Fez – Meknes, the imperial pearls

Fez radiates a unique aura. This imperial city is the custodian of 13 centuries of Moroccan history. Meknes has a rich, prestigious past and harbors marvelous surprises.

Walk through the walls that guard the celebrated Medina of Fez, whose outstanding universal value has been recognized by UNESCO. Meander along the streets of the Fes-El-Bali district. The Bab Boujloud Gate is the easiest way to access the medina. In May, the city’s squares and streets come to life with music from around the world as the Sacred Music Festival takes over the one-time imperial capital. Along with the Jazz in Riads festival, it is one of the city’s cultural highlights.

Don’t leave without sampling the city’s extraordinary cuisine, which is considered to be among the best in the world.

Just 40 miles from Fez lies the city of Meknes, another open-air museum. Its medina and the remnants of the royal palace also earned it a designation as a UNESCOWorld Heritage Site. Pass through the Bab Mansour Gate on El Hedime square to enter the medina and enjoy this masterpiece of Spanish-Moorish art. Be sure to make time for the royal stables and granary of Sultan Moulay Ismail anddon’t miss Volubilis. This Roman archaeological site just north of Meknes is the most extensive one in Morocco. Its triumphal arch, capitol and house of Bacchus attest to the splendor of the city, as well as its economic and political significance.

The imperial, eternal cities of Meknes and Fez serve up a timeless experience that blurs the boundaries between past and present.

The souks, markets of the food and the well-being

It often seems that time stands still in the medinas of Fez and Meknes. Yet behind their high walls, a host of artisans busy themselves crafting and reviving traditions to produce works that are both authentic and modern.

Wander into the Fez medina and explore its alleys, where you will madrassas, riads and caravanserai that have been converted to museums and mosques. Tour El Henna market, a showcase for natural cosmetics where bars of black soap are stacked alongside kohl kits and bottles of rose water. Seek out the cabinet makers clustered in the Nejarrine district, who work wood, which they cut and carve with great finesse. But in the Imperial City, the most representative art is pottery. This is where you will find the famous cobalt blue pottery of Fez, glazed ceramic made by deft potters. Their agile hands produce great trinkets that double as souvenirs and practical serving pieces.

Meknes has a reputation of its own. Its medina and El Hedime square are homes to all kinds of stands. Artful damascening can be found on vases, plates, bracelets and other finely decorated objects. Embroidery and tanning are also specialties among these craftsmen who hand down their skills from father to son.

Meknes is nestled within an exceptional, fertile hinterland scattered with vineyards, orchards and olive groves.

In these two imperial cities and their surrounding areas, there are countless opportunities to find souvenirs from the people and from the land.

Mohamed Amraoui

Author Mohamed Amraoui

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