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Medina, Mosques And Museums In Fes

Posted on November 12, 2009 | Fascinating CitiesNo Comment



Fes is like a maze, divided in five rings. The religious places are at the center, followed by working areas like the souks. The residential areas come next. Encompassing these are the walls of the city with gardens and cemeteries beyond it.

A guide is a must to help you be on track and not get lost on one of its streets.

Here are some major attractions of this Morocco city that brings out the spiritual essence of this North African country.

1.Medina

fes medina mosqueComprising of two towns, the old Fes -I-Bali and the new Fes-I-Jdid, Medina of Fes is the city’s market. The narrow streets here have tiny shops oozing out with a display of variety of goods for sale. Handmade leather goods like belts and bags, copper plates, ceramics etc are among the few goods to shop for here.

While this is a car-free zone, there could be donkeys being squeezed in through the crowd.

To make touring easy on the streets of Medina, the authorities have made five circuits –Walls and fortifications, Crafts and souks, gardens and palaces and Andolous historic districts,  through the Medina and have out up large maps on display as guides.

It’s better to take a guide, though if you get lost, there are food stalls you would want to check out, while looking for your way out.

2.The two cities of Medina
  • Fes-I-Bali
    The old city in Medina, the Fes-I-Bali, is a maze of lanes and alleys with royal palaces, gardens and souks. Exploring the entire area could take you days put together.
  • Fes-I-Djedid
    This is the new city of Medina. It was built in the 13th century by the Merenides. The area is occupied by a royal palace with magnificent gardens, the access to which is restricted for special guests.
3.The Museums in Fes

A number of museums in the city of Fes tell us the story of civilizations that has emerged and lived here as wells as occupied Fes.

Here are some of the important ones are mentioned here.

  • Dar Batha Museum
    Originally a Moorish palace built by Sultan Moulay al-Hassan I in the late 19th century, it has a remarkableDar Batha Museum collection of Moroccan arts and crafts such as woodcarvings, leatherworks, embroidery, carpets, jewellery, ceramics etc. The pottery room is a center point of this mosque.The museum’s Andalusia garden is beautifully maintained and relaxes your senses.
  • Museum of Andalusia Music
    This museum in a cultural center in Dar Bennani, a beautifully restored house, attracts people with a library, an art gallery and a music conservatory.
  • Nejjarine Museum
    Earlier an inn or (funduq) as they were called for merchants crossing this city, this museum has displays of traditional woodwork.
  • Fondouk el-Nejjarine
    A landmark of Fes, this is also known as the Museum of Wooden Arts and Crafts. It was originally a caravanserai meant for travelling traders. Intricate carvings are on display here. Outside the museum, in what is known as el-Nejjarine or Carpenter’s Square, is one of the best known mosaic fountains- the Nejjarine Fountain. Around this is Nejjarine Souk where carpenters could be seen working and carving cedar woods.
  • Arms Museum of Borj Nord
    This 16th century fortress is now home to a collection of large collection of antique arms. Also attracting the tourists is the building itself and the view of Medina from here.
4.Mosques  and madarsas in Fes

Fes being a Muslim city has beautiful mosques in and around it. The two main mosques here are the Kairaouine mosque and the al-Tijani mosque.

Kairaouine mosqueWhile the al-Tijani is outside the city, the Kairaouine Mosque is in the heart of Fes-I-Bali. None of them are open to non-Muslims, though with their beautiful décor they have, they are worth a look even from outside.

The Kairaouine Mosque established in 857 is one of the oldest Mosques of the western countries.

Madarsas are the learning centers or theological colleges of Muslims. The Medersa el Attarin, right opposite the Kairaouine Mosque, was founded in 1325 and gives the best view of the Mosque. Medersa Bou Inania constructed around 1350-1357 by Merenid Sultan Bou Inan has a fine and lavish décor. It is the only Madarsa in Morocco with a minbar or pulpit and a minaret.

Other very important Madarsa of Fez is the Medersa es Seffarin dating to the 13th century. It is the most ancient of all the Fes Madarsas.

5.The Tanneries

The tanneries or Chouara make an extraordinary sight in the Medina. Leather workers are busy dying the skins, stained by dyes themselves. You could buy or at least tip one of the leather goods shops here to get to their terrace and get a roof top view of the tanner’s yard.

6.Hammams

These traditional bathhouses are the best place to relax after wandering through the streets of medina and a serves as venue to socialize as well. The timings for visits by men and women differ. The Hammam Bourous is the oldest Hammam here, still in use though only for men. Among the superior ones is the Hammam Mernisi. You could also use the on site facilities at the hotels you are staying.

7.Excursions

Getting out of the city too would make for a good trip. A must visit tourist destination is the ancient Roman site of Volubilis. With marvelous mosaics, the city offers you wonderful sights to pass by. To get there, you could either get on one of those organized trains from Fes. If you do not mind a bit of an adventure journey, you could get in a train from Fes to Meknes, hop in one of those shared taxis, get to yet another historic town of Malay Idriss and from there, head to Volubilis. This is cheaper way of travelling than the coach services and also gives you more to see.

The Moulay Idriss II Zaouia on way is the holiest shrine in Fes. The tomb of Saint Moulay Idriss II, founder of the Idrissi dynasty belonging to the 6th century, is a pilgrimage here.

Meknes, with good shopping areas is worth a visit as well.

Again, buses from Gare Routiere take you to anywhere in North Morocco.  There are buses for destinations like Marrakech, the capital city of Rabat, Nador, and Rissani, to name a few. Trains too connect Fes to Marrakech, passing Rabat and Casablanca.

Fes, in simple words, is splendid as a tourist attraction. Fitting in all that’s here to see and explore will perhaps not be possible in even the most detailed of itineraries. Nevertheless, it is a city worth exploring which often tends to take you back to times gone by.

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