qarawiyyin Mosque.

The Kissaria is interconnected with the Souq al-Attarine - the Spice Market. As per the market's name, the shops here were historically specialized in the sale of spices and medicines, but nowadays they sell a variety of items.

The area consists of a close network of lanes and alleys which are filled with hundreds of shops. It is only one part of a larger commercial district and of a network of souqs (markets) across the city, but was traditionally the most prestigious and most central commercial complex, where the most luxurious goods were sold. A number of funduqs (merchant inns and warehouses) were also found nearby, such as the Funduq al-Shamma'in. This arrangement of a planned bazaar at heart of the city, near its most important religious and civic monuments, was typical of many major cities in the Islamic world.

The bazaar has been established here since the early Idrisid period of the city (9th-10th centuries). However, its streets and houses were rebuilt at least once after the double devastation of a fire in 1324 and a flood in 1325, and then again in the 1920s following another fire, at which point many of the structures were rebuilt in concrete. The most recent renovations, in 2016 and 2017, replaced the street roofs with new wooden roofs, made various repairs and practical improvements, and added tile decoration along the lower walls.
Sight description based on wikipedia
12
Zawiya de Moulay Idriss II (Moulay Idriss II Shrine)

12) Zawiya de Moulay Idriss II (Moulay Idriss II Shrine)

The Zawiya Moulay Idriss II is a "zawiya" (a shrine and religious complex; also spelled "zaouia") dedicated to and containing the tomb of Idris II, who ruled Morocco from 807 to 828 and is considered the main founder of the city of Fes and of the first Moroccan Islamic state.

In the year 1308, almost five centuries since the death of Moulay Idriss II, an uncorrupted body was found on the spot. People believed this was Moulay Idriss II and founded the zawiya. Originally built by the Marinids circa 1440, over the centuries the building was amended heavily, and almost completely replaced in the 18th century by Moulay Ismail in a style typical of the Alaouites that govern Morocco to this day.

Moulay Idriss II is the patron saint of the city of Fes, and it is believed that walking through his zawiya is beneficial for strangers visiting the city, boys before being circumcised and women wanting to facilitate childbirth.

Tip:
Unless you're a Muslim, you can't go in – but you can peek through the door and admire the tile work and carvings on the outside (check out the side as well as the front, as you can see surprisingly quite a lot of the building through the different entrances.).

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8am-12pm / 2-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
13
Rue Tala'a Kebira (Great Slope Street)

13) Rue Tala'a Kebira (Great Slope Street)

Tala'a Kebira (Great Slope/Climb) is one of the longest and most important streets in the Fes old city. The street runs roughly east to west, starting near the Bab Bou Jeloud and Bab Mahrouk gates in the west and ending at the al-Attarine Madrasa in the east, near the Qarawiyyin Mosque. It constitutes one of the main souq streets in the old city (including the Souq al-Attarine, which occupies its eastern end) and a number of important historical monuments are built along it.

The street is historically the main market street of Fes. Another street, Tala'a Seghira, serves a similar role and runs more or less parallel to Tala'a Kebira: from Bab Bou Jeloud in the west until rejoining Tala'a Kebira in the Ain Allou area in the east between the Chrabliyine Mosque and Place Nejjarine.

The western end of the street is taken up largely by produce markets, butchers, and other food shops. Past the Bou Inania Madrasa, the street's shops are more varied, traditionally having served rural visitors and local inhabitants. On the left, in the Ain Azliten area, the street passes by the Foundouk Achich (or Funduq 'Ashish), one of a number of such structures along the street.

East of the Chrabliyine neighborhood, the street descends steeply and becomes known as "Crest of the Sifters" before it passes through the Ain Allou neighbourhood, where shops were traditionally specialized in leather goods and where it is rejoined by the Tala'a Seghira street.
14
Dar al-Magana (Water Clock)

14) Dar al-Magana (Water Clock)

Dar al-Magana means, "House of the Clock" in Arabic. The house is a shelter for the works of a water clock, usually an enormous mechanism. The water clock of Fes was built in the 14th century by the Marinid sultan Abu Inan Faris. It is located across from the Bou Inania Madrassa on Tala'a Kebira Street. It was to serve both mosque and madrassa.

There is a legend that claims the house of the water clock was the residence, at one time, of the Jewish philosopher Maimonides. Maimonades was also an astromoner. A "muwaqqit" in Arabic. A muwaqqit would be responsible for a water clock. This may be the start of the legend.

The clock consists of 12 windows and platforms holding brass bowls. A small cart, pulled by ropes, ran behind the doors of the twelve windows. The cart had a weight at one end of the rope. At the other end the rope connected to a weight floating in a reservoir of water that drained at a controlled rate.

A door opened each hour and a ball dropped into one of the 12 brass bowls. A roof sheltered the doors and bowls. Sadly the clock has been out of commission for several generations. No one knows how to restore it. Where is a muwaqqit when you need one?
15
Bou Inania Madrasa (Bou Inania School)

15) Bou Inania Madrasa (Bou Inania School) (must see)

Founded in 1351–56 AD by Abu Inan Faris, who also founded the Bou Inania Madrasa in Meknes, this madrasa is widely acknowledged as an excellent example of Marinid architecture.

The name "Bou Inania" comes from the first part of the sultan's name "Abou Inan". The madrasa functioned both as an educational institute and as a congregational mosque. This is the only madrasa in Fes with a minaret. Opposite the main doorway of the madrasa is the entrance to the ablutions house. Left and right of the central court there are classrooms.

According to historical records, religious leaders of the Karaouine Mosque advised Abu Inan Faris to build this madrasa. It was the last madrasa to be built by the Marinids. The madrasa became one of the most important religious institutions of Fes and Morocco and gained the status of Grand Mosque.

The madrasa was renovated in the 18th century. During the reign of Sultan Mulay Sliman, entire sections were reconstructed. In the 20th century, major restoration work was performed on the load-bearing structure, the plaster, wood and tiled decorations with Islamic geometric patterns.

The madrasa is one of the few religious places in Morocco that is accessible for non-Islamic visitors. Opposite the Madrasa Bou Inania is the Dar al-Magana, a wall with a hydraulic clock that was built in conjunction with the madrasa.

Why You Should Visit:
To see the result of the period when Moorish architecture, art, math, medicine, philosophy, etc., were the highest quality in the world (in about the 14th century). While the tour itself doesn't take long to walk through, the courtyard is very beautiful with intricate wood carvings and colorful tile work that should definitely not be missed.

Opening Hours:
Sat-Wed: 9am-5pm; closed during prayers

Walking Tours in Fes, Morocco

Create Your Own Walk in Fes

Create Your Own Walk in Fes

Creating your own self-guided walk in Fes is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Ville Nouvelle -New Town of Fes

Ville Nouvelle -New Town of Fes

Created by the French in the early 20th century, Ville Nouvelle (New Town) is a relatively modern central district of Fez. A far cry from the sensory overload provided by the old Medina, this neighborhood was originally designed to accommodate foreigners and affluent Moroccans only.

Still, Fez's Ville Nouvelle is as much 'real' Morocco as any donkey-packed lane in the old city....  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 Km or 1.7 Miles