« Fes | Main | The tanneries »

The medina

The first thing we did to prepare ourselves for our visit to Fès was to understand the layout of a medina, which means town in Arabic. Moroccan medinas are consistent in their design; typically, they are enclosed with a protective wall crowned with lookout towers. A mosque is always at the centre, separated by well defined areas—the residential quarters (hawma), the workplaces, and the different markets (souks) and craftshops. The location of the different souks is dependent on the level of noise and pollution it produces.

The densely packed medina of Fès is composed of an incredible labyrinth of narrow winding alleys and dead-end streets. Hidden in this maze are shops, residences, mosques, schools, universities, workshops and studios. In these photos one can get a good idea on how tight the space is inside the medina.

The Blue Gate, leading into the medina. Visible in the background is the minaret of the Karaouyine Mosque.

Friday is a special prayer day for Muslims and almost all the shops were closed in the afternoon.


Our wonderful guide, Mohammed, leading us into one of the narrowest alleys.


Is it Fès, Fes or Fez?

In the comments section of the blog, Sandra wrote that she (wrongly) thought Fes was written with a "z". I wrote it with an "s" because that was the way it was written in my DK guidebook, although it had a grave accent which I failed to type. According to the official portal of the Kingdom of Morocco, Fez is the correct spelling in English and Fès is the French name. So Sandra, you are right, it is written with a "z" and I should have used the English spelling but somehow the French one came out. In case you wonder how it is spelled in Arabic, here it is: فاس‎

Comments (8)

My gosh that's interesting!

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Maria, I really enjoyed reading this post a lot and learning more about this part of the country. Your photos are really incredible. The alleys are so narrow.

I also enjoyed learning about the layout of the Medina. So interesting. I am so looking forward to your next entry on this interesting town.

Thanks Maria!

Love seeing these photos. I've heard of the Blue Gate but never seen it before. And those streets are more narrow than Venice!


Great photos, Maria -- some of the alleys are incredibly narrow! I imagine it would be extremely helpful to have a guide to the medina.

The Arabic spelling for Fez is quite beautiful.

Oh Maria, such a beautiful post, beautiful photos too.

My mom would be proud to know that I recognized the Arabic spelling for Fez. I learned to read and write Arabic as a child, but I don't practice, so good to know I still got it.
BTW, how did you manage to write the Arabic word there?


Wonderful post, Maria. I read your words about space being tight, but was still surprised when I got to the last couple photos - wow! My (mildly) claustrophic husband would not be comfortable in this place! I love getting to visit these places through your blog, look forward to learning more about this area.

Barb Cabot:

Very very interesting post. The visuals bring to mind words like intrigueing and mysterious.

Beautiful blue gate! Loved your photos. I would be lost for sure there.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)