For a taste of the true Morocco the imperial city of Fez will immediately grab you by the senses and refuse to let go. Like most Moroccan destinations Fez’s reputation for outstanding and adventurous culinary delights is well earned, with a fine selection of high quality restaurants and mouth-watering street food readily available. Fez also plays host to the ancient Medina market place, where a labyrinth of endless goods and wears can be found by the dedicated shopper.
The imperial city of Fez gives a sense-grabbing blast of street-level Morocco, with its dense, labyrinthine medina standing as one of the most extraordinary traditional town centres in this, or any other, country. Some accommodation, such as the oasis-like Riad Laaroussa (3 Derb Bechara) and the similarly impressive Ryad Salama (4 Derb Ahl Tadlaa), are set within the medina itself, while larger hotels are set slightly away from the throng. Good examples include the five-star Palais Faraj Suites & Spa (16-18 Derb Bensouda), set in a former Arab-Moorish palace, and the 132-room Barceló Fès Medina (53 Avenue Hassan II).
Taking a random course through the medina might lead you past anything from leatherwear workshops to perfume-makers – and if you know what you’re looking for (and where to look for it) there are some exceptionally high-quality goods on offer. It’s helpful, however, to have a fixed idea of how much you’re willing to pay, particularly if you’re looking to make a major purchase on something like a carpet – haggling isn’t so much a habit as an art form here. Aux Merveilles de Tapis (22 Derb Sebaa Louyat) is arguably the best known rug shop in the medina. It takes credit cards.
Moroccan food has a reputation that rightly precedes it. The national cuisine draws on Berber, Moorish and Arab flavours (and more recently Western influences), resulting in some delicious dishes. The top hotels tend to have good restaurants – the atmospheric Al Fassia at the Sofitel Fès Palais Jamaï (Bab Guissa) being a strong example – although often even better are riad-based restaurants such as Dar Roumana (30 Derb el-Amer) and Riad Rcif (1 Takharbicht Laayoune Rcif). Few restaurants have alcohol licenses. Away from the ubiquitous tagines and couscous, it’s also possible to find good Italian and (particularly) French food.
Fez Festival of Sufi Culture
Celebrating the city’s long association with Sufism (a semi-mystic form of Islamic spirituality), the Fez Festival of Sufi Culture involves music and dance as well as in-depth discussions on philosophy, poetry and more. Fez itself has some important Sufi shrines.
Marché Maroc Fes
An annual craft fair taking place in a "comfortable, haggle-free" environment, and partly organised by the US Peace Corps, the Marché Maroc Fes is a showcase for various handmade objects. It aims to bring buyers into direct contact with artisans.
Fez Festival of World Sacred Music
A week of performances taking place in various attractive venues across the city, the Fez Festival of World Sacred Music has been running for close to two decades. There’s a focus on religious subject matter, but the programme includes everything from chanting to beatboxing.
Sefrou Cherry Festival
Taking place in Sefrou, around an hour from Fez itself, the annual cherry festival is a celebration of the yearly fruit harvest and involves a four-day gala of live music, poetry, craft-making, theatre, clowns and visual arts.
Tissa Horse Festival
Another colourful out-of-town occasion, the Tissa Horse Festival is a week-long event hinging on displays of horsemanship. The deafening ring of rifle fire and the dazzling white of the riders’ traditional warrior costumes add to the sense of occasion.