Fez and the Middle Atlas

We’ve compiled the best of the best in Fez and the Middle Atlas - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. Bab Boujeloud

    This Moorish-style gate dating to 1913 is considered the principal and most beautiful point of entry into Fez el-Bali, even though it's 1,000 years younger than the rest of the medina. It was built by General Hubert Lyautey, Moroccan commander under the French protectorate. The side facing toward Fez el-Djedid is covered with blue ceramic tiles painted with flowers and calligraphy; the inside is green, the official color of Islam—or of peace, depending on interpretation.

    Pl. Pacha el-Baghdadi, Fez, Fez-Meknès, Morocco
  • 2. Bab Mansour


    Looming over the Place el-Hedim, this huge, horseshoe-shape triumphal arch is widely considered to be North Africa's most beautiful gate, completed in 1732 by a Christian convert to Islam named Mansour Laalej (whose name means "victorious renegade"). The marble Ionic columns supporting the two bastions on either side of the main entry are thought to have been taken from the Roman ruins at Volubilis. The taller Corinthian columns came from Marrakesh's El Badi Palace, part of Moulay Ismail's campaign to erase any vestige of the Saadian dynasty that preceded the Alaouites. Ismail's last important construction project, the gate was conceived as an elaborate homage to himself and the dynasty's strong Muslim orthodoxy, rather than a defensive stronghold—hence its intense decoration of green and white tiles and engraved Koranic panels, now faded with age. The Arabic inscription along the top of the gate reads: "I am the most beautiful gate in Morocco. I’m like the moon in the sky. Property and wealth are written on my front."

    Rue Dar Smen, Meknès, Fez-Meknès, Morocco
  • 3. Bou Inania Medersa

    From outside Bab Boujeloud you will see the green-tile tower of this medersa (school), generally considered the most beautiful of the Kairaouine University's 14th-century residential colleges. It was built by order of Abou Inan, the first ruler of the Merenid dynasty, which would become the most decisive ruling clan in Fez's development. The main components of the stunningly intricate decorative artwork in this now-nonoperating school are the green-tile roofing; the cedar eaves and upper patio walls carved in floral and geometrical motifs; the carved-stucco midlevel walls; the ceramic-tile lower walls covered with calligraphy (Kufi script, essentially cursive Arabic) and geometric designs; and, finally, the marble floor. Showing its age, the carved cedar is still dazzling, with each square inch a masterpiece of handcrafted sculpture involving long hours of the kind of concentration required to memorize the Koran. The black belt of ceramic tile around the courtyard bears Arabic script reading "this is a place of learning" and other such exhortatory academic messages.

    Talâa Kebira, Fez, Fez-Meknès, Morocco

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 20 DH
  • 4. Chouara Tannery

    The city's famous medieval tanneries are at once beautiful, for their ancient dyeing vats of reds, yellows, and blues, and unforgettable, for the malodorous smell of the sheep, goat, cow, and camel skins. The terrace overlooking the dyeing vats is high enough to escape the place's full fetid power and get a spectacular view over the multicolor vats. Absorb both the process and the finished product on Rue Chouara, just past Rue Mechatine (named for the combs made from animals' horns): numerous stores are filled with loads of leather goods, including coats, bags, and babouches (traditional slippers). One of the shopkeepers will hand you a few sprigs of fresh mint to smother the smell, before explaining what's going on in the tanneries below—how the skins are placed successively in saline solution, quicklime, pigeon droppings, and then any of several natural dyes: poppies for red, turmeric for yellow, saffron for orange, indigo for blue, and mint for green. Barefoot workers in shorts pick up skins from the bottoms of the dyeing vats with their feet, then work them manually. Though this may look like an undesirable job, the work is relatively well paid and still in demand for a strong export market.

    Rue Chouara, Fez, Fez-Meknès, Morocco
  • 5. Heri es Souani

    The Royal Granaries were one of Moulay Ismail's greatest achievements during his reign, designed to store grain to feed his 10,000 horses for up to 20 years. To keep the grain from rotting, the granaries were kept cool by thick walls, hanging gardens, and an underground cistern with water ducts powered by donkeys. Behind the granaries are the ruins of the royal stables, where around 1,200 purebreds were kept. To the left of the door out to the stables, notice the symmetry of the stables' pillars from three different perspectives. Acoustically perfect, the site is now often used for concerts. The adjacent Agdal Basin served as a both a vast reservoir for the gardens and a lake. It's 2 km (1 mile) south of Moulay Ismail's mausoleum, so take a petit taxi in hot weather.

    Heri es Souani, Meknès, Fez-Meknès, Morocco

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 70 DH
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  • 6. House of Venus

    Volubilis's best set of mosaics, not to be missed, is in the House of Venus. Intact excavations portray a chariot race, a bathing Diana surprised by the hunter Actaeon, and the abduction of Hylas by nymphs—all still easily identifiable. The path back down to the entrance passes the site of the Temple of Saturn, across the riverbed on the left.

    Volubilis, Fez-Meknès, Morocco
  • 7. Jnan Sbil Garden

    Gardens play an important role in Moroccan culture, and this gorgeous green space just outside the medina walls is one of the oldest in Fez. Once part of the Royal Palace, it was donated to the city in the 19th century by Sultan Moulay Hassan. A stroll around the shady pathways of this well-restored garden, with time to admire its many towering palms, rose bushes, lakes, and fountains, is the perfect escape from the medina’s hubbub.

    Av. Moulay Hassan, Fez, Fez-Meknès, Morocco

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, Closed Mon.
  • 8. Plan-it Morocco

    This outfitter offers engaging cultural tours, from unveiling the medina's secrets on the Architecture and Islamic Gardens Tour to culinary adventures on the excellent Souk Tasting Trails tour. Or join a family as they shop for produce in their local souk, pick up bread at their neighborhood farran (bakery), then learn how to preserve lemons, make mint tea, and conjure up typical salads and a tagine of your choice in the kitchen of their traditional dar. You’ll end by sitting down with the family to share the meal in true Moroccan style. Day trips beyond Fez—take a Roman picnic to Volubilis, barter at the carpet auction in Khenifra, or hike through the Rif Mountains—and longer excursions to the Sahara, the High Atlas, the coast, and all major Moroccan cities are also available.

    Fez, Fès-Boulemane, Morocco
  • 9. American Fondouk

    Ville Nouvelle

    You may have dodged a few donkeys laden with skins from the tannery as you explore the medina, and this long-established nonprofit organization is dedicated to improving the lives of these working animals—donkeys, mules and horses—by offering support to them and their owners. Visitors are welcome; just contact the fondouk to arrange a tour of the clinic and meet the animals. Ask about the organization's new project, Mules of the Medina, a stable just a 10-minute drive from the clinic. 

    1, rte. de Taza, Fez, Fez-Meknès, Morocco

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free (donations welcome), Closed weekends but can open for visits on request
  • 10. Andalusian Mosque

    The grand carved doors on the mosque's north entrance, domed Zenet minaret, and detailed cedarwood carvings in the eaves, which bear a striking resemblance to those in the Musée Nejjarine, are the main things to see here, as the mosque itself is set back on a small elevation, making it hard to examine from outside. It was built in AD 859 by Mariam, sister of Fatima al-Fihri, who had erected the Kairaouine Mosque on the river's other side two years earlier with inherited family wealth. The gate was built by the Almohads in the 12th century. 

    Rue Nekhaline, Fez, Fez-Meknès, Morocco

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Entrance restricted to Muslims
  • 11. Arch of Caracalla

    Rising out of fertile plains and olive groves, the impressive triumphal arch of Volubilis is the center point of the ancient Roman site. Decorated only on the east side, it is supported by marble columns, built by Marcus Aurelius Sebastenus to celebrate the power of Emperor Caracalla.

    Volubilis, Fez-Meknès, Morocco
  • 12. Attarine Medersa

    Graceful proportions, elegant, geometric carved-cedar ornamentation, and its excellent state of preservation make this 14th-century building one of the best representations of Moorish architecture in Fez. Named for local spice merchants, the former Koranic school was founded by Merenid sultan Abou Saïd Othman as a students' dormitory attached to the Kairaouine Mosque next door. 

    Boutouil Kairaouine, Fez, Fez-Meknès, Morocco

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 20 DH
  • 13. Bab es Seba

    Named after the seven brothers of Moulay Abdellah, who reigned during the 18th century, the Bab es Seba (also known as Bab Dekkakin) connects two open spaces originally designed for military parades and royal ceremonies, the Petit Méchouar and Vieux Méchouar. It was from this gate that the corpse of Prince Ferdinand, brother of Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal, was hanged head-down for four days in 1443 after being captured during a failed invasion of Tangier.

    Fez, Fez-Meknès, Morocco
  • 14. Bhalil

    The small Amazigh village of Bhalil, an off-the-beaten-track gem around 5 km (3 miles) from Sefrou, is built across a hillside, with picturesque pastel-color houses that line the narrow, winding streets. The houses may appear conventional from the outside, but step inside and you’ll discover that many of them are built into the rock face. This design keeps out the scorching summer heat as well as the icy winter chill, and Bhalil’s modern-day troglodytes normally use the cave as a living and dining space. This tranquil village is set at the foot of Djebel Kandar, and it makes a good base for walking, from leisurely rambles to more strenuous all-day hikes. You'll often find the women of Bhalil sitting outside their houses sewing intricate djellaba buttons.

    Bhalil, Fez-Meknès, Morocco
  • 15. Borj Nord

    Sitting high above the city, this former fortress, now the national Museum of Arms, was built in 1582 under the command of Saadian sultan Ahmed el Mansour to guard and control Fez el-Bali. In 1963, a huge collection of weapons originally housed in the Batha Museum was brought to the historic site, creating an interesting display. Sabers, swords, shields, and armor from the 19th century showcase the history of how arms played a social role in tribal hierarchy. Especially important is the arsenal of sultans Moulay Ismail and Moulay Mohammed Beh Abdellah—the elaborate Amazigh guns encrusted in enamel, ivory, silver, and precious gems date back to the 17th century. It's a 20-minute walk uphill from the medina or a short petit taxi ride.  Walk up to the crenellated rooftop in late afternoon for a beautiful panoramic view of the city.

    Borj Nord, Fez, Fez-Meknès, Morocco

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 10 DH, Closed Mon. and at lunchtime
  • 16. Bou Inania Medersa

    Arguably just as beautiful and more well-preserved than its better-known Fassi namesake, the Meknès version is a showcase for Merenid design; this Islamic educational institution, now a historic site, was finished in 1358. From the cupola to the enormous bronze doors on the street, virtually every inch of this building is covered with decorative carving or calligraphy. The central fountain was for ablutions before prayer. Head upstairs to visit the small rooms that overlook the courtyard. These housed the 60 communal tolba, or student reciters.  The rooftop terrace has one of best panoramic views of Meknès's medina.

    Rue Nejjarine, Meknès, Fez-Meknès, Morocco

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 60 DH
  • 17. Cèdre Gouraud Forest

    Southeast of town, Azrou's cedar forest is a source of great pride throughout the country, with Moroccan cedars, some more than 400 years old, that grow to heights of close to 200 feet and cover some 320,000 acres on the slopes of the Middle Atlas, the High Atlas, and the Rif at altitudes between 3,940 and 9,200 feet. Cedar is much coveted by woodworkers, particularly makers of stringed musical instruments. Living among the enormous cedars to the south of Azrou are troops of bold Barbary macaques and birdlife ranging from the redheaded Moroccan woodpecker to owls and eagles. Flora include the large-leaf peony, the scarlet dianthus, and the blue germander, all of which attract butterflies, including the cardinal and the colorful sulfur Cleopatra. You can pick up information and maps of the forest showing trails and hikes at the Ifrane Tourist Office, a 25-minute drive away.

    Azrou, Fez-Meknès, Morocco
  • 18. Cherratine Medersa

    Constructed in 1670 by Moulay Rachid, this is one of Fez's two Alaouite medersas and an important historical site. More austere than the 14th-century medersas of the Merenids, the Cherratine is also more functional, designed to hold over 200 students. It's interesting primarily as a contrast to the intricate craftsmanship and decorative intent of the Merenid structures. The entry doors beautifully engraved in bronze lead to the douiras, narrow residential blocks consisting of a honeycomb of small rooms.

    Ras Cherratine, Fez, Fez-Meknès, Morocco

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 20 DH
  • 19. Culture Vultures Fez

    Fez is undoubtedly Morocco’s capital of art and crafts, and Culture Vultures leads an interactive small-group tour of the medina workshops of traditional craftsmen—weavers, coppersmiths, tanners, tile makers, and more. As well as gaining an insight into the daily lives of the artisans, you can try your hand at their various crafts. Tours run from Saturday to Thursday with a maximum of six people. They also run artisanal tours in Sefrou.

    Fez, Fès-Boulemane, Morocco
  • 20. Dar el-Makhzen

    Fez's Royal Palace and gardens are closed to the public, but even from the outside they're an impressive sight; inside are various palaces, 200 acres of gardens, and parade grounds, as well as a medersa founded in 1320. From Place des Alaouites, take a close look at the door's giant brass knockers, made by artisans from Fez el-Bali, as well as the imposing brass doors themselves.  The street running along the palace's southeast side is Rue Bou Ksissat, one side of which is lined with typically ornate residential facades from the Mellah's edge.  Security in this area is high and should be respected. Guards watch visitors carefully.

    Fez, Fez-Meknès, Morocco

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