Fez was established in the 9th Century and Fez El-Bali (“Old” Fez) sits in the footprint of those original walls (although the current walls date from 12th Century). The city was built by Idirss II and his zawiya (shrine) is at the heart of the city, alongside the Kairaouine Mosque built by refugees from Tunisia, some of the original inhabitants of the city. The mosque has an associated university with a claim to be the oldest in the world and it’s these institutions that have been at the heart of intellectual and religious life throughout Morocco, and indeed North Africa and Moorish Spain, ever since.
It’s hard to get a sense of the scale of these religious monuments as non-Muslims can’t enter; however other incredible religious buildings are explored on this walking tour of the (car-free) medina, notably the Attarine Medersa. This is a beautiful example of the traditional Koranic schools, with delicate tile work, a cooling fountain and intricate wood-carvings.
Intricate wood working is something Fez is famous for, and the Nejjarine Museum showcases some of the best from Fez’s history; and the building itself is a stunningly restored merchant’s inn. As you walk the streets of the dense, bustling medina you’ll see plenty of woodwork shops as well as all manner of other traditional arts and crafts.