History of


Discover the fascinating history of Fez (fes) since it was founded by Yusuf ibn Tashfin, leader of the Moroccan Almoravid empire, up until the present day.

Morocco's cultural and historical capital, a city of treasures

Fez, Morocco sometimes written as Fes, Morocco was the capital of the country until 1925 and has long been considered the spiritual home of the country. The Fez medina is one of the largest car-free zones in the world and is a UNESCO world heritage site. It’s been dwarfed in recent years by larger and more tourist-oriented Marrakech but offers visitors a different look at Moroccan life.

Modern day Fez was founded in 789 by Idriss I on the Jawhar River that runs through the city. It is in the north of the country sandwiched between the Rif Mountains and Middle Atlas Mountains. Within 50 years there were two large waves of immigrants that came to form settlements, one on each side of the river. 800 families from Andalusia arrived and settled what is today “Old Fez” while 2000 families banned from Kariouan Tunisia formed New Fez or al-Aliya.

This would later become an issue as the Caliphate of Cordoba and Caliphate of Tunisia contested who ruled the city. By 1070 it was resolved as the Almoravid dynasty united the city both figuratively and literally as they broke down the walls that divided the settlements and united it into one medina.

Historical Sites

Take time to decide what you’ll want to see when you’re in Fez. There are many historical sites though not all are open to the inside.

Marinid Tombs

Are there secrets in Fez? Of course, and this is one of them! These ruins are located on the hills above the Fez medina and while there are still some inscriptions no one really knows who is buried here or the story behind the ruins. It’s a good spot to go with kids (open space and no vehicles), and provides great views looking down on the medina and surrounding mountainside.

Al-Attarine Madrasa

Located near the famous Karouine mosque and university, this school was built in 1323. The spice and perfume market is on the edge of the spice and perfume market. Inside you’ll find a gorgeously designed courtyard and hand-laid tiles adorning the floors and walls.

Karaouine Mosque and University

The oldest degree granting university – and still in operation – in the world is something to see. Even more interesting, this school and mosque was founded, funded and built by a woman – Fatima al-Fihri. The mosque portion is not open to non-Muslims but there is an entryway that you can look into. Recently the library (the oldest in the world!) connected to the university was restored and is open to the public.

Ibn Danan Synagogue

This is only one of what once were several synagogues in the medina of Fez. It has recently been renovated and saved from near destruction due to disrepair. It was built in the mid seventeenth century by a local family and is still privately owned. It is open to visitors. You can also visit the Jewish cemetery located in the southwest corner of the mellah. The cemetery is still in use.

The Tanneries

If you’ve seen a picture of Fez you’ve no doubt seen the tannery vats. This is one of the most visited sites in the city. You’ll want to brace yourself for an overwhelming smell, especially in warmer months but it’s a step back in time to see leather being prepared as it has for centuries. Don’t feel pressured to buy leather goods here, you’ll have better luck negotiating a better price elsewhere. You should be prepared to offer a small amount to shopkeepers if you’re brought onto their balcony and given an explanation. Some will ask, some won’t so play it by ear – even better to visit if you’ve hired a city guide for the day.

Najjarine Museum of Wood Arts and Crafts

This museum has been created in a restored fondouk (a boarding house/caravan stop). The inside has been completely restored to how it might have looked in the past. However, photos are not permitted. There is a cafe on the rooftop as well that offers some lovely views of the city.

Souk Seffarine

This is my favorite area of the souks because it feels like a scene right out of a movie. Here you’ll see metal workers working by hand to hammer out designs and unique items. Watching the amount of work and care that goes into creating each of these pieces is something to witness. If you want to bring home metal work like lamps, this is the place to go. Experience the Magic of Fez and winder of Morocco on an unforgettable trip arranged by ED DYAFA Travel. Get in touch and we’ll tell you more
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