“The more life changes in a rapidly modernizing Morocco, the more it seems to stay the same in Fez, the country’s ancient cultural capital. Often referred to as the “Mecca of the West” or the “Athens of Africa,” the city has the world’s largest and best-preserved medina, a labyrinthine network of 9,000 narrow alleyways packed with craftspeople, street food vendors, riads, and mosques. You won’t find the modern chaos of Casablanca, the louche charm of Marrakech’s resorts, or the expat bohemia of Tangier: This is Morocco at its most traditional, vivid, and visceral.” – CN Traveler, March 6, 2018
How to get there:
Where to Stay:
The exquisite renovations, decor, and impeccable service at Dar Seffarine made for a phenomenal stay. We could not have asked for a better abode within the Medina; it was beyond comfortable, it’s often noted to be one of the best designed & decorated lodgings on offer and the food, hospitality, and proximity to the rug and ceramic shopping (our priorities) were perfect.
Where to Eat:
The French cuisine and exquisite indoor courtyard setting was our favorite dinner of the trip; Dar Roumana is both high-end yet comfortable with excellent service and incredible food.
Fez Cafe is known for long, lazy lunches over rosé in the garden of Le Jardin des Biehn, a lovely riad that also has a spa offering massages and a Moroccan hammam.
Mike Richardson’s original claim to fame (see Scorpion House below), this restaurant is famous for its camel burger and now has outposts in Fez (the original), Marrakech and Chefchaouen.
Where to Shop:
Sort through rows of dusty but magical ceramics, painted in every hue of marigold, burnt sienna, and aqua that you can image at Coin Antique, which we stumbled into off a side street (3, Rue Fouah Talaa Kbira Cherablienne) and where we kept the owner busy for hours as we sorted through plates and dishes for our own homes and for Fortune Finds.
We are normally weary of shops that have TripAdvisor write-ups and New York Times press but Coin Berber is as good as people say. The quality of their rugs was gorgeous, the service was lovely (and entertaining, Kathryn has been called a “Berber lady” for her insanely impressive negotiating skills) and we, needless to say, walked away happy and with some great rugs for our homes and Fortune Finds.
What to Do:
An architectural tour of the Medina:
Fez’s medina is among the world’s largest and is a car-free labyrinth of 9,000+ alleyways packed with artisans, street food, vendors of everything imaginable, riads, and mosques. Our tour guide took us to mosques and to the University of Al-Karaouine – the oldest university in the world (established in 859!).
A cooking class with Tara Stevens at her house in the Medina:
Tara welcomes you into her home to learn modern Moroccan tapas dishes capped off with wine and lunch that celebrated the fruits of our cooking class labor. (Check out her website for a range of options for length & type of class).
If you make it to Fez, travel the extra hour to visit Scorpion House:
An absolute must visit in the ancient town of Moulay Idriss, Scorpion House is the brainchild of Mike Richardson (former maitre d’ of the Wolseley and the Ivy in the UK). He has meticulously renovated / built / designed / decorated all corners of his abode to make any Fortune Finds-follower absolutely green with envy. It is stunning. And did we mention that a multi-course private lunch is served on his terrace beyond the likes of anything we’ve ever eaten (every single item was freshly sourced from the verdant hills surrounding us). It was a trip highlight.
While in Moulay Idriss, be sure to visit the nearby ruins of Volubilis:
For some these may be the main attraction – they are the remains of a Berber city that existed from 300 BC – 1000 AD. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is surprisingly accessible – you can walk among the ruins and try to imagine the town functioning 2000+ years ago. It’s breathtaking. For an even more authentic experience, we arrived to Volubilis on donkeys from our b&b in Moulay Idriss!