Tips and things to do in Fez, Morocco: The three-minute guide


Morocco's culture, architectural legacy and rich cuisine are the result of waves of conquerors and nomads over thousands of years, nowhere more so than in Fez, where Berber and Arab worlds collide. The fortified imperial capital is virtually intact and still the spiritual centre of Morocco, crammed with crumbling Koranic schools, mosques and hammams, and renowned for its decorative arts. It's one of the world's most energising urban encounters: crowded, frustrating, exhilarating, worn and wonderful.


Bab Boujloud is a monumental gateway to the medina (old town) and is covered with patterned blue and green tiles; soak up the passing parade of people (and the occasional donkey) from a surrounding cafe. The restored, fourteenth-century Bou Inania Medersa theological school is a wonder in woodwork and stucco looped with Koranic verses. Palais Glaoui is a somewhat rundown but glorious courtyard palace overlooked by tourists; ask at your hotel for directions and an appointment to see it.


Innovative Numero 7 ( is a big surprise: a pop-up restaurant buried in the medina with chic, contemporary decor and international chefs-in-residence challenged to use the bazaar's ingredients with inventive flair. Go the multi-course, fixed-price menu and you won't be disappointed. Trendy Café Clock ( is popular with foreigners and Fezis alike, especially for its camel burger, and offers cooking classes and film screenings. La Maison Bleue ( is notable for upmarket Moroccan cuisine.


Plunge into the crazy, claustrophobic medina, more atmospheric and than any in Morocco. It's a maze of alleys, dead ends, archways, mosques, palaces and tottering houses, and the place for locals to conduct business, whether it's buying camel meat or spices, copper pots or plastic buckets. Infamous Chouwara Tannery has just been gussied up but remains a colourful stink. It all provides fabulous stickybeaking in what is often described as the world's last medieval city.


A good guide should bring you to several viewpoints that overlook the medina from the surrounding hills, where you can appreciate the size, ringed fortifications and density of the old town. Both the sixteenth-century north and south towers have great outlooks, but my favourite is atop the hills at the Merenid Tombs, where there are also views over the surrounding Tuscan-like countryside. At dusk the call to prayer sounds and the town turns golden.


Right in the heart of the medina, Ryad Salama ( has just seven rooms of varying dimensions arranged around a tiled courtyard where fountains splash and birds twitter in the palm trees. After the madness of the medina, peace descends as you step through the door. The ryad or traditional courtyard mansion, decorated in stained glass and carved wood, was restored by convivial French owner Michel Trezzy, interesting to talk to over a tagine dinner.


Australian-owned tour company By Prior Arrangement ( specialises in handcrafted historical and cultural itineraries in Fez and throughout Morocco that might focus on food, architecture or interiors. Excellent local guides provide insider knowledge of Fez's old town and hidden sights.

The writer travelled courtesy of By Prior Arrangement.