Fes is widely regarded as the most dynamic and impressive of Morocco's "Imperial Cities," and in many ways, it is the true heart and soul of the country. Formerly the capital on more than one occasion, this third-largest city in Morocco boasts a fascinating history. Several dynasties established their reign in Fes throughout the centuries, and some scholars believe that the city was the largest in the world for a period in the late 1100s. Thanks in part to the University of Al-Karaouine, the city developed into a major academic center. Muslims intermingled with Christians, studying an array of disciplines. The University of Al-Karaouine was founded in 859, and it is easily one of the top Fes attractions. Visitors will be interested to know that this academic degree-granting institution is the oldest university in the world.
Vacations to Fes are only growing in popularity, and much like Marrakech, it is a destination that is not to be missed on a Morocco vacation. These two imperial cities are the country's best, and they reward visitors with a fascinating travel experience. In addition to visiting the University of Al-Karaouine, which is still one of the foremost centers of Muslim learning, those who are engaging in Fes travel will also want to explore the city's main mendina. This medina in Fes is called the Fes el Bali, and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many consider this imperial city to be the spiritual capital of Morocco, and this has a lot to do with Fes el Bali. The district that lies within the walls of this medina is the largest intact medieval city in the world. While the Fes el Bali is home to more than 9,000 streets, these streets are narrow and often crowded. The smells, the noises, and the mix of people is rather overwhelming in Fes el Bali, and travelers will find that their five senses come alive once they enter this delightfully hectic maze.
As is true of some of the other medinas in Morocco, Fes el Bali is perhaps best approached on a tour. First-time visitors often have tremendous difficulty navigating the streets of the old walled district, in which case a knowledgeable guide can be a blessing. In addition to booking a guide, visitors who need help making sense of Fes el Bali can also enjoy a self-guided tour. The city has placed a series of signs in the district that allow visitors to follow any one of five different routes. Shopping in the medinas is one of the top things to do in Fes Morocco, and if travelers are looking for something special to take home, they might pick up some leather goods. Some parts of Morocco maintain traditional ways when it comes to crafts like making leather, and Fes has long been renowned as a premier producer of high-quality leather goods.
The Fes attractions are many, and truth be told, the entire old city is essentially one big attraction. Among the attractions that many travelers add to their Fes travel itineraries are the Bou Inania Medersa and the Bab Bou Jeloud. The former is the finest Fes medersa, and it is comprised of a group of buildings that all date back to the mid-1300s. A medersa is the general term that is used to label a theological college that was built by the Merenid dynasty. In addition to being an educational institution, Bou Inania Medersa also functioned as a mosque. This large institution boasts some impressive tilework, plasterwork, and woodcarving examples, and the views from the roof are spectacular. As for Bab Bou Jeloud, it is a monumental gateway that can be found in the medina. Built in 1913 by the French, this gateway stands next to the original gate, which was built in the 1100s. Interestingly enough, visitors to Epcot Center in Orlando can see a replica of the Bab Bou Jeloud gate.
Learning a little bit about the leather industry is one of the top things to do in Fes Morocco, and visitors can do so at the city's tanneries. These leather production centers figure among the city's most iconic sights, and one of the best is the Chouwara tannery. Travelers can catch glimpses of the work at hand at tanneries such as Chouwara, but they should prepare themselves for some unpleasant odors. Often times, locals will supply tourists with mint leaves to put by their noses, which helps to minimize the unsavory scents. As for a few other Fes attractions that deserve a look, they include the Kairaouine Mosque, the Nejjarine Museum of Wooden Arts & Crafts, and the Dar Batha Museum. The Kairaouine Mosque was originally built in 859, and while non-Muslims are not permitted to enter, they can still view the exterior. As for the two museums, they offer insight into Fes history, and many fascinating pieces of Moroccan art are on display at both.
Fes travel can be enjoyed the year round, though many visitors choose to drop in on this dynamic city in June. This is when the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music takes place. This music festival is one of the most renowned music festivals in the world, and it attracts artists and visitors from all over. The Fes hotels fill up fast during this annual event, so booking in advance is a good idea. Even if visitors can't make it to Fes during the music festival, they are bound to be rewarded with memories to last a lifetime. In addition to all the fun things to do in Fes Morocco, visitors can also consider any number of side trips to some of the country's other top destinations. Fes makes for a popular jump-off point for trips to Merzouga, for example, and this small village is the top destination for Moroccan camel treks through the Sahara Desert.