The Medina of Fez

A short and cheap train ride from Meknes is Morocco’s second largest city and medieval capital, Fez. It was founded in the 9th century, enlarged in the 13th and 14th and houses the world’s oldest university. It has a slightly different feel to Marrakesh, although it’s hard to describe how.

Certainly, the people trying to offer guiding (aka a trip to their family’s shop) are more numerous and more pushy. But then, the medina is harder to negotiate, having no wider roads to speak of at all. The two principal ways shown on maps look as if they should be obvious and stand out from narrower side alleys, but in practice you can cross one without realising it as they can be less than a couple of metres wide and crowded with the goods of the tiny shops on each side.

Luckily, there are six themed routes through the medina for visitors, signposted by coloured markers high up on the walls of the alleys.  They do occasionally require you to use a bit of guesswork, but coupled with the occasional route map, are very handy, particularly if you stumble upon one when lost.

Like the other old cities I’ve visited in Morocco, buildings are inward looking and surrounded by narrow alleys.  So despite the presence of old and interesting mosques and madrasas there’s not a great deal to see from the outside, which is where non-muslims generally are. However, as in Marrakesh and Meknes, there is one madrasa one can visit, the Abou Inania Medersa, built in the 1350s. Like the others, it has a central courtyard, with a mosque on one side and and small rooms for the scholars ranged around the other three on two floors.

Courtyard of the Abou Inania Medersa

Courtyard of the Abou Inania Medersa

And here’s my attempt to render the left hand facade in Lego:

Lego facade of Abou Inania Medersa courtyard

Lego facade of Abou Inania Medersa courtyard

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