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The charms of Fez

Fez, also known as the mazy city of Morocco is one of the country’s most ancient and best-preserved cities, conserving its authenticity and exoticism with a an architecture that has remained practically untouched for centuries. What is perhaps most striking in this North African city is the fact that its less touristy and crowded, especially if you compare it to its neighbour, Marrakech. For this reason, it has a special charm that allows oneself to submerge into the culture of the citizens, without feeling suffocated by the sellers and merchants that often bother travellers in other Moroccan cities.

Certainly, we will not get to know Fez at its best if we don’t visit the following locations:

1.- Medina Fes el-Bali

The highlight of our trip to Fez is precisely in the maze that is made up by more than a hundred districts ofFes el-Bali, that are full of narrow streets with thousands of turning points and dead ends. UNESCO has protected it since 1967, as it is considered the oldest part of the city, which concentrates some of the most important monuments.

In the past, according to the law, each district was obliged to have a mosque, a religious school, a bakery, fountain and hammam. The Mausoleum of Moulay Idris and the Al Karaouine, together with the Koranic schools Attarine and Bou Inania boast an exquisite architecture that deserves to be seen. The latter, Bou Inania can be visited by non-Muslims, with an exception of the prayer rooms.

Getting lost in the markets and streetsm Talaa Kebira and Talaa Seguira, walking through the beautiful squares Nejarine and Seffarine and learning about the souk tanners are some of the most essential and authentic experiences one can have in Fez. Those wanting to learn about Morroccan cuisine are able to do so at the Riad Tafialet, whose chef Lahcem Beqqi is one of the country’s most respected. In addition to the cooking lessons, the chef will also take you to the market to show you where to buy the best products. After this session, you will be able to prepare an exotic meal at home, including dishes like harira, tagine or couscous.
2.- Medina Fes el-Jdid

The Medina Fes el- Jdid or New Medina was raised by the Merindia dynasty in the twelfth century, outside the old town. It is full of mansions with Andalusian patios, gardens, mosques and new souks, but mostly what makes it interesting is the swanky Royal Palace of golden gates, every so often cleaned with a curious mixture of lemon juice, salt and vinegar. The Mellah or Jewish quarter, which stands in the heart of Fes el- Jdid, close to the palace also offers a large market thanks to the Grand Rue, Boulevard Bou Ksissat, contrasting with the of the facades and balconies of traditional Muslim architecture, where privacy reigns.

3.- La Ville Nouvelle

In order to complete our tour of Fez, we must not forget to visit the Ville Nouvelle, the newest part of the city that was built following the French protectionism during the twentieth century. Most urbanites enjoy this area reserved for the more affluent locals, with their walk through the Avenue Hassan II and the Boulevard Mohammed V. There’s an entire collection of glamorous bars with terraces, restaurants, ice cream parlours and bakeries. Boutiques fill the streets of movement and make the Ville Nouvelle an ideal place for the classic mint tea with typical pastries that help regain strength after an afternoon of shopping.

Picture by NaSz451

Text by Blanca Frontera

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Fez – A Reflection of Africa

Fez is the symbolic heart of Morocco, as well as the country’s spiritual and cultural centre. Green prevails on the mosque facades and domes and is regarded worldwide as the colour of Islam. This fact is also reflected in the Fez Festival of World Sacred Music, which attracts musicians from all over the planet every summer. This is a unique event which sets up avenues of dialogue between disparate cultures and religions from Islamic lands.

But, don’t start panicking! You needn’t expect slow religious concerts in the sense of Gregorian chant. Rather, this is a festival which, year after year, promises to dish out great chunks of entertainment. On previous occasions, the Fez Festival was graced by the participation of music stars of the calibre of Björk, Paco de Lucía, Patti Smith, Joan Baez and Youssou N’Dour.

Noteworthy among the cultural and musical offerings at this year’s festival – which features over 500 international musicians starring in more than 50 shows and 10 concerts – is the flamenco of Diego el Cigala, the rhythm & blues of The Temptations with their legendary seal of American Motown, the video artist Jean de Boysson and the Malian singer and songwriter, Oumou Sangare, among many others.

In Memory of Hassan Al Wazzan, Explorer of Al-Andalus

This the 21st edition of the Fez Festival will be held from 22 to 30 May. Under the slogan, “A Reflection of Africa”, the festival commemorates the journeys of Hassan Al Wazzan, the Andalusi explorer known as the Lion of Africa whose remains are buried in Fez.

The life of Hassan Al Wazzan, who lived in the 15th and 16th century, was one of a nomad who was forced to travel due to political and religious circumstances. He embarked on a diplomatic career while studying in a Fez madrasa and travelled across all of North Africa as an explorer and geographer. Finally, he went to Rome, where he was adopted as a son of Leo X. There he was baptised with the name Giovanni Leone de Medicis (or Leo Africanus), although he never turned his back on the Islamic tradition.

Alternative Activities

The music programme is supplemented by a comprehensive schedule of parallel activities, notably film screenings, conferences, exhibitions and children’s activities. An alternative cycle of free concerts will be staged throughout the festival in Bab Boujloud square, paralleled by the Nuits Soufies, featuring free, daily concerts in the Dar Tazi gardens, right in the heart of the Fez medina, a symbolic place providing a broad overview of the all-embracing Islamic culture.

Fez – the Cradle of North African Culture

With over a million inhabitants, the Fez el-Bali medina (Old Fez) stacks up as one of the largest inhabited medieval cities in the world. The district is listed as a World Heritage site and contains the world’s largest pedestrian precinct. Its interior is a maze of 10,000 backstreets, some of which are cul-de-sacs, while others seem to lead you back to your starting point. Getting your bearings in that labyrinth can be complicated, but that’s part of its charm.

Like Fez el-Bali, Fez el-Jdid is a walled enclosure. Set in the walls are a number of palaces, gardens, bazaars and Koranic schools, the architecture of which is more elegant than in the rest of the city. The most interesting sights in the area are the Dar El Makhzen Royal Palace and the Mellah or Jewish quarter.

One of the most popular places with tourists is the Chaouwara tannery. While not suitable for the squeamish, on account of the potent smell given off by the animal hides, a visit to this quarter comes highly recommended. Seen from a vantage point, the quarter is magical, resembling a painter’s palette.

Text by Scanner FM

Images by Phil Chambers, Deniz Eyuce, Pablo Jimenez, Elena, Adolf Boluda and Sergio Morchon

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Café Clock

A few minutes to Bab Bou Jeloud, the main entrance to the Medina Fez el-Bali is located Café Clock, a restaurant specialized in fresh salads and couscous and, in general, with a menu of recipes wider than the rest of restaurants in the area. Here you can enjoy both breakfast and lunch or dinner, or excellent Moroccan sweet snack between time, as it is open all day.

The waiters and chefs are so friendly that they will definitely share with you the secrets and tips of authentic Moroccan cuisine and the most interesting places to visit in Fez.

Furthermore, Café Clock organize numerous and varied activities, which are shown in their website .

7 Derb El Magana, 30000 Fez

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Morocco, a world of senses

Looking for an affordable break this Easter? How about Morocco? Forget about jet lag and those flights that last more than eight hours and include interminable stopovers at airports in the middle of the desert. With just a two-hour flight you can be in a completely different world.

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