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Fes or Marrakech? Reasons to visit Fes.

by Emiel Van Den Boomen

Earlier I wrote about the indigo-colored city of Chefchaouen in Morocco. We were totally surprised and overwhelmed by the sea of indigo that surrounded us while we strolled the alleys of this mountain village. We were so impressed that I just forgot to show you the other city that we visited during that Morocco trip: Fes! – sorry to all the people of Fes –

Go to Fes if you want to experience the full Moroccan package: soukhs where men try to sell you shoes, clothes and carpets, mosques with beautiful ancient architecture, street vendors with oranges, and old Koran schools (Medersa).

Inside the souks

Fes or Marrakech?

Is Fes comparable to other Moroccan cities like Marrakech? Yes.
But there is one big thing that distinguishes Fes: its tanneries. I am sure you know how they look like. Unfortunately all tanneries were under renovation at the time we visited. Really! Once every 10 years they are being renovated with UNESCO funds. What are the chances??
Would we have rescheduled our trip if we knew this beforehand? Yes, for sure because the tanneries are unique.

But there is more to life than worry about things you have missed.

I want to show you the things we loved while visiting Fes. Simple things, part of daily life. Fes seems to be a bit less internationally oriented compared to Marrakech. We kind of felt more influenced by traditional Moroccan culture in this part of the country. Nice.

Where to go in Fes

Fes treated us with a soukh that was more like a maze. Yes, we got seriously lost one time but some local kids showed us the way back to the main route. I guess lost tourists asking directions in Fes are just as familiar as tourists looking for the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

The most popular entrance into the soukhs is Bab Boujloud or Blue Gate (picture above). From there you can take two main routes (left and right) that will literally take you deep down into the heart of the city. Choose the right side (Tala’a Sghira) to end up on the charming little Nejjarine square. Pick the left route (Tala’a Kbira) only if you are able to cope with open-air butchers…here it feels like you step back in time where chickens are slaughtered on the spot. Don’t worry, it’s just a small part of the route…you can always decide not to look and just walk!

Other sites of interest that you should not miss are Moulay Idriss (shrine dedicated to Moulay Idriss II who ruled Morocco from 807 to 828), Qarawiyyin (mosque religous school) and two beautiful Medersa: Bouanani and Attarine. Bab Chorfa (Gate of Nobles) is another beautiful gate to a walled part of the city: Kasbah Nouar.

I decided not to describe every place in detail. Fes is one big melting pot of senses; you just have to dive and take it all in to get that real Moroccan experience! These are photos of Fes to get you in the right mood: are you ready to visit Fes?

Bouanani Medersa

Moulay Idriss

Attarine Medersa

Bab Chorfa gate

We stayed in Riad Fes Baraka. Lovely and helpful people, a nice swimming pool and beautifully decorated rooms. Recommended!

Fes or Marrakech? They both belong to the famous group of King cities, together with Rabat and Meknes. To me there is no need to try to visit all of them during one visit to the country. We picked Fes because we had Chefchaouen on our bucket list and Ryanair has a very efficient flight directly into Fes…that also helps!

Having troubles picking your destination in Morocco? Not sure when to go: summer, spring or fall? Check out this (Dutch) post from fellow-blogger Yvonne. She explains what time of year is best for which part of the country.

Want to read more about Morocco? A couple of years ago we visited Marrakech, Essaouira and the desert around Ouarzazate. From a landscape perspective a very impressive trip, especially the visit to the famous kasbah (fortified medina) of Aït Ben Haddou.

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Nanda Koopman November 4, 2015 - 09:39

Absolute gorgeous pictures. I especially like the one with the sunlight through the roof of the soukh (I guess it’s the soukh). Now I move over to Ait Ben Haddou…

Emiel van den Boomen November 4, 2015 - 09:44

Thank you so much Nanda! Yes, that’s the soukh. It’s quite challenging to look up and still walk through these crowded alleys, but sometimes it is worth the effort 🙂 You will love Ait Ben Haddou, I am sure.

hikebiketravel November 3, 2015 - 18:39

I have had Morocco on and off my bucketlist several times. I read about people who love it and hate it to equal degrees. I think I need to go see fro myself. Your photos and descriptions are lovely.

Emiel van den Boomen November 3, 2015 - 21:51

Well, that is actually the best way to find out. I’m sure you will find reasons to both love as well as hate it…maybe that’s why it’s so attractive. Thanks for the compliment, appreciated.

Miranda P October 31, 2015 - 06:32

Fes is gorgeous. It would be so hard to decide which city to choose – Fes or Marrakech – so I think I would just try to go to both. And I would bring a couple extra memory cards for my camera — such photogenic places. Thanks for the tips on where to go/what to see!

Emiel van den Boomen October 31, 2015 - 12:55

Marrakech is a great starting place if you want to head out East into the red mountains and Sahara, towards Ouarzazate and Zagora. The landscape over there is amazing. You can easily spend weeks in the country though.

Tim & Nat ✈ October 30, 2015 - 20:27

Beautiful! Makes me want to head to Fes right now! Thanks for the tip about the tanneries, will make sure to go when they’re open.

Emiel van den Boomen October 31, 2015 - 12:53

They seem to close once every 10 years for complete renovation… so I think you’re good for the coming years 🙂

Megan Claire October 30, 2015 - 05:22

I’m DYING to get to Morocco!! Both Chefchaouen and Fes are on my bucketlist. Super jealous of your amazing photographs! Thankyou so much for such a stunning visual tour 🙂

Emiel van den Boomen October 31, 2015 - 12:52

Thank you so much Megan! The country is amazing…for us Europeans it’s so close yet a completely different world.

Jody Robbins October 30, 2015 - 04:42

What a shame about the tanneries being closed. Still, it looks like there was plenty to do regardless. Did you find out the origin of Fes hats? Do they come from here?

Emiel van den Boomen October 31, 2015 - 12:52

I believe the fez hats do come from here, but honestly speaking we could not find any special attention to those hats within the city. And yes, those tanneries being closed was a real bummer… once in 10 years…

Jenna Francisco October 28, 2015 - 23:01

What a beautiful city! I love the architectural details and the pops of color that you photographed in the tiles, fabrics, etc.

Emiel van den Boomen October 31, 2015 - 11:43

Thanks Jenna. Morocco is a feast for the eye, especially for photographers. My family always reminds me not to forget to take pictures of them too! 🙂


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