Getty Images/AWL Images RM


Travelling from the Ville Nouvelle to Fez El Bali is like stepping back in time. The essential footprint of the medina hasn’t changed in nearly a millennium, as the surrounding hills have constrained expansion – the last big growth of the traditional medina was in the 13th century with the construction of Fez El Jdid. Today, around 90,000 Fassis still call this maze of twisting alleys, blind turns and hidden souqs home, while tourists call it one of the most mind-boggling places they’ll visit in Morocco.

Bab Bou Jeloud in the west is the main entrance to the old city, with two main streets descending into the medina’s heart. On your left as you enter is Talaa Kebira (Big Slope), with Talaa Seghira (Little Slope) on your right. Both converge near Place An Nejjarine, continuing to the Kairaouine Mosque and Zawiya Moulay Idriss II – the heart of the city. From here, it’s uphill to reach the northern gates of Bab Guissa and Bab Jamaï, or head south towards Bab R’cif. The R’cif area has undergone a big facelift with a smart new gate and refurbished square and the river has been upgraded. R'cif is likely to provide an alternate focus for the medina.

The major sights are really only a small part of the charm of the medina. It pays to do a little random exploration and simply follow your nose or ears to discover the most unexpected charms of Fez’ nature. Following your nose will lead you to women with bundles of freshly cut herbs, children carrying trays of loaves to be baked in the local bakery or a cafe selling glasses of spiced Berber coffee. Around the next corner you might find a beautifully tiled fountain, a workshop hammering copper pots, a camel’s head announcing a specialist butcher, or just a gang of kids turning their alley into a football pitch. Everywhere, listen out for the call to prayer or the mule driver’s cry 'balak!' ('look out!') to warn of the approach of a heavily laden pack animal.

Navigation can be confusing and getting lost at some stage is a certainty, but look at this as part of the adventure. A handy tip is to note the ‘main’ streets that eventually lead to a gate or landmark – just follow the general flow of people. Ask shopkeepers for directions, or you can fall back on the eager kids happy to rescue confused foreigners – though the remuneration they expect can be steep.

Explore Medina

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Medina.


Purchase our award-winning guidebooks

Get to the heart of Medina with one of our in-depth, award-winning guidebooks, covering maps, itineraries, and expert guidance.