Fes, Morocco | Sightseeing Away From the Crowds, Discover the Bou Inania Medersa and Batha Palace and Museum

Fez Medresa minaret

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Ample Sightseeing Opportunities

Morocco’s oldest imperial city, Fez, offers a variety of sights to visitors in the extraordinary old medina, Fez el Bali. Besides the famous tanneries, the maze of narrow alleyways that meander through the walled old town provides tourists with amble opportunities to fill days with sightseeing. After exploring the hidden Ain Azliten tannery we planned to visit the magnificent Medersa Bou Inania, the peaceful Batha Museum and perhaps have a brief diversion through the Jnan Sbil Gardens en route to the pastel coloured Jewish Quarter, the Mellah.

Lunch at “Made in M”

Needing a break before our walk we stumbled onto a tiny eatery, “Made in M.” not far from Ain Azliten Tannery.  Seated on a table outside on the streets we were soon surrounded by cats, to the joy of Jerome, the “cat whisperer”, while we enjoyed watching locals dropping in and out of the bakery opposite and following the ever changing crowds up and down one of Fez main arteries.

The Best Tajines Ever

The food at Made in M was outstanding, the tajines were the best we had eaten so far and there have been many on our trips to Morocco!  Especially the lamb tajine with dried fruits and the chicken with lemon tajine are worth the detour for a visit to this tiny place. We retuned another twice during our stay as we savoured their food as it was unlike anywhere else in Fes, and even compared well to some of the upmarket restaurants we tried.

Visiting the Impressive Bou Inania Medersa

Bou Inania Medersa is possibly the one building that you need to put onto your must see list for Fes.  A fine example of Merenid architecture it can almost rival the impressive Ben Youssef Medersa in Marrakesh (currently closed for renovation).  It is also one of the few religious buildings in use, that non-muslims are allowed to enter. After stepping into the vast courtyard we were immediately captured by the elaborate and ornate details of the building. The intricately carved cedar wood and classic Moroccan zellij tiles reflected in the calm water of the central fountain, used for cleansing purposes by religious worshippers to the mosque.

Gazing at the Wonderful Structure

Most importantly, and luckily we had the entire Medersa to ourselves (until a group of Japanese tourists turned up) and were able to gaze at the wonderful structure at our hearts content.  The building was once an educational institute for Muslim scholars used to teach the quran, numerous classrooms lead off the central courtyard. Unlike the Medersa in Marrakesh we were unable to access the sleeping quarters on the first floor. However, from one of the rooms we could get a glimpse of the imposing minaret of the Grand Mosque, towering above the green, lacquered roof tiles and perfectly framed by the Moorish archway.

The Peculiar Water Clock

Upon leaving the Bou Inania Medersa we stopped in the main entrance door to take a look at the peculiar water clock (Dar al Magana), designed and built by an astronomer. Although no one really knows its purpose or function, it is certainly interesting to inspect with its twelve windows and thirteen wooden platforms below, where brass bowls used to stand.

The Monumental Blue Gate

Strolling towards the Batha Museum and the Mellah (Jewish Quarter), we were headed for the monumental Blue Gate, Bab Boujloud. The gate still provides direct access to the medina and its main attraction are the arabesque ornaments and the blue (exterior) and green tiles (interior façade).

Exploring the Peaceful Batha Museum

Around the corner we entered the peaceful Batha Museum, showcasing a variety of collections dedicated to the traditional arts. I think the lush, serene gardens were even more appealing than the somewhat uninspiring displays of Moroccan artefacts, although there were some extraordinary embroidered dresses, some mesmerizing masterpieces of jewellery, but above all the pottery pieces dating back to the 18th century are exceptional.  Jerome very much enjoyed a wander through the tranquil gardens, along its tiled paths and covered walkways, especially after the overwhelming hectic of the Medina and souk.   Birds flitted through the shrubs and the gardens were a peaceful place to rest a moment.

Sightseeing Away From the Crowds

At the other end of the verdant garden we browsed an art exhibition with large-scale photographs of the human impact of the world, including some spectacular and thought provoking shots. Again, we had the entire museum and gardens mostly to ourselves, making us wonder whether most visitors to Fes simply headed for the tanneries and a stroll through the souks, missing out on some of the best sights the imperial city offers.

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