Fes was my first trip onto the African continent. We stayed in Old Town, near one of the oldest cities in the world. The Medina of Fes is a maze of over 9,000 cobble stone streets walled in by an old fortress. We walked into the first time with a guide, following her through the twists and turns of an old world Islamic world of meat markets, handicrafts, and spices. It feels as if you have stepped back in time wandering through these narrow paths. It’s a tough place to navigate, and google maps does not work here.
The city is a world of contradictions. One moment you'll smell the aromatic scents of Moroccan spices, and the next moment the pungeant smell of rotting meat. You'll be viewing a gorgeous elaborate mosque, but if you look to the right there's a filthy alleyway with a starving cat. Inside that alleyway you can step into a doorway and a lush courtyard is hidden inside. In the Islamic religion, you shouldn't flaunt your riches, so every door looks the same. This becomes a problem when your google maps gives out and there isn't a grid system or well marked streets or signs. If you're lost, someone will approach you to help you through, and ask you for money at the end. We were reluctant to because it feels sneaky, but on day two we were actively looking for people to guide us through. You can get lost very quickly. Another interesting thing about the medina is you can't find a drop of alcohol. Alternatively you can find delicious fresh mint tea.
Tip: Dress modestly, shoulders and knees covered.
There are a lot of spas hidden within the old city walls. We booked a couples scrub and massage at a gorgeous hotel. We began in a room of stone with two women scrubbing the dead skin off our bodies then hosing us down. We then remained in that room to relax in the steam. Finally, we ended with hour massages to fully relax. This is definitely a must-do, the spas are gorgeous and they serve you tea in a lush courtyard after.
There was a religious holiday going on while we were in Fez, and a kind Moroccan invited us to his rooftop to watch the parade. As first, we were hesitant, because our experience so far had been that everyone wants money for anything they do for you. This guy was actually just a really kind local, and it was amazing seeing all the people on rooftops at sunset peeking out onto the busy streets below. We could see the Blue Gate that leads you into the old town, and the old fortress walls standing after thousands of years.
Fes is beautiful in it’s time capsule, but a bit jarring at times too. The best thing to do is research and know what you’re getting into before exploring this city trapped in the past.