Founded in 789, Fes served as Morocco’s capital for hundreds of years. Today, the nation’s third-largest city is better known as Morocco’s handicraft center. Fes is the ideal destination for visitors who want to experience the heady and bustling ambiance of a Moroccan marketplace. The government is taking great pains to return the historic old town, the medina Fes el Bali, to its original glory. With a population of about 150,000 inhabitants, the medina is the largest carfree urban area in the world by population.Traditional adobe homes and courtyards ornamented with mosaic tiles line a maze of narrow streets and alleys filled with souqs and shops.
Much of the fun of a visit to Fes comes through wandering through the old medina for up-close encounters with craftsmen making and selling their wares. Almost all of the traffic is pedestrian, although donkeys are sometimes used for transportation. The medina is where most of Morocco’s famous cobalt blue Moroccan ceramic tiles are made. Located in an 18th-century Moorish palace, the Dar Batha Museum houses a fine collection of ceramic tiles as well as other traditional Fes crafts, including woodcarving, copperware and sculpted plaster.
Fes is also home to the Karaouiyine mosque, which houses a medersa that is considered the oldest university in the world. With its splendid copper doors, minaret and stalactite-domed entrance chamber, the Bou Inania medersa is worth a visit as well. Like many cities in modern Morocco, Fes also has a Ville Nouvelle, or New City, that offers modern and comfortable accommodations for visitors to the ancient imperial capital.