a UNESCO world heritage site + the nation's cultural capital, I had no idea what to expect. fes is a far cry from the dusty chaos of marrakech. still just as aggressive and intense, but in a way that is older and wiser. it's a place that's long been lived in.
everything about fes felt like it was steeped in history. the colors, the sounds, the smells (i'm looking at you, tannery!), were all so different from marrakech. it made every turn exciting.
the deeper we wandered into the labyrinth of the medina, the better. where marrakech was a city buzzing with tourists, fes has managed to stay off much of the world's radar.
it was a whirlwind. one moment we were whispering in a crumbling, sprawling old riad, alone save for our guide and the roosters who kept watch for intruders.
the next moment we were drinking mint tea on the floor of a palatial rug shop. with the flick of a wrist, rugs were rolled and unrolled and displayed like we were directing a textile orchestra.
we were in another world. completely immersed.
for all of it's old world charm, the government is making (needed), but life-altering, updates to the city. now is the time to visit, while you'll still get a great mix of old and new. ancient and modern. both beautiful, but in different ways.
should fes be on your wanderlist, keep these in mind.
stay at mazar fes. khalid is a gracious host, a wealth of information + it's apparent from the moment you get to his riad just how much thought (and DETAIL) he put into creating this place.
hire a guide. we were completely comfortable finding our way around marrakech. then we were told that the medina of fes has 9,000 streets on the map, and probably closer to 12,000 streets in real life. with limited time (and at the recommendation of our riad), we opted to spend the day with Jamal. for what equalled about $40, he led us around the medina, bought us treats to try, answered all my incessant questions, and got us in to some pretty magical places.
visit the mellah (jewish neighborhood). it's home to the royal palace and has a completely different look + feel than the rest of fes.
eat at cafe clock (if you're brave - I wasn't - they have camel on the menu!). it's a little tricky to find (keep an eye out for signs), but the food is great, the staff is friendly and they host all kinds of nightly activities, making it perfect for solo travelers.
lastly, the timing didn't work out, but we were dying to have dinner at restaurant numero 7. they serve modern moroccan and change it up regularly by inviting talented chefs from all over the world to do the cooking. they are only open a few nights a week, so call ahead!
i'm certain no place quite like fes exists anywhere else in this world. if you're up for adventure, make sure you visit.
sad to leave, we had visions of what came next...the blue city + we couldn't wait.