Fez (فاس) (French: "Fès") is a city in Morocco famous for being home to the world's oldest university, the Qarawiyyin University. It has an ancient walled city, which many compare to the walled city of Jerusalem.
Fez is the medieval capital of Morocco, and a great city of high Islamic civilization. Fez has the best-preserved old city in the Arab world, the sprawling, labyrinthine medina of Fes el-Bali, which is incidentally also the world's largest car-free urban zone. Transports of goods is provided by donkeys, carriages, and motorbikes.
- Royal Air Maroc offers daily flights from Casablanca London-Gatwick and Paris-Orly to Fes-Saiss airport.
- Jetairfly. Fly to each of Charleroi and Brussels twice weekly
- Ryanair offers flights from Girona (Barcelona), Madrid, Seville, Alicante, Frankfurt (Hahn), Düsseldorf (Weeze), Milano (Bergamo), Pisa, Bologna (from Nov 2010), Rome (Ciampino), Charleroi (Brussels), Eindhoven, Marseille and London Stansted to Fez, though not on a daily basis.
- Transavia flies from Paris-Orly to Fez.
- Easy Jet flies from Paris-CDG to Fez
The airport is located about 15 km from the city.
If you don't have too much luggage, is to take a bus. The No 16 local bus is now an "airport shuttle" that costs "2Euro/20 DH" for a single trip. It is no longer clearly marked as bus 16 but it's a new Volvo bus with a printout on the right side (Fez - Airport). It runs approximately every 30 minutes. It will take you to the train station and the ride is about 25–30 minutes. The ticket can be purchased on the bus.
If you go from Fez to the airport, the bus stop is on the left of the entrance to the train station. You can buy ticket in advance at the cash-desk at the bus stop. But allow plenty of time as departures can be erratic.
If you're up for a local challenge after your journey, choose a taxi. There is a fixed price for a taxi DH 120 from the airport to the medina. If arrive at night it's a good idea to book it in advance.
Eight arrivals daily from Marrakech. The train takes about seven hours and fifteen minutes (although delays are frequent) and costs exactly 295/195 dirhams. (First class / second class)
The trip from Casablanca takes about 3 hours 20 to 4 hours 20 and run hourly throughout the day. The cost 165/110 dirhams. (1st class/2nd class). High speed double decker trains are being phased in on this route in 2011.
There are five trains per day from Tangier arriving after 4.5 hours at a cost of 165/110 dirhams (1st class/2nd class).
From Rabat takes about two and a half to three hours, and costs 75-105 dirhams.
In summer, train compartments can be hot, with passengers standing everywhere when all seats are taken. While occasionally unreliable, first class compartments are generally well air-conditioned, with assigned and numbered seats.
Be aware that there are hustlers operating on trains into Fez. See the Stay Safe and Cope sections, below.
A petit taxi between the train station and Bab Boujeloud costs about 10Dh with taxi meter. Insist on using the meter, if necessary, say "khdm l-koontoor" (Work the counter) to the taxi driver.
Fez is about 4 hours' drive by car from Casablanca. The stretch of toll highway from Rabat to Fez is in superb condition.
Traveling by grand taxi (inter-city taxi), though more expensive than trains, is viable for tourists. Seats in a taxi are sold individually, in order to travel in relative comfort, you may need to purchase more than one seat. A ride from Fez to Casablanca costs approximately 60-80 dirhams per seat. Note that grand taxi fares are regulated and it is worth checking the official rates with the tourist board, as some drivers or hotels will quote inflated prices.
There are a couple of grand taxi stations:
- Grand Taxis (next to the train station).
- Grand Taxis Azrou/Ifrane (next to the CTM station). Ifrane: 28dh / seat.
Within Fez, ride in the petits taxis (local taxis) rarely cost more that 15-20 dirhams. However, the medina of Fes el-Bali is only accessible from a few points by car. Bab Boujeloud and nearby Place Batha are popular dropoff points, as is Place R'cif; for parking there is spaces at Ain Zleten on the northeast edge of the medina. Another openair parking is situated near Hotel Batha (price 20 Dhs / day). If you stay longer than 1 day don't pay in advance.
The old bus terminal (Gare Routière) is just outside the old city on the north side, near the Ain Zleten entrance to the medina and Bab Boujloud place. Grands taxis (inter-city taxis) can also be obtained here.
The CTM terminal (gare CTM) is in place Allal el-Fassi in the Atlas neighborhood of the ville nouvelle, 7 km from the medina, but has taxi stands nearby.
While the gare routière covers more routes more cheaply, many travelers prefer CTM for its reliability and cleanliness. Most CTM buses leaving Fes, anyway, start from the gare routière and make a stop in the gare CTM after 30min in the town traffic. CTM bus coming into Fes, at the contrary, will leave you at the gare CTM.
Ignore the travel guides that tell you that you'll get lost in the medina and that you must hire a guide. One of the easiest ways to get around is to use the red taxis to take you to the nearest gate (bab) and then walk from there until you get your bearings. Gates are all around the city and taxis are cheap. A rough map of where the sights are will help too. If you are particularly worried, be sure to arrange a licensed guide through your hotel or the tourism office - they will be able to give you an accurate history and will make fewer shopping stops. The faux-guides in particular will simply take you from shop to shop where you will be pressured to buy goods, which will cost you extra because the seller will be obliged to pay the guide a hidden commission.
There are some basic landmarks that you can use to get around, and there is a path network marked by signs perched on walls, although these can be hard to locate at times. These signs have a 8-point star shape which will guide you between the main places in the medina. If you are lost you only have to find one of these signs and follow it in any direction until you arrive to a map or a known place. You may also find it useful to carry a compass, as the narrow, built-up streets can block the view of landmarks and be disorienting. Alternatively, just keep heading downhill and you will eventually get to a gate. The main street is the Talaa Kbira, which runs from Bab Boujeloud to the Kairouine mosque in the heart of the medina. The Talaa Sghira also begins at Bab Boujeloud and eventually merges back into the Talaa Kbira. Once you get into the narrow, windy heart of the medina, you can also find your way out again by constantly heading downhill, which will eventually lead to the Place R'cif, a dropoff for buses and taxis, where you can get a petit taxi out of the medina.
For more detailed tours and directions, look for the book Fez from Bab to Bab (Hammad Berrada). It has a complete map of the medina and several well-described walking tours. It can be found in most bookshops, both on the Talaa Sghira or at the large bookstore on the Avenue Hassan II in the ville nouvelle. However, be discreet taking out your map or you will have many offers from false guides!
Just walking around, you will see a great deal!
Get a shave in the medina, nowhere is it cheaper than here, and they really pay attention, even trimming your hair.
In the midst of the maze-like medina are the colorful leather-dying pits. Any number of young boys will offer to guide you to them: just listen for "you want to see the tanneries?" The tour is free (though it is appropriate to offer 1-5 dirhams to your "guide"). There is no chance of getting to see the tanneries by yourself, instead, be prepared for physical abuse for even trying! However, just 10m left of the entrance is a leather shop that offers views to the tannery free of charge and you can see it all from the balcony. Expect to be pressured into buying goods from the shop in return.
It is possible to get into the tannery itself, hang around near the entrance until someone offers to take you in for 10 dirham. He will get you past the entrance and then you can wander in among the workers. A word of advice...wear closed shoes and maybe bring a mint leaf to sniff if you have a weak stomach.
Bou Inania madersa: a breathtaking 14th-century religious college. The best example of Islamic architecture a non-Muslim can see in Fez, with wooden walls elaborately carved with geometric patterns and Arabic calligraphy, and a beautiful minaret. In the courtyard there is a portico with a still-functioning mosque, separated by the rest of the courtyard by a small moat.
The view from the hills surrounding the old city is spectacular- there are two fortresses overlooking the old city, the Borj Nord which contains an armaments museum, and the Borj Sud, which is being developed for tourism.
The Merenid Tombs next to the Merenid Hotel, provide excellent panoramic views over the medina and the wider city, as well as the olive tree lined hills surrounding the city, and sanctuary from the bustle of the rest of the city. Beware of the odd opportunistic tout.
The Sofitel Palais Jamai terrace has an incredible view over the medina if you are willing to pay 30 dirhams for a glass of tea in order to access it. This is particularly worthwhile if you can time your visit to coincide with the call to prayer, as you can hear multiple minarets from the terrace.
Entrance to the Moulay Idriss II shrine, the tomb of Fez's founder, is limited to Muslims, but the view from just outside its doors is still well-worth hunting down. The mosque is just off the Talaa Kbira near the Souk Attarine.
Similarly, the Qaraouyine library and mosque and the al-Tijani mosque have beautifully decorated exteriors and worth a visit even by those who cannot enter them, which includes all foreigners considered to be non-Muslim.
One of the most fascinating activities to do in Fez is a trip in the medina (Old City). The medina is so complex to navigate that sometimes it's easier to simply lose yourself in the hustle and bustle of the various markets, and find your way out once you have had enough of all the sights, sounds, and smells that will overwhelm your senses. You will eventually find your way out via lots of dried fruit, leather goods, ceramics, textiles and food stalls!
Make sure you find an opportunity to escape from the bustle of the streets and see the medina from one of its rooftops - some shops and restaurants have rooftop terraces (see the food section below for some useful tips). The views are particularly spectacular during sunset and after dark.
- The Berber pharmacy in the Medina has hundreds of jars of twisted root and twig neatly lined up along the walls. Don't eat the seed-pod like things the proprietor offers you. Although he's eating them also, they are very high in estrogen and can cause a man's nipples to be sore for several days afterwards.
- Quartier des tanneurs (The Tanneries). The tanneries in the medina features leather-making techniques unchanged since the Middle Ages. Men walk the narrow paths between huge vats of lye and colorful dyes, water wheels creak as the leather is rinsed, and buildings facing the tannery are covered with pelts hanging to dry. Visit early in the morning before the sun hits the tannery and the stench sets in.
There are several well-marked trails through the city: follow the green (Andalusian palaces and gardens), orange (walls and fortifications), or blue signs and you won't get lost in all the narrow twisting streets.
- Arabic Language Institute in Fez, ☎ , fax: +212 35 93 16 08, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The, ), offers high quality three-week and six-week courses in Arabic, both Modern Standard Arabic and the Moroccan colloquial language. The Institute can also arrange accommodation with a Moroccan host family for their students if required.
- Subul Assalam Centre for the Arabic Language (SACAL), Meknes way, Lotissement Al Hadika, Lot no. Q4/008, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Offers courses in Modern Standard Arabic, Moroccan Colloquial Arabic and a series of English language courses on Islam and Morocco.
Some may consider Fez to be the handicraft capital of Morocco, but in reality the quality and value of its wares can be hit and miss. Leathergoods, copper and brassware are the bargains to be had, although you may also find good prices on drums and other musical instruments.
As a rough guide, you can expect to pay:
- Leather satchel: Dh 200 - Dh 400 depending on quality
- Drums: Dh 30 - Dh 150 depending on size and quality
- Tagine dish (see picture): 10 Dh - 20 Dh for a full size tagine dish, plus an extra Dh 10 if it's been varnished and / or decorated.
If you're interested in the cobalt-blue ceramic, you might go to the potteries where they make it. It's really cool to see how they model the clay into a tagine in 45 seconds. From Bab el-Ftouh, it's a 5 dirham taxi. Ask the driver to take you to "Les potteries de Fez". There're 2 big "factories", both show you the whole process if you want or you could just see the exhibition (and buy). Bargain really hard, prices seem to be fixed, but they are not at all!
- Made in M, Talaa Kabira. Unique boutique to find good quality articles as leather, passementerie, design ceramic, parfums, and argan oil.
The markets near the 'main' gate of Bab Boujeloud (near to Hotel Cascades) are full of yummy food. It is worth just wandering through them, buying random bits of food. Street food is very cheap and is often safe. Restaurants, even cheap ones, will often be up to twice the cost of street food, and the quality can be the same. In the medina is difficult to find cheap food other than in the Bab Boujeloud area. There are only a very few tourist restaurants where you will get ripped off and some food stalls down in the food market near the R'cif place.
- Snack Omar, Rue de la Poste (Batha area, around the corner of the Postoffice,), ☎ . , 10AM - 11PM. Simple decoration of the restaurant with a take away counter, but very cosy, clean and great food. A good restaurant for dinner up to 15-20 people or a quick snack in the afternoon. You can get the real traditional Moroccan food like Tajines, Pastilla and Meschwi but also a Pizza or Spaghetti if you like. The employees are very friendly and treat you like a welcome guest. The food is delicious and at Moroccan prices. A Tajine for example is 45 MAD! You should really try the Pastilla which is very tasty or the Meschwi (order the last one in advance).
- Mezzanine, 17, Kasbat Chams (In front of the jnaj sbil garden, less than 50 meters from the place Boujeloud), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Set over three floors, with an additional outside patio, Mezzanine offers both a cosy lounge bar for a quiet cocktail tapas as well as a comfortable larger seating area for dinners and parties.
- L'Ambre (2001), Riad Fes, 5Derb Ben Slimane Zerbtana, ☎ . In the heart of a medieval city known for its diverse savory eateries, L'Ambre offers a dining experience that should not be missed when visiting Fez. A delightful selection of Moroccan cuisine with an original twist is served in any of our three dining rooms, in the garden or on the roof terrace.
- Le Kasbah (near Bab Boujloud). Friendly service, a solid selection of inexpensive Moroccan staples (excellent vegetarian tagine) and a couple of lovely high terraces overlooking the Gate on one side and the medina on the other. It is a comfortable atmospheric place to chat to other travellers and its a welcome haven from the bustle of the crowded streets of the medina. Street food is allowed to eat at the terraces. You pay only the service for the drink.
- Fez Lounge, ☎ . 95, Zkak Rouah- Tala Kbira. Down the Tala Kbira, on a tiny street on your right)or F Lounge; is the new addition to the medina scene. With walls in dark grey tadelakt and an ambiance of an ultra contemporary Arab dream, Fez Lounge is highly recommended for its Mediterranean inspired tapas such as Camembert bruschetta with walnuts and balsamic vinegar or for its reputed warm brownie with chocolate. Traditional Moroccan dishes like Pastilla and tajines are also available. Owned by an Italian, you can feel its style from the design of the tables to the dim lighting or the Hotel Costes Music.
- Café Medina (near Bab Boujloud). Tasty and cosy café-style restaurant, however it can get too touristy. Food is fine, specially the "boricuas" (deep fried thin dough layers wrapping meat-chicken-rice fillings). Mains starting at 60dh.
- Restaurant Bouinania (near Bab Boujloud). Enjoy lunch on the terrace or a leisurely dinner on the carpet-adorned second floor. The service is very friendly and more than willing to fire up the grill to make you the first brochettes of the day. Tagine, couscous, and other staples are well-done. around 40 dh, but prices are negotiable down to 25 dh..
- Cafe Clock (near Bab Boujloud). Magnificently restored house in the old medina turned into a cafe. The people are friendly (and speak English) and the food is excellent. Ask to be seated on the terrace, and listen for the call to prayer coming from several minarets in the area. Bring a camera, especially during the day.
- Restaurant Typique Marocain Jenno, ☎ 0611073294. 50Dh for salad and main course. Very tasty couscous. The owner speaks very good English and has some very interesting stories to tell. Address 1112 Ouad Zhoun, Fes Medina.
- Casa Nostra - For pizza, you can try this Italian restaurant, 1 block from Hasan II and Mohammed V.
- Le Palais de Fes (Also known as Dar Tazi (Place R'cif).). A rooftop restaurant over a carpet shop, Dar Tazi offers Fez's best pastilla and other traditional dishes. The stairs up are steep and narrow, but the food and view are well worth it. 350dh.
- Palais des Merinides (Talaa Kbira). Table d'hote menus with basic Moroccan specialties in a very grand setting. Mediocre quality, but fabulous surroundings.
- San Remo. Fed up with couscous and tajine? Then you could try this Morocco owned Italian restaurant in the new part of town. Just opposite the police station, it offers a lovely Italian deli and numerous pasta and pizza dishes for a decent price.
- Dar Saada Restaurant. Located in the centre of the medina, this restaurant is a favorite of Travel and Leisure magazine and is worth the indulgence.
- L'Ambre (in the heart of the medina). an elegant and superior dining experience in all of Morocco. Serving up Moroccan cuisine with innovative twists, food is served in one of three rooms, including a spectacular terrace.
Almost all drinking establishments in Fez are hotel bars. The rest are local bars that women and anyone without a good command of Arabic might be uncomfortable entering. In bars of either type, prostitutes are frequent but mostly ignore western travellers. Fes is a much more traditional town than Casablanca or Marrakesh, and it is technically illegal to drink in public. Purchasing alcohol or seeming intoxicated are sure to draw stern looks from passersby.
- The Bar at Hotel Batha, Place Batha. In the rear of Hotel Batha are two bars - the first is more of a lounge, with comfortable leather chairs and fireplaces. It is definitely the more stately of the two options. In the rear is a night-club type bar that is mostly empty and rarely open.
- Restaurant International (The Car Park at Av. Abdellah Chefchawni). This little place is easy to overlook, but the fact that the outer windows are mirrored should be the first indication it won't be at the top of any tourist routes. The crowd here is all local, and foreigners might expect a few stares and side looks. They serve the basic selection of beer, as well as some of the best spaghetti and pizza in town. Three stories, but avoid the middle one - the band is usually blasting bad synthesizer-Arabic music. Also avoid the basement, unless you're looking for prostitutes.
- The White Souk / Marché Centrale (on Blvd Mohammed V). A good place to find alcohol if you prefer to drink at home. There are two brick-and-mortar liquor stores on either side of the Souk, and many of the vendors inside keep descrete stashes for thirsty foreigners.
- Mezzanine. Set over three floors, with an additional outside patio, Mezzanine offers both a cosy lounge bar for a quiet cocktail tapas as well as a comfortable larger seating area for dinners and parties. Fully wifi d, Mezzanine transforms from a day time lounge into one of Fez most cosmopolitan dinner, music and venues with it s resident DJ. Open from 12:00 until 02:00 non stop. Enjoy a cocktail, beer or wine on the terrace. It is really unique
- L'Alcazar Bar, Riad Fes, 5 Derb Ben Slimane Zerbtana. After a high-energy day in the Medina, L'Alcazar Bar is a comfortable oasis of relaxation and refreshment, the perfect backdrop for a memorable moment with friends and family.
A stylish lounge area where stunning design is combined with a warm atmosphere exuding an oriental yet contemporary feel. The lounge bar and fumoir feature a vast choice of cocktails, malt, cognac, wines but also a selection of cigars.
Most visitors to Fez will want to stay in the medina as the main tourist sights are located there, and the new town is quite a distance from the medina so you will be relying on taxis to take you in and out every day
- Camping Diamant Vert, Rue Ain Chkef. Decent amount of shade, French toilets and (sometimes warm) showers 25 Dh a person, 15 Dh per tent. Free access to the swimming pool..
- HI youth hostel ('Albergue Juvenil), 18 Rue Abdeslam Serghini, ☎ +212 035.624085. Clean, bright, friendly and well placed in the ville nouvelle. Unfortunately there is a debilitating 10PM curfew and a five hour lockout Dorms / twins with shared bath from Dh 45 / Dh 55, plus Dh 5 surcharge for non HI members..
- Hotel Cascades, 26 rue Serrajine (near Bab Boud Jeloud - main gate in the Medina), ☎ . The owner is hospitable and the rooms are clean, noisy and simple. Shared bathrooms on the first and second floor, free hot shower on the first. In the same price-range as the youth hostel with a better location (with views on the Bab Boulejoud and over the medina) and no lockout, and therefore attracting a clientele of young backpackers and solo tourists looking for travel companions. Staying on the roof-terrace which also has a restaurant (breakfast Dh 25, mains Dh 50) is cheap, although backslash could be the 5AM calls to prayer waking you up, 6AM light and summer midday-heat. single Dh 70, double Dh 160, bed on roof terrace Dh 40, breakfast Dh 25.
- There are a few more hostels near the main gate walking down any of the two parallel main streets, but not many of them. Try to arrive well before dark. The streets beyond the two main ones can be frightening at night.
- Pension Batha, fax: 05-574-1150. (100-250 Dhs) 8 Sidi Lkhayat Batha, just across from Hotel Batha, around the corner from Bab Boud Ganoush. It has limited rooms, and fills up quickly, but they are clean and include private bathroom. It comes with breakfast on a nice (but small) terrace on the top floor. Double Room with bathroom 250 Dhs. Breakfast very simple but OK. Ask for Laila (English spoken).
- Hotel Rex, 32 Machra bel Ksiri (apparently near place Atlas but not easily found), ☎ . 100 Dh.
- Hotel Royal. Big rooms, slightly antique feeling, hot water only in the morning. single with bathroom Dh 120, double with bathroom Dh 190.
- Hotel Volubilis, 42 Abdellah Chefchaouni, ☎ +212 035.620463. Bed bathrooms (cold shower, just over the toilet). 80 Dh for a double, 120 Dh for apartments for 3-4 people.
- Dar Bouânania. Riad-style, wonderfully decorated rooms, nice roof-terrace, wifi and very welcoming staff. double Dh 250-400.
- Riad Jamai, 31 Oued Lahriqi Sidi Boujida, ☎ . A traditional riad that has been restored to its former slendour, with extremely helpful and welcoming staff. The rooms are large and comfortable and the breakfast will keep you going all day. The location is in a residential local area of the medina, a good walk from the main attractions, but near a gate (bab) for a short taxi ride to the busy medina. Its location ensures a tranquil retreat from the hustle and bustle of the main medina, whilst also providing local amenities for fruit and vegetables and everyday Fes life. 50-110 Euros.
- Dar El Menia (in the heart of Fez (Fes) Medina). This 14C, Dar or courtyard house has recently been completely restored using local craftsmen, techniques and materials and provides the perfect luxurious base to begin exploring the Medina of Fez. Situated adjacent to Talaa Kebira, the Medina's main street it offers easy access to all major sites of interest. Dar El Menia is run and owned by an Englishman, Graham Coules. The Dar El Menia website also has information regarding desert tours,cooking schools,cafes/restaurants and nearby sites of interest. Rooms from 40 to 75 euros..
- Dar Anebar. Beautiful riad decorated in a traditional Moroccan style, but including a host of modern amenities. This place is really the best of both worlds: if you stay in the Dar Anebar Annex, you can enjoy the elegance of a riad, while still having access to the convenience of free wifi, hot showers, and French toilets. Also great location, just minutes from Bab Guissa During the off-season, double rooms in the annex are only 65euros per night..
- Dar Bennis. traditional 18th-century house (riad) in the Medina for vacation or holiday rental for up to five people. This website also has lots of information about Fez museums, architecture, restaurants, real estate and monuments. from 80 euros for entire house.
- Hotel Batha (near Bab Boud Jeloud beside Post Office). Tourist Hotel in font of Pension Batha. Almost full. The outside of the hotel is great but the room are very basic and old. Just around the corner towards the Bab Bajeloud is an internet café run by a couple of very nice guys who speak English and will be more than willing to give you some insights on the best places to visit and explore in the city. About 520 Dhm for double room with bathroom. The price is very high for the quality. The price for the internet café is 10 DH/h.
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- ChezMaMounia - Bed And Breakfast, ☎ 06-99008110. (34-55 USD) Avenue Saint Louis, Behind Hotel Jnan Fes Palace. For those who want to discover or rediscover the magic city of Fez with an authentic Moroccan family.
- Lounge House. A traditional Masriya (house for the elder son of the family, profusely decorated) with a contemporary twist. Its up for vacation or holiday rental for up to four people, starting at 90 euros night for the entire house. Interesting links in the website containing much needed info about what to do in Fez.
- Dar Bensouda, ☎ . (from €66) No.14 Zkak El Bghel, Quettanine. Lovely riad transformed from a traditional palace with two courtyards and a swimming pool. Friendly and helpful English-speaking staff.
- Riad Verus Dorm, Derb Arset Bennis, Douh, Batha, Fes Medina (Derb Arset Bennis), ☎ , e-mail: , email@example.com. Check-in: 13.30, check-out: 11.30. Single sex dorm rooms in a beautiful Riad. Includes hot showers, fresh linen and soft towels, free Wifi, AC and heating, flat screen TVs. Large breakfasts, plenty of chill out spaces, large terrace with incredible views over the Medina, night club, VIP pod, fun lively atmosphere, sheisha pipes, cooking classes, yoga. Quote Wikivoyage in your reservation for a 10% discount. English, Spanish and French spoken. dorm Dh 225.
- Dar Othmane (from €25 p.P. in a Double), ☎ 06-71014710. No.76 Farrane Couicha, Chrabliyine. Lovely family run guesthouse in the heart of the medina, beautiful courtyard, roof terasse for relaxed evenings, 4 lovely en Suite rooms (Single, Double, Triple),the souk is around the corner, Bab Boujiloud about 10 minutes walk. Friendly and helpful English-speaking staff.
There are a growing number of beautiful, comfortable guest-houses ("riads") in the medina of Fes el-Bali. They are expensive by Moroccan standards but offer luxury for about the price of a North American chain hotel. Some Moroccan proprietors prey on Westerners' culture-shock to direct business toward favored or overpriced services, so it is worth doing your research before going.
- Riad Arabesque, ☎ . Traditional hotel. 1000 Dh.
- Riad Fes (2001), 5 Derb Ben Slimane Zerbtana, ☎ . Check-in: 2.00PM, check-out: 12.00PM. Riad Fes is renowned for its luxury, impeccable service and fine restaurant.Its Andalous pavilion and lounge have brought an even more vibrant edge to Fez’s most stylish Riad. With spectacular views of the Medina and the Atlas Mountains, Riad Fez is ideal for those travelling for business or pleasure.
- Riad Numero 9, 9 Derb Lamside (in the heart of the medina), ☎ . Intimate boutique hotel. Franco-Mediterranean cuisine. What sets this establishment apart is the interesting decoration which is a juxtaposition of French and English vintage and Asian contemporary. The panoramic view from the rooftop terrace is one of the best in the medina. €100-200.
- Riad Tizwa, 15 Derb Gurebba , Batha, ☎ . , (London)Riad Tizwa is Morocco's FIRST recognised environmental riad (by Clef Verte) a traditional Moroccan home in the heart of the medina. Five double bedrooms and English speaking staff makes for good service. Easy to find in the best area of the old town of Fes, the riad has wonderful freshly made breakfasts, a lovely roof terrace to relax on, and nice touches like handmade soap, rose petals, and a great selection of tasty Moroccan food.
- Riad Verus, 1 Derb Arset Bennis (Batha), ☎ . Check-in: 12.30, check-out: 11.30. Riad Verus is the brain child behind Nor and Nora. Between them they speak 7 languages and are very tourist savy and will bend over backwards to ensure you enjoy your stay and are safe. All rooms have flat screen tvs, ipod plug ins, wifi, air con, heating and are ensuite, 2 with jacuzzis. The Riad has been beautifully restored with original mosaics, cedar wood designs and specialist plastering and meets all the new legal safety requirements for Hotel operation. The Riad has a large salon, coffee bar, restaurant, massage room, chill out pod, amazing 360 degree panoramic views of the Medina from their roof terrace which has been set up Nikki Beach Lounge style with Berber live music twice a week. The location is excellent, parking close by, around the corner from Ryad Sheherazade in the trendy neighbourhood. Yoga classes offered in the morning before breakfast and guiding offered by the team of carefully chosen fun official guides. They also have a dorm room for only 25 Euros a night ensuite for the budget traveller who wants to stay in style at an affordable price and meet other like minded people. from 80 €.
- Riad Yacout'. Riad Yacout is a fassi house in the medina restored on the norms and of tradition by the artisans of Fez.
- Riad Kettani, 3 Derb touil, Derb Jamâa (close to the tanneries in the medina), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Riad in the Medina. Has Hammam €100.
Fez is safe, but crowded. Take standard precautions regarding wallet, purse, etc. If you hear "Belek! Belek!" behind you, stand aside because a heavily-laden donkey is bearing down on you! Appear to know where you are going, even if you don't, or you will get offers from false guides. False guides are not dangerous but they can be exasperatingly tenacious. Best technique is to not even acknowledge their presence. That is rude and they won't be pleased, but it is better than to have them walk with you for half an hour. If you have to ask directions ask to someone that is obviously busy in his own business and try to appear as sure as you can of the way you are going ("This way to R'cif, right?"). Getting caught with a faux guide will cost you, but it will cost the faux guide more: they can receive up to 2 days imprisonment if they get caught. Cops are often in plain clothes, so be wary! A useful strategy with false guides is to say all the lines they have been taught before they have said them to show you know what you are doing; they all say the same thing so just learn it and repeat.
You should also beware of hustlers (aka con-artists); Fez has a far larger number of them than almost everywhere else and they use more sophisticated techniques. An example of a prominent scam occurs where you come into Fez by train and someone talks to you saying he is coming to visit his relatives, and is actually a respectable outsider (e.g. an owner of a hotel). He will then ask you to come eat with his relatives and when you get there they will spend most of the time trying to suggest accommodation, offering you tours where they gain commission from all the (especially Carpet) shops, and even organize expensive desert excursions that are actually just you driving in circles just outside the city for three days.
Beware of people at the train/bus station (even the bus driver) who introduce you to their "cousins" or "brothers," trying to involve you in some sort of carpet-selling scam, and especially refrain from handing over your credit card in such situations. There are many other scams and annoyances trying to get you into a shop/restaurant/hotel with various degrees of lying in the stories people make up. If in doubt, be independent and look for yourself e.g. whether the hotel you want to go to is indeed closed or under construction.
This is unfortunately one of the sad things about Morocco, that you get to distrust every one, even those people who are genuinely friendly and hospitable, because sometimes this is only a façade.
For a North American traveller, Fez requires a real change of outlook or it will be a very high-stress trip! Shopkeepers and guides are very assertive and you will have to get used to saying "no" a lot. On the other hand, they can be genuinely warm and friendly even while trying to sell you something, an idea that is pretty alien to North Americans where it is assumed that a business relationship is the opposite of sincerity!
Non-Muslims are not allowed to visit mosques, although they can visit the medersas (religious schools).
Bargaining is a way of life that has survived for centuries, and shows no sign of changing. Moroccans even bargain among each other for everything except perhaps their utilities. Don't believe anyone (and you will hear it all the time) who tells you prices are being "regulated". Every other souk claims to be a "Government Regulated Co-op".
There is a single, genuine government-regulated fixed price shop in the Ville Nouvelle where all prices are posted, the goods are of decent (if not amazing) quality, and the single bored cashier will just stare incredulously at you if you attempt to bargain with him. Ask any hotel manager or petit taxi driver to take you to the "Artisana." All products sold in Artisanas come directly from the artists who made the products.
A visit to the ancient Roman site of Volubilis is a must. This crumbling yet spectacular city has stunning mosaics on offer, and you can easily spend a couple of hours ambling through the ruins. There are organised coach tours running from Fes, however the more intrepid budget traveller can make this journey on their own by catching the train from Fes to Meknes (20 Dh October 2013) and then a couple of 'collective' taxis to the picturesque historic town of Moulay Idriss (they depart very frequently from the street opposite to the French Institute, 10 Dh October 2013) then on from there to Volubilis, by foot or by taxi (40 Dh). This is approx a 1/4 of the price of the organised tours and provides far more opportunity for adventure.
Alternatively, Meknes itself is worth a visit, if only due to its calmer and less crowded medina, which has ample shopping opportunities.
From the Gare Routière, you can leave By bus for almost any direction in North Morocco. Buses are usually crappy (old, rusty, and without lights), with the exception of CTM company, which offers European-quality service, for a double price then the Moroccan standard, but usually including the 5-10Dh required for transporting luggage (malletas), and not being overcrowded. People use to come to the station in the morning to book their ticket for the afternoon or the day after, and collecting stickers for luggage, so beware about showing up at the last minute and not finding place.
At the station, touts will try to sell you tickets for Chefchaouen if you look like a western tourist coming for smoke. Avoid them.
- CMT leave for the main destinations (Marrakesh, Rabat, Tangier, Tetouan, Oujda, Nador). Going from Fez to Rissani (Merzouga is another 30 km taxi ride after Rissani) there is one CTM bus a day, leaving the Fez bus station at 9PM.
- Other companies serve any town and village in nord and center Morocco; deaparting hours are shown over the counters, but may change from one day to another, so be sure to ask to the employee.