Website Category: Fortified Cities of the Maghreb
Area: 2.8 km2
Criteria: (ii) interchange of values (v) interaction with the environment
Location and Values: The Medina of Fez is located in north-central Morocco, about 60 km east of Meknes. It is the most ancient of the Moroccan imperial capitals and the most complete medieval city of the Arab world. The development of Fez took off at the beginning of the 9th century when Idriss II established it as his capital and allowed refugees from two far-flung corners of western Islam (Andalucian Cordoba in Spain and Kairouan in Tunisia) to settle there. They established two separate walled towns on either side of the Fez River, and provided the craftsmanship and entrepreneurial skills for Fez’s commercial development. Later, the seat of government shifted to Marrakesh, only to return to Fez under the Merenids following their conquest of the city in 1248. They built a massive new Royal City (Fes el Djedid, or ‘New Fez’), and many of the prominent monuments that survive to this day.
Today the Medina of Fez provides a fascinating window on a medieval world grasping at modernity. The tight-knit buildings of the Medina conceal an intricate web of alleys, passages and tiny squares where people bake bread, dye leather, weave cloth and hammer metals as they have done for centuries. Ancient mosques and medersas, street-side water fountains, souks offering every conceivable product, palaces, hammams (public bath-houses) and traditional inns (fondouks) provide points of reference amongst the bewildering maze of streets and barrage of sensual inputs. For the visitor, getting lost is part of the fun of exploring this fascinating city.
Slideshow of the Medina Of Fez: The slideshow follows a walking tour of the Medina, starting in Fes El Djedid, the ‘New Fez’ of the Merenid dynasty. Passing the guarded entrance of the Royal Palace into the Jewish quarter (Mellah) it then shows the magnificent gates at Bab Dekkakine, and the formal gardens of the Jardins des Boujeloud. From there it proceeds into old Fez, or Fes el Bali, showing the splendid detail of the restored Medersa Bou Inania, and the maze of alleyways in the area. A couple of pictures of the incredible dye vats of a traditional leather tannery, and a local fabric shop, are followed by a view of the early 18th century Nejjarin Fondouk and one of the decorated wooden chests in the museum there. Outside is the picturesque Place en Najjarin, with its shops selling traditionally-crafted metalwork and the beautiful canopied Nejjarin Fountain. Nearby a glimpse of the highly decorative doorway, painted ceiling and courtyard of the Kairouane Mosque is provided, before proceeding through the Dyer’s souk and across the small Fez River to the (rather run-down) side of the Andalous Quarter. The tour returns to the Kairouan Quarter and shows tin-smiths and drummers in the Place Seffarine, some of the traditional products – metalwork, slippers and caps – for sale in the souks, and finishes outside the Medina with views of the massive fortifications and three of the main gates, Bab Boujeloud, the gate into the Kasbah En Nouar, and Bab Mahrouk.
Slideshow of the Medina Of Fez:
Comments and Impressions: This is undoubtedly the most authentic and fascinating of the Fortified Cities of the Mahgreb.
Google Earth View: To view satellite imagery of the Medina of Fez on Google Earth, click here. This opens a new window, so when you are finished, just close the Google Earth page and you will be straight back here to continue browsing.
Links to other places featuring fortified cities of the Maghreb: Beni Hammad I Algiers I Marrakech I Meknes I Tetouan I Tunis I Kerkuane I Kairouan I Sousse
Other Links: Official UNESCO Site Details I WMF (Al-Azhar Mosque)