Fes or Fez in Morocco

By Paul Pinkerton
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Lucky for me I am not a great drinker of alcohol as if that was not the case I may have never found my room at the Fes Riad I was checked into!

The delights of this North African city of culture and learning could certainly teach you one thing and that was how to locate your bedroom in what appears at first glance to be a labyrinth that Daedalus would have been proud of and suitable to baffle Theseus with.

What increased its problematic solving was that it was not just in two dimensions but three dimensions. Similar winding narrow stairs of black, green, white and yellow mosaics that in order to go down you have to go up first and vice versa so any extra consumption of drink was likely to extend dramatically the time it took to relocate your room, if ever!


The Riads of Fes but some also spelled Fez, do offer a more authentic type of homely and luxury accommodation in the city, with rooms situated off an open central courtyard with fountains and pools providing the sound and cooling effect of running water as a relaxing option from the large international brand style of hotels.



A Riad provides a wonderful oasis from city life the inward looking architecture design shields one from the bustle outside. In a true Moroccan style with no two rooms the same I found, Riad Maison Bleue, a charming retreat and located just perfectly.

Staying on the very edge of the medina my room had open views to the hills that lay to the north of the city but it was also perfect for exploring yet another labyrinth that of the medina itself.

The busy narrow market alleys that once entered were yet another challenge for those tourists that prefer a puzzle along with the experience of another ancient culture. This medieval complex that is the oldest part of Fes is a wonder of color, sound, and smells!

The smell, I will deal with first. It is what Fes /Fez is ironically the most pictorially renowned for. It is the colorful paint pot like appearance of the leather tanning area just off the medina that provides an odor of some magnitude.


Describing the aroma, well I have to say it does take your breath away and the chances of smelling it anywhere else in the world is damn well pretty remote. Rotting flesh and pigeon droppings are involved, to give you a clue should you like to re-create it for your own amusement.



Animals are key in the area around this part of Northern Morocco it is certainly the ‘bread basket’ too of the country and driving towards the former Imperial city of Meknes you are left in no doubt as it appears nearly every square metre of this fertile farming area is planted with a myriad of crops or with grazing farm beasts.

This is Berber country it was also the most Westerly outpost for the Romans 2,000 years ago in North Africa. With the ruins of Volubilis just over one hours drive from Fes and so worth seeing with its typical Roman street layout and some very fine mosaics still in situ.

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