- Cityscape Morocco’s cultural capital
- City life Eat, pray, barter
Mosques, medina, monuments and mountains – you’d be forgiven for thinking that all Fez’s charms begin with ‘m’.
Spend an hour in the city and you’ll soon see otherwise – the street stalls tempt with aromatic tagines, spice-scattered couscous and toffee-sweet dates, silks and carpets coloured with vivid berry dyes, and leather goods to rival any Italian fashion house. Fez has three micro-cities to get to grips with: Fes el Bali (the ancient, walled city), Fes-Jdid (the Jewish quarter), and the Ville Nouvelle (Fez’s newest, French-created section). Pub-quiz enthusiasts will be pleased to learn that this imperial city also has two record breakers to its name: the world’s oldest university, Al Karaouine (founded in AD 859), and the world’s largest urban car-free area (the Medina). No wonder Unesco's so excited about it.
Do go/Don’t go
The best time to pack your bags is September–November, and March–July. During these months, you can make the most of the festival calendar and the balmy weather.
- Planes Fez-Saiss Airport (FES) is 15km away from the city. Royal Air Maroc (www.royalairmaroc.com) flies from Casablanca or Paris; Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) runs flights from Brussels, Hahn, Girona, Marseille, and Milan. Take a bus or ‘grands taxi’ (big cab) from the airport to the city centre, or book a taxi through your riad.
- Trains Fez train station is situated in the Ville Nouvelle, about a 10-minute walk away from Place Mohammed V. Trains depart every two hours to Casablanca via Rabat and Meknès (there are also two overnight trains), and there are also trains to Marrakech and Tangier.
- Automobiles This is a city to explore on foot.
- Taxis Rather than seeking out grands or petits taxi, it’s wisest to rely on your riad’s car service – smoother than a mule or donkey ride, and less stressful than trying to hail cabs.