Traditional Markets in North Africa and the Middle East are sensory experiences that bring one to the essential needs and treasures of life. The overflowing stalls, the chatting shopkeepers and the bargaining buyers are just part of the scenery. Going into the commercial district is an experience that involves all one’s senses, and the sellers know that, which is why everything seems to jump out at you and this is certainly representative of the markets of Fez.
Fez is an ancient city in central Morocco. It is quite large, consisting of three towns in one really. There is the ancient Medina district, with winding, covered streets that you must wander to get the full experience. There is the uptown district which features wider streets and more monuments and public parks. Finally the new town is an even greater outer circle where beautiful houses, malls and lots of modern development is going on. The city is served by a small but modern airport with many flights from Europe on both regular and low-cost airlines. There are a variety of local busses and taxes to the city. Most people understand basic English and if you know any French that will help greatly as French is Morocco’s second language.
Here the local form of lodging is a bit more personal. While there are some larger hotels on the outskirts of the city, the Moroccan tradition is more of a small bed and breakfast style. These are small hotels commonly known as Riads. They usually hold up to thirty people and are very boutique. The artwork and décor reminds one of an Arabic palace with colored wood, mosaics and an inner courtyard with an ornate fountain. Breakfast is usually included and you will find places ranging from 20 to 70 Euros per person, per night. The city has some hostels for budget travelers, but Riad’s are recommended for a true local experience.
The jewel of the city is definitely the time spent in the Medina. Many of the Riads are just on the edge of the Medina, so one can reach the center in just a ten minute walk. Some tourists are daunted at first by the labyrinth they see before them. Maps may help somewhat, but frustration and tiredness with them will soon get the best of you. The best way to enjoy the winding streets and markets is to simply take everything in. Remember that every street eventually leads to another and then another which opens to a wider boulevard outside the Medina walls, then you can get your bearings. Focus on why you are there, take in the simplicity of the shopping and the allure of the senses which the market offers. New spices lurk around every corner. One’s eyes will be dazzled with the variations of color in glasses, dresses and fabrics. There is a steady display of gold, silver and other metals. Be sure and bargain, and don’t take the shopkeeper’s antics too seriously. Most of all enjoy some of the grilled delights and Moroccan mint tea at any of the cafes and taking up the local sport of people watching.