Fez, Morocco's cultural capital
Fez is one of the most unique places in the world. This ancient part of Morocco is one of the imperial cities of the country that brings together 3 epochs (periods of 3 caliphs) and is also the first civilized city of the Arab countries. This mixture of eras is reflected not only in the architecture of the temples and mosques, but also in the uniqueness and distinctiveness of the culture of Fez as a whole. From royal and Jewish cemeteries to the remains of imperial tombs, through intricate medinas, narrow streets and spice and cloth merchants, arriving in Fez is like stepping back to the 8th century, the city's point of origin.
From here begins one of the most recommended 4 day desert tour to the Merzouga from Fez.
With an area of 20,000 km2, Fez is located 200 km from Rabat, the modern capital of Morocco. The Kingdom of Morocco is located in the southwest of Africa and has access to the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Fez is also very well located, in the northeast of the country, at the crossroads of the routes leading to the West. Not far from Fez flows the Cebu River, whose tributary gives the city its modern name.
The proximity of the Atlas Mountains explains the near absence of natural water bodies. The flora consists mainly of junipers, evergreen oaks, dwarf palms and cedars. The city is divided into three main zones: El Bali (historical center), Jed (urban districts) and Novy Fez (administrative center). The latter area has a European look and architecture, as it was designed by the French administration, which dominated Morocco in 1912.
Today, Morocco's oldest city, the jewel of the Arab world, has more than 950,000 inhabitants. Fez is multinational: a mix of Arabs, Jews, Europeans and Africans.
The historical branch dates back to 789, when Moulay Idris I wanted to build a city on the right bank of the Fez River and his subjects gave him a hoe carved in pure gold and silver. The sultan used the hoe to delimit the city, which received the name "Fez", meaning "wooden hoe". According to another theory, the name of the city derives from the word "fas", which means "river" in Berber. Another theory about the origin of the city's name is that, because it was built in the shape of a peak, it was called Fez ("Fa's" means "peak" in Arabic).
In the early 9th century, the sultan's son, Idris II, erected a fortified royal residence, a mosque and a market on the opposite bank, a settlement on the left bank that was named "Al-Aliya". The first inhabitants of the ancient Muslim city of Fez, built by Idris I, were, curiously, Christian refugees expelled from Andalusia and Cordoba, but the left bank, in Al-Aliya, was inhabited by Muslims.
There was some confrontation between the inhabitants of opposite shores and religions, which sowed enmity and discord. However, the Muslim part of the city, located on the left bank, developed more actively, as it had direct access to the sea, which allowed Al-Aliya to establish strong trade relations with neighboring countries and to develop economically. In the 11th century, Sultan Yusuf ibn Tashif united the two parts of the city and baptized them with the common name and made the center of the Kairouan mosque to be located on the left bank, which marked the end of the first era of the city of Fez.
The second historical era of the city was marked by the Ottoman conquest of the kingdom of Morocco in the 16th century: Fez became a subject of the Ottoman Empire. The fortunate situation of the city made the ancient Fez become an important commercial and economic center of northwest Africa. Until the end of the 19th century, Fez was the only city in the world that produced fezzes (Arab headdresses), so most of the Muslim world came there to shop. Later, the city became the capital of the Ottoman state, and remained so until the early 20th century.
The third era was when the city lost its status as the capital of Morocco in 1912, when the kingdom of Fez was divided between Spain and France. At the same time, the city became the center of the Moroccan struggle for independence and the return of lost rights and freedoms.
Once Morocco regained its independence in the mid-twentieth century (1956), it experienced a new boom that involved the construction and settlement of new residential neighborhoods, the consolidation of economic relations with its neighbors and the opening of the local market. It was at this time that the most important administrative buildings were constructed, while parks and fountains were laid out in the city's central squares. Despite rapid development, the city has managed to retain its historical spirit and authentic culture: there are no billboards or billboards on the streets, and the absence of skyscrapers and modern office buildings has kept the city virtually untouched.
The most majestic and magnificent mosque in Fez was built in 859, financed by a rich refugee from Kairouan. The current structure dates from the 12th century, when Sultan Ali not only rebuilt the temple, but also endowed it with a minibar.
As for the mosque's attractions, it is worth noting: the temple courtyard decorated with black and white tiles; the dome of the tent in front of the muhrab; and the library founded by Sultan Abu-Inan. Karaouine is also famous for its university, one of the oldest not only in the Arab world, but on the entire planet.
Climate and weather by month
Fez has a Mediterranean climate, with extremely hot and dry summers and relatively cool and wet winters. The climate is strongly influenced by the proximity of the Atlas Mountains, which produces a distinctive seasonality and temperature variations during the day and night. Thus, during all summer months the temperature remains constantly high, between +27-29°C. Sometimes, during the hottest days, the temperature in the shade reaches +45°C, so it is best to refrain from excursions and Morocco Tours and walks in the city during the summer period. The best time to visit Fez is autumn (October-November) and spring (April-May): the sun is not so scorching, the air is quite humid and the daytime temperature does not exceed +23-26 °С. In winter, however, rains can interfere with your vacation; there are at least 60 days of precipitation out of the 90 days of winter. The average winter temperature is +10-13 °С.
Al-Qarawiyyin University. Built-in 859 by Fatima al-Fihri, daughter of a wealthy merchant. Al-Qarawiyyin was originally a mosque with a capacity of 20,000 worshippers (during the Middle Ages it was the largest mosque in North Africa). Today it is the spiritual and educational center not only of Morocco, but of the entire Islamic world.
Bab Bou Jeloud. The famous white and blue Moorish doors are decorated with extravagant Arab ornaments and offer access to the medina, the old city center. It offers access to the medina, the old city center. The gate was installed in 1912 merely as a decorative element and not as a defensive fortification (unlike the other functioning gates in Fez).
Royal Palace. This architectural complex occupies more than 80 hectares and consists of ancient mosques, madrasas, Koranic schools and a park with gardens. The palace was built in the 14th century, but despite such an impressive date, it is still functioning as intended: the back of the palace is occupied by the current King of Morocco. The Royal Palace is one of the oldest historical treasures of Fez.
The Shuar tannery district. A place where the inhabitants still use the ancient methods of dyeing and processing leather: tamping, drying, stretching and hand-dyeing with natural dyes. This use of ancestral techniques has endured in this neighborhood for 1000 years, making Shuara unique in its own way. The best time to visit the tannery is early in the morning, when the vats containing the colors are not too hot under the scorching sun and the fumes are not too suffocating. Some odor-sensitive tourists bring mint or lemon to dispel the smell of paint wafting through the old town. Here you can also buy unique handmade leather souvenirs.
Meridin Tombs. This ancient historical monument is the bedchamber of the Meridin dynasty, which ruled Morocco since the 12th century. The tombs are located in the center of the old town, although the Meridin were previously buried outside the city walls. Although only a few fragments of the tombs and a few columns of the ancient and opulent alcove remain, this sacred place continues to attract crowds of tourists.
Fes Museum of Arts and Traditions. Located in the Dar Batha palace. In the exhibition rooms you can admire precious antique carpets, ceramics, bronze and gold objects and ancient art books. The palace also hosts concerts of ancient Andalusian music in late spring and early autumn.
Najarin Caravan. Three-story building that once housed wood merchants. Today it serves as a museum of cabinetmaking: household items, musical instruments, clothing and other wooden products in a wide range are exhibited here. It is here, in Caravan el Najarin, that you can appreciate the art of cabinetmaking and buy a souvenir to remember it by.
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