Medina of Fez (1981)

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Founded in the 9th century and home to the oldest university in the world, Fez reached its height in the 13th–14th centuries under the Marinids, when it replaced Marrakesh as the capital of the kingdom. The urban fabric and the principal monuments in the medina –- madrasas, fondouks, palaces, residences, mosques and fountains -- date from this period. Although the political capital of Morocco was transferred to Rabat in 1912, Fez has retained its status as the country's cultural and spiritual centre. 
  • French Morocco 1947. Gardens of Fez. 

Morocco 1978. Aerial View of Fez.

UNESCO (France) 1980. The Medina of Fez.

The Medina of Fez, the historic city center of Old Fez in Morocco, is closed to cars. The only means of transportation inside the Medina is by foot, by bike, or by mule. 

Medina is the Arabic word for town, but is now used in Morocco to refer to the original part of any Moroccan town that developed before the country became a French protectorate in 1912. 

The Medina of Fez is also known in Arabic as Fez el Bali (Old Fez).

  • Morocco 1978. Aerial View of Fez. 
  • UNESCO (France) 1980. The Medina of Fez. 

Today as Medina remains a warren of narrow streets, the old buildings remain unchanged except for buttressing added for structural support. It comprises 187 quarters, each of which must by law contain a mosque, Qur'anic school (madrasa), bakery, fountain, and hammam (Turkish bath). 

The best-known monuments in the Medina are the Zaouia (religious cult center) of Moulay Idriss (9th century, rebuilt 13th century), which contains the tomb of the founder of the city; the Karaouyine Mosque (founded in 859, enlarged until the 13th century); the Bou Inania Medersa, a lodging house for students built in 1355; and the Andalous Mosque (founded in 860, enlarged 1200). 

  • French Morocco 1918. Medersa Bou Attarine in Fez. 
  • Morocco 1980. Nejjarine Fountain, Fez. 

Morocco 1980. Nejjarine Fountain, Fez.

The Medina is home to many artisans: Carpets and textiles, ceramics, metalwork, mosaics, and leather goods are crafted for sale to tourists and for export. There is a covered market and many small shops selling foodstuffs and clothing. 

Morocco 1978. Covered Ceramic Jar of typical Fassi design. French Morocco 1949. Semi Postal. Rug Weaving.  French Morocco 1952. Air Post. Northern Fibulas.  French Morocco 1953. Traditional daggers.

From its earliest days, Fez, one of the imperial cities of Morocco (the others being Marrakech and Meknes), has prospered as a trading and religious center. Each of the families that ruled Morocco, often making Fez their capital, further embellished the Medina. Mosques, houses, shops, flour mills, public baths, and fondouks (Arabic, two-story lodging houses for visiting merchants) were built in such profusion that by the late 13th century no more space remained within the city walls and a garrison town, Fez Jdid (New Fez), was developed. The city was further expanded during the French protectorate (1912-1956). 

  • Morocco 1978. Covered Ceramic Jar of modern Fassi design. The classical colour of the decoration is soft blue on a creamy background.  
  • French Morocco 1949. Semi Postal. Rug Weaving.  
  • French Morocco 1952. Air Post. Northern Fibulas, used by Berber women to hold their clothing together, and serving as well as  tangible fortune. They are made from silver
  • French Morocco 1953. Traditional Daggers with silver sheaths. 
  • Front-cover of the book "Les Bijoux de Grande Kabylie", showing a young Berber woman in full formal dress with fibulas, necklaces and more. 

There are dozens of stamps describing Fez and Fassi crafts; on this page are only shown a very small portion. For the period 1912-1956 (French Protectorate) all stamps are listed in Scott under "French Morocco". As per 1956 (Kingdom) they are listed under "Morocco". 

Sources and links: 


Other World Heritage Sites in Morocco (on this web site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Morocco section, for further information about the individual properties. 

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Revised 20 jul 2006  
Copyright © 1999 Heindorffhus 
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